The Ideal Hoof

The Ideal Hoof

Tuesdays with Tony

I’m going to revive a classic Tuesdays with Tony here: The April 2015 Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Horse’s Feet. I’ll post a link to this at the bottom, don’t worry! I hear the Docs talking about feet a lot so it must be important. My understanding is that the ideal horse hoof shape is simple to understand, but not easy to achieve.

Who thought that was a good idea??

Equine Leg Anatomy from Springhill Equine hoof care seminarYou humans have a thing you do with your middle finger. Horses one-up you: they walk on theirs!  That’s right. The coffin bone is the tip of your middle finger. Feel the bones moving down your finger, back toward your hand, and you have the equivalent of the short pastern, long pastern, and cannon bone.  You’ve got a navicular bone too, but only in your thumb. This whole ‘walking on one finger’ thing is why horses have so many lower leg problems.

What’s a foot supposed to look like?

Walking on one finger means the hoof has to be balanced just right. If it isn’t, too much pressure gets put on one part of the anatomy. Excess pressure leads to badness. Here’s where ‘simple, but not easy’ comes in. On a freshly trimmed hoof (that’s important and I’ll tell you why in a minute), a line drawn at the widest part of the hoof should have 50% of the hoof in front of it, and 50% behind it.  A line drawn down the center of the hoof from toe to heel should have 50% of the hoof on the inside, and 50% on the outside. In the pictures I’m using as an example here, one half of the foot is trimmed, and the other half isn’t. That will help you see the differences.  

proper trim sole demo at equine hoof care seminarproper trim sole long equine hoof care seminarNow why did I say in a freshly trimmed foot? Take a look at where the heel is located on this hoof. It’s nearly ¾” farther forward on the untrimmed side, when compared to the trimmed side. That’s not because the farrier did it wrong 5 weeks ago, that’s because the foot grew forward. It’s what they do.

heel bulb demo at equine hoof care seminarAfter assessing the bottom of the hoof, pick up the leg. Put your hand underneath the end of the cannon bone, and let the hoof hang. Notice there are no human hands in this picture. That’s they way it’s supposed to be! When you hang the hoof like this, a line drawn down the center of the pastern and heels should be perpendicular to the bottom of the hoof.

My horse’s hoof looks nothing like this

There’s two reasons your horse’s foot doesn’t look this:

1. Conformation.

2. The Farrier.

Number 1 is WAY, WAY, WAY more common that number 2!

Crooked-legged horses end up with crooked feet. Your farrier’s job is to try to compensate for what Mother Nature did a less-than-ideal job of creating. For instance, if there’s more foot on the outside, your farrier will more aggressively trim and rasp this area to keep the foot from getting too off-kilter. However, sometimes the foot is too far off or the pressures of the job are too great. This is where shoes become necessary. A shoe will help your farrier compensate by preventing excess wear on parts of the foot, and allowing for support on other areas. Think that’s easy? There are approximately 1.3 million types of shoes (this may be an exaggeration) for horses. That alone tells me it ain’t easy!!

Got foot questions? Send in pictures of the bottom of your horse’s foot, a picture from the front, and one from the side taken at ground level, and my smart Docs will tell you what they see. To expedite the process, please include 1 bag of Temptations Savory Salmon cat treats with written instructions for the whole bag to be given to me (my minions think it’s appropriate to give me two or three treats at a time, which is ridiculous). You can also come and deliver them in person (and ask questions) at our Behavior Seminar this Thursday! I’m hosting the seminar here at the Clinic, so make sure you come scratch my ears. Oh, and learn about horse behavior, that too. That’s Thursday, October 5th at 6:30pm, right here at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry. Just look for the big black cat!

Links to original posts:

Part 1: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Horse’s Feet

Part 2: Everything You Need to Know About Your Horses Feet

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Tuesdays with Tony – Mushy Feet

Tuesdays with Tony – Mushy Feet

Mushy Feet

My, we have been getting a lot of rain around here lately! As you know, cats are not too fond of water. As if that isn’t enough of a reason to be concerned about the rain, daily thunderstorms plus high humidity equals muddy pastures; a recipe for disaster when it comes to your horse’s feet! Please, allow me to give you a quick rundown of “what-to-use-when” for the various moisture-induced hoof conditions we see most commonly.


You all know the smell. That rotting, nasty, sticks-in-your-nostrils-for-hours smell that you notice while picking your horse’s feet. You may also see some dark black or gray gunk oozing from your horse’s soft frog, or deep lateral sulci (clefts). Thrush is caused by a bacteria that loves wet, oxygen-poor environments, like the deep grooves in your horse’s muddy feet! Luckily, with daily cleaning and application of Kera-Mend Thrush Paste (available through our Docs), you will have the infection well under control in no time!

Mushy Foot

This is a disorder that our Docs see regularly here in Florida in times of wet weather. The entire sole gets soft, thin, and crumbly; to the point that you can make it bounce with your thumb! [Cats don’t have thumbs, so I can’t say I’ve tried this myself.] The best treatment out there for what the Docs call “Mushy Foot” is daily application of Durasole (available here at the clinic). Durasole contains drying and strengthening agents which actually thicken and harden the sole in a remarkably short period of time.

Hoof Cracks and Crumbles

Another problem we tend to see with feet in this ugly weather is cracked, crumbling hoof walls. As always, the first line of defense in keeping your horse’s hooves intact is regular trimming by a knowledgeable farrier. However, there are a few things you can try in the interim to help your farrier out. First of all, stop washing your horses feet! Yes, you heard me right. You know what one thing is worse for feet than standing in a muddy pasture all day? Standing in a muddy pasture, having mud washed off with a hose, allowing feet to dry out, then returning to the muddy pasture. It’s actually the wet-to-dry-to-wet transition that is really bad for hooves! If your only turnout option is in a wet environment, help your horse out with some Kera-Mend Hoof Dressing (my minion Beth in the office can order it for you). Apply some to the coronary band daily (because, as we all know, hooves grow from the top down). This product not only promotes healthy hoof growth, but it also protects the hoof from that wet/dry transition. The secret ingredient is lanolin, which is the waxy substance produced by sheep to waterproof their wool! Maybe if cats had that stuff, we wouldn’t hate the water so very much.

Proper Diagnosis, Proper Treatment

If you suspect your horse may have any of the aforementioned foot problems, please have one of our amazing Docs out for an exam. There are more serious conditions (such as laminitis) that can masquerade as any one of these conditions, and an expert evaluation is highly recommended. If you would like to have any of these handy-dandy hoof products in your tack trunk, come find me here at the clinic, and I will point you in the right direction… but if it’s raining, don’t expect me to greet you outside!

Until next week,


Tuesdays with Tony – Big Burly Men

Tuesdays with Tony – Big Burly Men

Last Wednesday evening was an atypical night for me. There was pizza, which is always a plus. But then about a half dozen big burly men with a bunch of tools showed up, pulling trailers with–get this–built-in furnaces! The docs called them Farriers. Turns out all you have to do is let them know there will be pizza, and they will come from far and wide. Beth brought in her horse, Princess Chubby Butt, to be the test subject. The docs learned how the farriers approach a problem foot, and the farriers learned why things are not always as they seem on X-rays. It was a great learning experience for everyone…OK, I’ll admit even I learned a thing or two.

It turns out if you ask 6 different farriers the same question, you get 6 different answers. In fact, it is widely accepted that if you ask 20 different farriers the same question, you will get 20 different answers. Luckily, we have a bunch of great farriers in our area, and although they may have different opinions about the right way to approach a problem, none of them are wrong. If your horse was experiencing a foot lameness, it used to be commonplace for your vet to blame your farrier, and for your farrier to blame your vet. But here at Springhill Equine we are trying to change that!

We see the vet, farrier, and horse owner as a team, and we try to come up with a solution by putting our heads together. Whether the problem is laminitis, club foot, navicular disease, arthritis, thrush, etc… you need a vet and farrier working together to get the foot going in the right direction. Farriers are often grateful to see what’s going on inside the foot with the aid of X-rays, and I know the docs are grateful to have somebody else in charge of hammering nails into the horse’s foot!

All in all, our first vet/farrier team building/brainstorming meeting (event name pending) was a huge success, and we hope to have more in the future. Oh, and Princess Chubby Butt is loving her fancy new shoes! If you are ever looking for a farrier, there is a long list of names in the desk that I like to sleep on, and we would be happy to find one to meet your horses’ needs.

Until next week,



farrier seminar 2Tony on farrier truckfarrier seminar 1

Tuesdays with Tony – See Tony Event

Tuesdays with Tony – See Tony Event

Tuesdays with Tony – White Line Disease

Tuesdays with Tony – White Line Disease

Tuesdays with Tony – White Line Disease

It seems there has been an awful lot of something called White Line around here lately.  I decided if there was going to be a bunch of it, I was going to learn about it.  As it happens, we had one of these horses come in to the Clinic to have his feet worked on, so I got first-hand experience.

This horse was seen by our Docs for a Wellness visit.  Small shameless plug for our Wellness Program:  It’s everything your horse needs for the year, it has built in discounts, there’s no emergency fee if you are on the Plan, there’s an awesome Kentucky Derby Party, and we take care of all the remembering of what needs to be done.  I really don’t understand why everyone who has a horse isn’t on one of our Wellness Plans. Anyway, back to what we were talking about… While there, they examined him for a right front lameness.  As with all lameness evaluations, the exam started at the foot.  This guy had a whole flap of hoof wall that wasn’t attached!  I have now learned this is a tell-tale sign that you’ve got White Line.  Yes, I did purposefully make that rhyme. It’s called a Cat-ch Phrase!

I started my adventure by assisting with x-ray set up.  I find there is no better resting place than atop a keyboard on a computer.  Turns out the humans don’t like it much, but we compromised and I was allowed to observe from an adjacent table as long as I agreed not to touch the x-ray computer.   They get sooo protective of their stuff.   We started our work on this horse with an x-ray of the front feet.  X-rays let our Docs and Shawn (the farrier) get an idea how much White Line Disease is present before they bring out the nippers, knives, and rasps.  The x-ray also shows if there are any other problems going on, such as founder.  I learned White Line can so compromise the structural integrity of the foot that founder starts.  Scary stuff.  I know from years of managing this Clinic that founder is very hard on horses.  Turns out this guy had a little bit of a change to the bones in his leg and foot.   The Docs and Shawn explained to me this wasn’t because of founder (looked the same to me) but was because this horse had something called a Club Foot.

white line with arrow

The x-rays led to a lively discussion on the causes of White Line Disease.  Apparently fungi and bacteria can be cultured from the nasty, chalky stuff that builds up under the loose hoof wall, but that’s not the heart of the problem.  Physics is the real problem.  The fungi and bacteria under there are just taking advantage of hoof wall that is being pulled away from the foot.  Almost always, that hoof wall is being pulled away because the hoof has bad conformation or it has been trimmed/shod poorly.  Usually the break-over is way too far in front of where it should be, which causes pull on the hoof wall with every step.  That pull opens up tiny cracks where bugs can grow.  The bugs then harm the hoof wall allowing it to open even more, which lets the bugs multiply. As you can see, it’s a vicious circle.  Check here for more information on the physics of feet:

What’s a cat to do? Let the air in and fix the physics.  We’ll delegate the task out to fix the physics.  I’m not one for physics.  I lean more towards business management. Step one on White Line cases is to take off all that hoof wall that isn’t attached.  The bugs hate fresh air.  Take off the hoof wall, and they get more air than they can stand.  Off to bacteria/fungi heaven they go.  Next a shoe is put on that addresses any of those pesky physics problems.

white line Georgia

Voila! The worst of it is done.  At home the humans just have to make sure the foot stays clean.   They can do this by hosing the foot off, brushing with a wire brush (gently), and the occasional squirt of hydrogen peroxide (not too often, that is some powerful stuff).  The hardest part is time.  The horse will now need time for the hoof to grow out and heal.  Humans just don’t do patience well.  I recommend a good nap in a sunny spot.  It does wonders for my patience.

With all this talk about feet, I’m off to give myself a nice pedicure on the scratching post.  I think I will follow that with some patience practice.


Tony supervising Shawn

Tuesdays with Tony – Teamwork!

Tuesdays with Tony – Teamwork!

This weekend I learned why I am best suited to my supervisory role here at the clinic.  I monitored while Dr. Lacher worked closely with a farrier to determine the best treatment for a horse with a bunch of issues in her feet.  I marveled at the way in which they worked as a team, batted around each other’s ideas, and came up with solutions that addressed all the issues.  It was like watching TV in a foreign language.  As a cat, I am not a team player.  Heck, Teannie and I can barely get along.  Turns out you need a team to manage your horse.  High performance, senior, or just for fun.  All horses seem to require a team.  Not cats.  We only require staff that will jump at our every request.  I feel I have trained my minions well.

Anyway, Teamwork.  Turns out teamwork is very important for performance horses.  There is often a trainer, owner, veterinarian, and farrier at the very least.   Trainers and owners need to feel comfortable talking to their veterinarian and farrier about how the horse is performing.  It may be something as minor as a lift of the head in a transition one way, but not the other.  Based on a trainer’s description of the problem, our Dr. Lacher will put her detective hat on and start investigating.  Dr. Lacher uses her 30+ years of horse experience alongside her veterinary knowledge to help track down the source of pain.  (We won’t tell her I talked about her 30+ years)

Treatment and rehab come next on the list.  Again, teamwork is critical.  I really don’t understand why there has to be all this teamwork.  I would just impose my will; no questions allowed.  Veterinarians today have a wide variety of therapies available.  Joint injections with steroids are the most common treatment used.  Problem is, those steroids come with some side effects.  Hocks handle those side effects well, and can be repeatedly injected.  However, every other joint doesn’t.  Every steroid injection takes a little tiny bit off the end of a horse’s career.  This means careful discussion with everyone involved to determine if injections will help the horse get better faster and cause less damage than the injury they have.  Maybe some of the new, crazy advanced therapies like stem cells and platelet rich plasma should be used instead.  Maybe rest and targeted exercises should be used.  All of that has to be talked about and factored in.  With all this talking, I’m going to need more nap time.  And more food.

One of the biggest collaborations happens between our Docs and farriers.  With the utterly ridiculous design horses have for feet, they need constant attention.  Lots of horses need special shoeing to keep those feet comfortable or to help them heal from an injury.  Our Docs use radiographs (x-rays) to help farriers line up their shoes perfectly.  There is also a whole lot of discussion that goes on about what the Docs have found out from their exam and what the farriers think.  There’s always tons of communication going on.  I try to make sure I am nearby to assist with this process.

It can be a challenge to determine the best, right thing for these crazy horses sometimes.  Making sure you have a winning team sure makes it easier.  Until next week.

Springhill's office cat Tony

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