Talk To The Foot

Talk To The Foot

Tuesdays with Tony

With the amount I talk about horse feet, you all must think I’m obsessed with them. Well, you kind of have to be when you run an equine vet clinic like I do. Horse feet are kinda important. It’s not like a dog, where they can get along just fine on 3 legs. Horses need all 4 of their feet to be in good working order just to survive. So today I’m going to teach you a few things you can look for to make sure your horse’s feet are going in the right direction instead of the wrong one.



   Did you know that over 85% of lameness in horses originates in the foot? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen humans bring their horse in for “soreness in the stifles”, “hock injections”, or even a “broken shoulder” and the problem ends up being in the foot. The silver lining in this is the fact that foot problems can often be easily corrected by trimming and shoeing, which is an easy and inexpensive fix, relatively speaking. Believe me, you WANT your horse’s lameness to be in the foot. That’s a much better scenario than a bone cyst, severe arthritis, or a torn suspensory ligament.

    This should go without saying, but recurring foot lameness is usually an indicator that your horse isn’t happy with how he’s being trimmed or shod. Now, I’m not telling you to pick up the phone and call a new farrier. A great place to start is with X-rays of your horse’s feet. There is only so much a farrier can tell from the outside of the foot. Many times, the bony column within the foot doesn’t match what the hoof would lead you to believe.

    There is so much we can learn from just a single side-view of the foot. My docs can tell you if your horse has any signs of laminitis, such as rotation or sinking of the coffin bone (the bone inside the hoof). They can even tell you if these changes are acute (new) or chronic (old). They can determine your horse’s palmar angle, or the angle between the ground and the bottom of the coffin bone.

white line disease horse hoof

They can tell you if your horse has signs of coffin joint arthritis, or navicular disease (note: to get a full evaluation of the navicular bone, a few more views would be necessary). They can tell you how good the bony alignment is from the fetlock joint down to the tip of the toe. This hoof-pastern-axis should be a straight line, neither “broken-forward” nor “broken back.”  Your farrier may be surprised to see how much excess toe or how little sole your horse has. Additionally, he can get an idea of the side-to-side symmetry and balance of the foot from one more front-to-back view.


A Good Trim


Everything about horse feet starts with a good trim. You can see my Everything You Need To Know About Horse Feet blogs for tons of information and pictures. Here’s the basics: the heels should be brought down to the widest point of the frog. Yes, brought down. Do not leave bad-quality heel on. You can’t “grow better heels” on a horse. They’ve got what the good Lord gave ‘em and you can’t fix it, you just have to manage it.

Alignment side equine hoof demo at equine hoof care semina

From there, your farrier should trim the foot as they normally would. When finished, the widest part of the hoof should be halfway between the toe and the heel. If it isn’t, the trim is adjusted until it fits this ideal. If it can’t be….well, that takes me to the next section of this blog


Shoes or no shoes


I hear it all the time: “My farrier just wants to charge me more so they said my horse needs shoes.” Nope, not true. Farrier myth busted. Every farrier I met doesn’t want to put shoes on a horse until they absolutely need it. However, when the hoof has been trimmed to the best of your farrier’s ability, and the mechanics are still all messed up, a shoe is needed to fix what’s messed up.

If your horse has really weird feet, your farrier is definitely going to want an appointment with our Docs and the x-ray at the same time. This will get your horse the best possible shoeing job. Heck, your farrier and my Docs get so much information from foot x-rays that we recommend them for every performance horse, every year.

No hoof, no horse, is the truest thing ever said about a horse. Be sure to use my Docs as the great resource they are to help your horse have the very best feet they possibly can!


Now be a good human. Scroll down a teenie, tiny bit further and subscribe to my blog. All the cool humans do it. And if you listen to the podcast my Docs do, which is another cool human trait, you can listen to more about horse feet. The more you know, the better care you can provide for your horse.


Until next week,



Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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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 Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! 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