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.
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.
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 SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!