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.
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: http://springhillequine.com/part-1-everything-you-ever-want-to-know-about-your-horses-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.
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.