The Horse

SEP 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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52 THE HORSE September 2018 hooves are ready might also be bad practice for bare feet, Taylor says. "The hoof's a smart structure, just like bone is," she says. "We have to stimulate it just like going to a gym and getting the most of a workout. And they're not going to get that from 45 minutes a day of training and 23 hours a day locked in a stall as a 3-year- old. These youngsters would likely benefit from being turned out on varied terrain with ample space for movement to stimu- late and exfoliate their feet." Hooves and bones are still in develop- ment at that age and can continue to develop for years, she adds. In research- ing cattle she has seen the importance of building strong hooves and bones— including of the feet—by getting these animals moving across hard surfaces regularly from the time they're babies. The Barefoot Trim Our sources agree that trimming a bare foot is an art requiring knowledge of the supporting science. It's not ter- ribly complicated, but people often get it wrong. Two common mistakes, they say, are trimming the foot to look like a wild horse foot or trimming it like it's going to receive a shoe. "I prefer to call it shaping," O'Grady says of the correct approach. "Just round the edges of the wall and let friction take care of the sole." He recommends trimming the heels and frog so these structures are on the same plane, and then rasping the hoof wall at a 45-degree angle on the outer side of the white line to create a bevel in the wall. If the bottom surface is slightly uneven, the farrier can level things off to ensure good force distribution, aka load-sharing. And if the sole is thick and strong, the trimmer can enhance break- over (the moment when the heel lifts off the ground and the toe rolls over during movement) by angling the toe slightly— just enough to slip a credit card between it and the ground, he says. Leaving the horse to develop his own entirely natural shape might work if he isn't ridden, but a working horse needs shaping to prepare his feet for the extra weight. Trimming the horse as though he's going to get a shoe creates fragile side angles and removes too much sole. Clayton and Bowker studied Arabian riding horses that had been barefoot for several years and started shaping their feet according to barefoot trimming prin- ciples, she says. They found that the feet changed shape over 16 months, leading to rounder hooves even in the hind limbs. And there was less variation in hoof shape from one horse to another. More importantly, the horses' feet more closely reflected the goals of barefoot shaping: a wider frog, a thicker digital cushion as confirmed via radiographs, higher heel angles that more closely paralleled the dorsal wall, more sole concavity, and easier breakover. Take-Home Message Researchers are just starting to scratch the surface of how to blend the natural state of the equine foot with the less natu- ral state of riding. It's a field facing many debates, assumptions, and misunder- standings, making solid research all the more important as we move forward. h STEP BY STEP Back to Natural—Within Limits Our sources remind us that a "natural" horse foot is one meant for horses running free and unridden. They agree that with domestication and riding, we've created challenges for the equine foot that make it more complex to keep it bare. Science suggests that keeping horses barefoot improves their overall musculoskeletal and hoof health. But not all horses can go barefoot. The decision depends on the horse's genetics, management, use, and indi- vidual characteristics. And some demands—such as jumping—exceed equine hooves' ability to sustain the forces they receive, says Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVSMR. Deciding to keep a horse barefoot requires a good relationship with vets and trimmers that have science-based knowledge of foot anatomy and shaping techniques, along with an understanding of how you ride and manage your horse.—Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

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