You may notice that my website contains lots of questions! I hope that I have provided enough answers to get you thinking but if you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
As horse owners it is important to ask questions, don't be shy and NEVER assume that the professional you have employed to give you advice/treat your horse is always right! If they cannot give you satisfactory answers to your questions, please, please get a second opinion. If they truly know their stuff (which they should if you are trusting them with your horse's welfare) they will be happy to share their knowledge with you and put your mind at ease.
"Always ask the why, and the how will become apparent." K C LA PIERRE
Frequently Asked Questions
What does DAEP stand for?
DAEP stands for ‘Degreed Applied Equine Podiatrist’, this means that the person has successfully completed the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry’s Diploma programme comprising of 10 theory modules, 200 (minimum) hours of practical training and has passed the final exams (written and practical).
When do I need an Applied Equine Podiatrist?
Good reasons for going shoeless with your horse...
To improve their overall health, soundness and prolong their working life.
If they have been lame and unresponsive to conventional treatment.
If they are out of work.
If they are unable to keep shoes on.
In a herd environment to prevent serious injuries caused by shod feet.
To improve speed, traction and stamina in performance horses.
To improve your horse’s movement and way of going.
Bad reasons for going shoeless with your horse...
·In the hope that it will be cheaper than shoeing.
In the long term it may be much more cost effective as your horse will be less susceptible to lameness (fewer visits from the vet!) and will need little more than regular exercise to condition and maintain hoof health.
Initially it may be more or as expensive as shoeing depending on the frequency of visits required along with any topical applications (i.e. to treat for infection), purchase of pads if handwalking is necessary and/or boots depending on the intitial strength of your horses’s hooves.
·So that you can forget about your horse’s hooves and leave them to nature and/or your trimmer to sort out.
This is the main reason people say " I tried barefoot but my horse was lame without shoes". Unfortunately if you think you can just pull the shoes off and leave your horse to sort himself out in the field or carry on with his normal workload you may be opening yourself up to absessing and lameness problems, particularly if your horse has been shod for a long time and has weak hooves as a result. A good trim will make your horse comfortable in the field, but if you want to work your horse you may need to build up his feet with a conditioning routine. This can be as simple as 10 minutes handwalking a day or 20 minutes in a sand arena 3 times a week - it doesn't have to be difficult but you do need to be committed to doing whatever your particular horse needs. Your DAEP will leave you with a set of recommendations and it is important that you are serious about following them for the best interests of your horse.
What can I expect from a standard consultation?
Before you book a consultation first think about what you would like to achieve, whether you are going shoeless for the first time or looking for higher performance from your horse's bare hooves. Whilst every horse WILL benefit from going shoeless, depending on how healthy the hooves are to start with they may require a fair bit of owner dedication and if you are not committed to doing things properly it may be best to leave your horse in shoes. If, however, you are prepared to put in the time and initial hard work you will find the improvement in your horse vastly rewarding and he will thank you for it by staying sound and healthy for years to come. Like anything in life you only get out what you are prepared to put in.
Once you have made the decision please allow 2 hours for the initial consultation, I will begin by assessing your horse's movement and health of the various foot structures. By completing a Spectrum of Usability I can accurately place your horse on a measurable scale so that the owner can see what they have, what they can realistically achieve and how to go about achieving it. After discussing your requirements and examining your horse, any shoes will be removed and the HPT method applied, if appropriate. You will need a dry, level area for walking and trotting up the horse and an area of hard standing would be preferred for working on your horse’s feet. Your horse's environment, workload and nutrition will also be discussed and at the end of the consultation you will be left with tailored recommendations to facilitate improvement in your horse's hoof health until the next scheduled appointment. In between consultations I am always available over the telephone or via email if you need additional support or advice.
How often will my horse’s feet need to be trimmed?
This will depend on your horse’s growth to wear ratio and the overall health of each of the structures of the hoof as well as what you are hoping to achieve and how quickly! Initially your horse may need more frequent visits (every 3-4 weeks) if his hooves are very poor to establish good structural growth and stability. Generally speaking, once your horse’s feet are healthy, 6 weeks is the usual interval for trimming but a DAEP will be able to advise what is best for each individual horse.
What does a healthy hoof look like?
Surprisingly, many people don’t know what to look for because they have always just left the feet to the farrier without question!
Note that the frog is approximately 60% wide as it is long, has no sign of infection and a nice, shallow sulcus at the base. The heels are positioned back at the widest part of the frog and have good ‘purchase’ (ground contacting surface area). The bars are nice and straight and follow the line of the frog. The sole has some concavity and good blending of horn from sole to inner to outer wall. The wall is thicker at the toe than at the quarters. This hoof would rate an 8 or 9 on the Spectrum and could easily go eventing or hunt all day!
TWO EXAMPLES: Note that the frogs are very narrow (less than 40% as wide as they are long) with deep central sulci between the heel bulbs making them susceptible to infection. The heels are forward of the widest part of the frog (under-run) and on the right-hand hoof have very little surface area to contact the ground due to lack of bar. There is separation between the inner and outer wall which has succumbed to infection and a some ‘false-sole’ build up on the Left hand hoof which gives the appearance of a flat hoof lacking in concavity. The right hand hoof looks concave but due to the thick rim at the outer edge this is probably due to being shod recently and having the sole pared away to provide artificial concavity - this makes the sole thin and susceptible to bruising/abscessing. Both of these hooves score around a 3 on the Spectrum so would be capable of arena work in walk and trot, hand-walking in pads and light hacking in boots.
An unhealthy hoof isn't a bad hoof - time and correct treatment are all you need to transform your horse's feet.
My horse does a few hours of roadwork every day; wouldn’t his hooves wear away too quickly without shoes?
If your horse’s feet are correctly balanced and you allow time for correct, healthy structure to develop after removing the shoes you will find that riding on the roads stimulates an increase in growth, which will wear proportionally and your horse should cope well with the ridden road work provided you do not attempt too much too soon. It is a common misconception that riding on the roads for a few hours a day will wear away your horse’s hooves. There are actually very few horses who will wear away their hoof quicker than it can grow, a balanced hoof will receive even stimulus and riding on the roads can be very beneficial providing the structures are healthy.
My horse has been diagnosed with Navicular and my vet has recommended bar shoes to keep him sound, does this mean I can’t go shoeless?
Bar shoes may seem to provide initial relief in navicular cases but over time they create too much stress on the bony column and will exacerbate your horse's lameness and lead to more problems. For the best chance of soundness the cause of the lameness needs to be addressed rather than trying to mask it with shoes.
To achieve a healthy hoof, all structures need to be strong, healthy and in dynamic equilibrium (all working as intended at any given moment in time). Any structural or functional weakness in the foot will mean that it is less capable of dealing with excessive concussive energies produced by the stride and as a result these will be transferred to the bony column and suspensory apparatus rather than being safely dissipated within the foot. This can lead to pathologies such as ringbone, side bone and caudal heel pain. Unexplained heel pain is what is most often diagnosed as ‘Navicular Syndrome’. Excessive stress on the navicular region due to imbalance in the surrounding structures (e.g. pressure from the deep digital flexor tendon lying over at an incorrect angle, pressure from rotation of the coffin bone etc.) may lead to modelling of the navicular bone over time which will further upset the balance within the back half of the foot and increase pain/lameness.
In a shod horse it is impossible for all structures to be in dynamic equilibrium as they are physically prevented from dealing correctly with energy produced by the stride due simply to the restriction of the metal shoe – the foot is not allowed to distort correctly which is so important for a healthy internal arch (the sensitive internal structures of the hoof) and effective utilisation/dissipation of energy. In addition to not allowing correct distortion the placement of a metal shoe actually increases the concussive forces that the foot is now unable to deal with efficiently. A bar shoe distributes pressure differently to a regular shoe and this is why it may initially provide relief. Over time, however, it will become clear that all that has happened is the pressure has been moved to a new point and not truly relieved, all the while causing further damage to the foot.
By removing the shoes and applying a balanced trim, given time and with correct stimulus it is possible to return each of the hoof structures to health and proper function so that the horse will no longer suffer from heel pain and, providing the navicular is not so advanced to have caused bone modelling, the horse will return to soundness. If the bone has modelled, the horse may never be completely sound but will have the best chance possible shoeless. When the external hoof print is brought into symmetry with the internal structures this allows all biomechanical and neurological stimuli to be correctly exerted on the dermal layer by the epidermal layer to allow correct physiological function of the hoof and avoids incorrect, harmful pressure/stress/strain.
More questions will be added soon, if you have a question not covered here please do not hesitate to contact me.