Sunday, February 10, 2013

Photos Of Feet

GreyDrakkon suggested I post pictures to show the feet that I was talking about.  So, below are the feet...The captions came out smaller than I'd hoped but I'll try to explain so I go.

PS - If you click on the photos, they should appear in a full screen view!

The picture below is a straight on shot of Angel's front feet.  The clubbed foot is on the left, larger "normal" foot is on the right.  Photo taken AFTER the farrier visit.  Angel toes in a bit on the right, so that is being addressed.

Clubbed foot with bevels - no caption

Clubbed foot with captions.  Arrows from left to right: toe, a small chip out of the side wall, the start of the bevel or "rocker", the heel bulb.  You can see how far the heel bars are forward of the heel bulb.

Side view of clubbed foot.

In the foreground is Angel's clubbed foot.  You can see the "bent" line that shows how it isn't growing normally.  As her hoof grows out, that "bend" should grow out also, but the angle should rotate to be even with the normal hoof.  The normal foot is in the background - you can see how it is on a straight angle from coronet band to toe.

The bottom of the clubbed foot.  Notice how the side walls are relatively straight.  You also see there is a lot of sole and frog left...

The sole was left to make contact with the ground, and also, work to spread the side walls.  The frog is in the process of sloughing off.  Where the middle arrow is, it is completely detacted.  The arrow at the bottom of the picture is prime thrush grown area.  All the "carving" you see is from her previous trim.

Side view of normal hoof

Below is Chili's hoof showing under-run heel.  (He isn't as tolerant as Angel, so I had to take the photos in his pen)

Below you can see the under-run heels and crushing of the heel.  His toe angle is a little flat also.  The arrow in the center of the photo points the heel bars and this is where he bears his weight.  The next arrow (pointing up and on the right) shows approximately where his heels bars (and weight bearing) should be.  The horizontal arrow shows the crushed heel.
Below is Piper's left front.  Her heel isn't nearly as under-run as Chili's, but it has a good start.

The arrow points to the evidence of heel crushing...

Roger's front

Mis-aligned but better than before...

The Search For A Farrier – Part III

In Part I, I told you about how THE BEST had crippled Jazzy by trimming her too short.  THE KID and I had tried several times to get her barefoot and sound.  It never worked.  Within 12 hours, she would be mincing steps and after four days, she would have shoes back on.  One time, we conspired to give her bute and let her “toughen up”.  That didn’t work either.  By the end of two weeks, she could hardly walk.  We had to put a folded towel under her feet so she could stand to get the shoes on.  Once the shoes were on, she walked off sound. *sigh  I felt so bad that I had made her suffer. 

During Friday’s appointment, STEVE worked on five horses:  Chiquita, Piper, Biff, Cappy, and Jazzy.  Chiquita and Cappy were straight-forward trims, with no major issues. 

Biff is a Standardbred with crappy conformation, and had been raced 75 times in two years.  His hocks, stifles, and hips are completely shot!  As a result, he “wings” in the back and if trimmed incorrectly, will clip himself.  I relayed this to STEVE and he had me trot Biff across the grass.  After watching him move, STEVE set to work.  Three times during the process, he had me walk and trot Biff to make sure his corrections/trimming would allow Biff to move without pain or stress, and not clip himself.  Biff took a nap while the trimming was done, and trotted out with very little encouragement.  I certainly got a workout!

According to her mom, Piper had the same issue as Jazzy.  She had been trimmed too short, too much sole removed, and as a result was sore on the front.  So shoes were put on.  Now, it makes sense to me (and to Piper’s mom) to put shoes on to protect the sole until the hoof can grow out, and reduces pain.  However, by constricting the hoof with rigid metal, blood flow is constricted and the healing doesn’t take place.  When STEVE looked at Piper’s front feet, he commented on a couple things.  First, she had almost no sole.  Restricted blood flow to the sole had prevented it from growing.  Second, since part of her weight bearing tissue was removed (the sole), her hoof wall and heels/frog had to compensate.  Piper is a BIG mare!  She is probably 16 hands or better, and weighs 1200 pounds or more. Since she didn’t have all her hoof supporting her weight, her heels crushed and were becoming under-run.  So STEVE pulled the foot back and trimmed the walls so the sole would make contact with the ground.  He didn’t touch the sole or the frog and so far, the mare is sound and comfortable. 

Then came Jazzy.  We talked a length about her, what had happened, what I expected.  I did NOT want him coming back in two days to put shoes on her because she was lame.  I wanted to either put shoes on now, or he take extra care so she wouldn’t be lame.  And Jazzy has other issues going on in addition to the front end.  When she was five, she spooked at the clippers, reared straight up, then her hind legs failed and she sat HARD, causing a pelvis injury that ended her riding days.  You can tell by looking at her that she carries all her weight up front, pulls on the front end, and her hind end goes where she goes simply because it’s attached.  When I bought her, she had a big, round, classic Quarter Horse rump.  Now she is the butt-less wonder! 

So STEVE had me get the mare and walk her up and back several times.  Then he pulled the shoes, and worked on the walls.  Then we walked, followed by a little change, more walking, and more change.  He showed me a quarter crack and told me to keep an eye on it. Then he worked very little on the sole in the middle third of the hoof. STEVE said he did this to allow the sole to flex without causing pain.  I didn’t totally understand this concept, but as long as the mare isn’t in pain, I’m ok with it.  As of today, ten days later, Jazzy is still sound.

So in all this talk about STEVE, what happened to MIKE, you might ask.  He was there, conferring with STEVE, doing the heavy lifting in the back.  I suspect that STEVE’s back bothers him and he can only bend for so long.  But unwilling to stop working on horses, he has enlisted MIKE to help.  More than once, MIKE stopped the work he was doing and the two of them discussed what was going on with the hoof, and how best to proceed.  This “conference” didn’t happen with every horse, but almost.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with STEVE and MIKE.  I like their demeanor, their patience, and their willingness to answer a question in full before proceeding.  I also like the fact that they start working, have me walk the horse, then go back to work, rather than the “nip, cut, rasp, and done” that we all have seen from other farriers, turning out cookie-cutter trim jobs because its easy and fast.  None of those other farriers explained anything to me unless I asked and was persistent.  I feel like FINALLY I am getting something right.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Search For A Farrier – Part II

STEVE arrived relatively on time.  I say “relatively” because the appointment time given by his wife, who schedules his appointments, was for “about 1:00 pm”.  He was short, had a grey mustache and long curly beard.  He was polite, intelligent, and explained things as he went.  AND… he is very kind and patient with the horses.  Roger was a royal jackass the entire time he was being worked on.  He was slinging his nose around, and  winging his back feet as if to say “If you can catch it, you can trim it.”  STEVE arrived with MIKE, a much younger, nice looking man in his early- to mid-twenties.  He was also kind and patient.

Roger was first out. Poor trimming by THE KID had Roger toeing out horribly, which according to STEVE, was due to unbalanced trimming that led to mid-alignment.  STEVE started with the fronts.  To my surprise, he never touched the nippers.  He used the rasp to alter the balance of Roger’s front feet.  During the process, he talked about what he was doing and why.  He told me that he was making tiny changes and that recovery was a slow process.  STEVE and MIKE took their time, discussed in detail each hoof, each angle, what, why, etc.  He would trim, have me walk Roger, shave a little here or there, watch Roger walk, and finally released me to put him away. 

Second out was Texas Chili.  Chili is not mine, but he is safe to turn out with the girls, Angel and Tally.  Chili had platter feet, flared on the sides.  STEVE told me that the reason this was happening was because THE KID had removed the living sole, and that the walls were what was supporting Chili’s weight.  AND… this was not a good thing for the horse.  The sole, frog, and walls need to be in balance to each other and work together to function properly.  If one or two things are out of balance, it will be visible in how the rest of the hoof looks and behaves.  Chili also had a problem that most people call “Under-run Heels” or “Under-slung heels”, which is caused, ultimately, by crushed heels that are unable to support the weight of the horse.  Combine this with a careless farrier, a long toe, and a thin sole (either naturally or farrier-induced) and you get an under-run heel.  To correct this, STEVE trimmed the walls back so that the sole took more of the weight, and rasped off the flares.  After walking Chili walk, he declared the horse done.

By now, I was seeing a pattern with STEVE.  He nipped very little, and had not yet pulled out the knife.  When I asked him about it, he told me this: “The sole helps to support the weight of the horse by working in tandem with the walls.  If you whittle that out of there, then you are left with just the walls, which will separate and flare.  The frog will shed twice per year.  Since it is between the heels, it is the shock absorber.  Take that away, and now the heel takes all the impact.  Over time, you will have a horse that is navicular.  Besides, there IS good bacteria on the bottom of their feet, not unlike the surface of your skin.  Get the bacteria out of balance and instead of fighting thrush, you are now promoting it. 

BING!!!  THAT is where the thrush is coming from!  Every single farrier I had used before STEVE had trimmed the frog.  ALL OF THEM!  That was the first thing they did.  Clean the hoof, trim the frog, whittle the sole, and go to nipping the hoof wall length off.

Next out was Tally.  She was long, but had never been trimmed by THE KID.  STEVE did some rasping and shaping and that was it.  Last out was Angel.

Ah… Angel…special in so many ways.  Her hind feet are normal.  Her fronts are a mess!  She is club-footed on the right.  Her left is so over-sized that it looks like it came from another horse.  I’ve had one or two farriers in the past lop off the heel to put her on the same angle as the other front, rather than “trimming to the hoof”.  The result has always been two weeks of lameness.  Imagine slowly, over time, growing a high heel and walking around on it every day.  Then all at once, you switch to a flat shoe.  You are going to hurt.  The reason is because Angel’s shoulders grew slowly off balance.  Then in one trim, the right shoulder dropped.  She was sore in the shoulder, not the hoof.  So I always talked to the farrier, asking them to NOT remove the heel.

I was distracted and when I pulled my head out of my ass, the heel on Angel’s club foot had been nipped off.  STEVE apparently heard my gasp.   He set her foot down and came around to talk to me.  He explained in detail what he had done, why he had done it, and what the end result would be.  He had indeed, trimmed off the heel.  However, the bottom of her foot was not flat.  He had a bit of a “rocker” in there, with the hoof higher across the middle and shorter on the heel and toe.  He said that this would allow her heel to hit first, rather than the forward third of her hoof, which it had been doing.  It would put pressure in a different area, which would cause the hoof to grow normally, which would correct the club foot and in a year, it would look normal.  He pointed out, using calibers, the coronet band was the same on both feet…identical.  The growth came out of the coronet band normally, then was clubbed.  He showed me that the measurements on both feet, from the coronet band down the hoof wall about ¼ of an inch, were completely identical.

He told me that he thought that she had been born with completely normal feet, and that from the get-go, bad trimming followed by bad trimming, had shaped her feet to what they are today.  He said he also knew how to correct it.  The bigger foot, on the left, was bearing more weight, therefore it had spread out and become enlarged.  STEVE told me that he had corrected hundreds of clubbed feet and asked me to trust him.  I stood there scowling and processing what he told me, then said “If my mare can walk in the morning without being three-legged lame, you got a deal.”  He did warn me that in six months, as the newer, wider hoof grew out, it would be very noticeable and not to panic.  It made sense so I promised not to.  I took pictures so I can show the progression a year from now.  By the way, Angel is still sound.

At this point, I would like to address the frog and thrush and STEVE.  Everyone knows that you can get thrush in damp environments, right?  The fungus is in the ground and if it takes hold in the foot, it’s hard to get rid of.  STEVE was a Registered Nurse for twenty years before switching over to being a farrier.  He knows about physiology, and germs, and has educated himself on not only HOW the hoof works, but WHY it does what it does.

Have you ever put on a latex glove and worn it for a while?  What happens to your hand?  It sweats, right?  Well, that dirty hard hoof, sole, and frog will “sweat” also.  WHO KNEW???  So the thrush takes hold in the newly cleaned and carved frog, which has been stripped of the beneficial bacteria, then the horse steps in mud or poo which “protects” the growing thrush.  And with no beneficial bacteria to help fight it, it flourishes.  The perfect hoof will clean itself, with “new” dirt coming in at the toes, and “flushing” out the back between the heel bars.  By leaving the frog to slough naturally, it protects the living frog and the beneficial bacteria. And as I stated before, I have sand. I live in the desert.  The horses are never locked in a stall.  I simply do not have a ground moisture problem.

Angel has ALWAYS had thrush to some degree in her club foot.  After trimming her, STEVE showed me where the frog was in the process of sloughing, being attached at the forward point of the frog, and at the heels.  He said to clean the foot out, DO NOT use a pick except on the very outside.  He prefers to use a stiff bristle brush or a steel wire brush.  He explanation is this – with a pick, you can gouge the frog and/or the sole, which give thrush and other bacteria a foothold.

Then he told me something else, which I’m sure you have all heard before.  If not, you’ll read it here first.  PEA GRAVEL.  STEVE said to put in some pea gravel, at least four inches deep, and six feet wide, where the horses have to walk through it every day.  Pea gravel has many benefits… a) it creates drainage, putting the walking surface above the standing water, b) it massages the sole of the hoof, c) it promotes circulation, which causes sole growth (by the way, the sole protects the bottom of the hoof and helps prevent wall flare), d) it will toughen the sole, e) it will round the edges of the hoof wall preventing chipping.  And because it’s rounded, it won’t become embedded in the sole or lodged into the frog.  He warned though that it needs to be deep enough so that it doesn’t feel like they’re walking on marbles - there really is a difference.

One of the stories that STEVE told me was that a kind hearted woman had bought a crippled foal at the auction for $10.  The foal’s breeder, rather than fixing the foal, or euthanizing him, had run him through the auction. (We all know of these asshats!)  The problem with the foal?  He was knuckled over and was walking on the front of his hooves.  The woman gave the little guy to STEVE, who fixed the foal and still has the gelding and STEVE said that he is his favorite saddle horse.  I asked to see pictures.  I’ll let you know if I ever see them.
Stay tuned for Part III (Oh yes… there is more!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Search For A Farrier - Part 1

In 2003, when we bought our first horse (in my adulthood) for my daughter, I used a farrier that trimmed at where I boarded at the time.  He was supposedly "THE BEST" in the area, was not taking any new clients, but trimmed mine.  I felt privileged to have him work on my horse.  Within two years, we had four horses.  The old granny mare, my Appy, the grullo mare, and a buckskin yearling gelding, and all the world was right.

Then the day after I'd have THE BEST out to trim, I arrived at the facility to find Jazzy, the grullo mare, so short in front she couldn't walk.  In 24 hours, she'd gone from barefoot and sound, to completely crippled.  I called THE BEST, told him about my mare, and he came right out and put shoes on her front hooves.  And this started years of frustration for me. 

Some times, the frustration was immediate, other times it was delayed for weeks, months, or years.

We bought our small farm in 2005 and the horses were moved first.  I once again went on the hunt for a farrier.  I asked people I knew and the recommended THE BRAT.  He was a roper, young, and unbeknown to me, had a horrible temper.  His first, and last, time doing my horses, he lost his patience and hit my Appy mare in the belly with the handle of his rasp 5 times before I could stop him, or she could move out of reach.  I asked him politely to pack it up and leave. (Not really, I screamed at him like an old fisher's wife, cuss words rolling off my tongue in quick succession.)

One of my western pleasure show friends recommended THE KID.  He was also a roper, young, but was patient and kind and did a good job.  So began a relationship the me, THE KID, and my horses.  THE KID was the one I called in an emergency.  I depended on him to keep my horses sound and comfortable.  I sent baby gifts when each of his four children were born.  Then things changed.  See, THE KID was finishing his Engineering Degree.  Sounds great, right?  Well, not so much. 

When THE KID finished his degree, he went to work at a full-time job using that degree.  Trimming horses became his "hobby".  He kept a few of his clients, just enough to keep him busy on Saturdays, for extra spending money.  He showed up on time, trimmed the horses as quickly as he could, and off he'd go.  I began having lameness issues.  Jazzy still required shoes, he'd take too much heel off, too
much toe, wouldn't ensure the hoof was balanced, and other things.  I also started having a LOT more incidences with thrush, something I'd never had before.

Now bear in mind, I live in the desert.  We get MAYBE 7 inches of precipitation PER YEAR.  The ground where I live is sandy.  My stalls are open.  HOW was I getting thrush?  (More on this later)

So I started looking.  I found JOE, who was a complete MORON!  I won't go into all the details of this boob but will share that it took him 45 minutes to shape and set ONE shoe on my Appy mare's club foot.  So he didn't come back.

Next I tried CHAD.  He was rough, hiked the horses up, but did a decent enough job so as not to lame anyone.  Problem was, the horses didn't like him.  The first time, everyone good.  The second time, everyone fought him, pinned their ears, and two of the eight he worked on took a kick at him.  He was also fired.

Then I found John.  He was over an hour late with no phone call or explanation, which of course, forced me to cancel my plans later in the day.  His arrogance oozed out the truck ahead of him and he spent more time posturing and being "studly", than actually working on my horses. FIRED!

Becoming desperate, I asked around AGAIN.  "CJ is cheap!" said one friend.  I find that you usually get what you pay for, and I'm not opposed to paying more for someone who knows what they are doing and doesn't lame my horses.

My new neighbor uses STEVE for her two horses.  I observed him working on hers, but before I could really GET what he was about, Mike called for me for something and I had to leave.  Several months later, Bullwinkle was lame in front.  He was a little long and needed trimmed anyway, and my neighbor had STEVE coming on a Wednesday.  I had to work so I arranged for my neighbor to come get Bullwinkle (BW) and put him in the lineup with hers.  She texted me and said BW had thrush, really deep and really bad.  I called and sent Mike to get some Koppertox so I could treat BW when I got home.  When I picked up BW's foot, none of the sole and frog had been trimmed.  I had to use a brush to remove the dirt and stuff.  I treated his foot and in a couple days, he came sound.  At the time, I figured the Koppertox worked! (More on this later)

So I decided to give STEVE a try with the rest of the herd.  I trimmed four of my own on Wednesday, and the boarders on Friday.  The results?  Check back for Part 2.