Monday, September 30, 2013

On Hooves and the Whole Horse: Soundness, Flares, Deviations and Trimming

Very interesting post today from Rockley Farm - the barefoot rehab place in the UK whose thoughts on hooves, hoof health and trimming I very much respect.  Take a read and look at the video they have that's linked in the post - I guarantee you'll find it interesting and thought-provoking.


  1. I will read that. After two years of trying to get my brumby to go barefoot, she is back with shoes on. I'd like to see what the barefoot experts have to say about those horses with truly flat feet and thin soles.

  2. Thanks, ill head on over and take a look.

  3. Flat feet and thin soles are IME always related to diet and metabolism. In the UK the biggest culprits are high levels of sugar and starch in forage and low dietary levels of key minerals, especially copper, zinc, selenium and magnesium.

    Looking at diet first is important for any horse, whether shod or barefoot, so that's where I'd start with your mare.

  4. I would second Nic's comment. Dawn has a history of thin soles and flat feet. She's borderline IR, although she tends to be on the thin side, and gets a custom supplement with chromium - Nic, there is one older study in the US in racehorses that showed that chromium was helpful in glucose metabolism - magnesium and selenium - our part of the country is low-selenium in forage. I also give all my horses supplemental zinc and copper. Dawn's feet aren't perfect - she doesn't get to work on all surfaces as Nic's horses do - but she's been barefoot and doing well for over two years.

    Other metabolic issues that can affect foot health - essentially because they affect circulation and/or glucose metabolism - are Cushings, a horse being overweight (just like a heavy or obese person being more prone to diabetes) and thyroid deficiencies. There are blood tests for both Cushings and thyroid.

  5. Yes, absolutely Kate - PPID/Cushings and IR are big problems for us too. There is free testing available currently in the UK which is a help, and many people have found pergolide (Prascend) helpful for this too. We can't directly supplement chromium over here but do supplement other minerals.

  6. I really enjoy reading your blog, I'm a horse lover myself and am very interested in keeping my horse healthy. I've been looking into equine vitamins and supplements and was wondering if you would suggest any in particular that would be beneficial. Thanks!

  7. Mary - there's no easy answer to this question - it all depends on where you live, the forage and other feed your horse is consuming, and any special metabolic needs your horse has. I tend not to broadly supplement - most commercial feeds, together with the forage your horse gets - provide adequate amounts of most minerals and vitamins. It's always a good idea to test your hay (and grass) if you can - if you're in a boarding situation this may not be possible.

    There are two minerals that many horses do not get in adequate amounts - zinc and copper - which are necessary for good hoof health - a specialized hoof supplement may be needed for this.

    In some parts of the country, selenium is very low in soils and therefore in grass and hay. Selenium supplementation may be necessary, but this has to be done with extreme care, as there is only a tiny difference between a good and a toxic dose of selenium.

    I also think that most supplements for joint health do very little good - exercise and as much turnout as possible are the best medicine. I do use aspirin (Aspirease, which is buffered) in cases of joint arthritis. I don't use previcox, as it can mask symptoms and also have undesirable side effects.

    For horses with insulin resistance and/or what is commonly called Cushings, supplementation with magnesium, chromium and selenium (if you're in a low selenium part of the country) can be helpful. Most commercial supplements designed for metabolic issues may not contain these in the ideal ratios - I use a custom supplement formulated by my vet.

    Horses with low thyroid may need supplementation.

    Other than that, and using electrolytes when needed, I don't supplement - most supplements are a waste of money.

    1. Oh and one other very important point - what you don't feed your horse can be just as important. Making sure that horses maintain a good weight and don't get overweight is very important for metabolic and joint health. And make sure the horse isn't getting grass that is too rich or supplemental feeds that are high in sugars - many commercial feeds are - NSC levels (which you may have to research as they're often not on the bag) are a good indication of sugar levels in feed.

      And if you do supplement, don't just throw things at the horse - it's like prescription drugs, you have to know how much of a item you are supplementing is in all the different things the horse is getting - requires some math work - and piling supplements on top of one another can do more harm than good.

    2. One (maybe) last point - if your horse can maintain a proper weight on forage alone, there is no need for grain and a basic "balancer" - vitamin/mineral - pellet may be all you need - it provides the basic vitamins and minerals that you'd get in grain but without all the extra calories and sugars.

    3. Thank you so much! You have really great advice and insights about horses.


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