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Questions & Answers Print E-mail
Friday, 17 July 2009 09:39

Frequently asked Questions

Can I help prepare my horse before the shoes come off?

Stop feeding your horse any feed with sugars, starches, molasses, grains or alfa (also known as lucerne) and get him off lush grass if it is that time of year. Excess weight can affect hooves both literally and metabolically - if your horse is too fat aim to help him loose weight. Get a good allround vitamin/mineral supplement and/or supply your horse with a vitamin/mineral lick (non molassed!)
Treat your horse to a good detox supplement. Many horses have low grade laminitis which goes undetected because you can't check the health of white line under a horse shoe. Prevention is better than suddenly finding you have a problem and having to cure it. 
Work with your vet if you are worried. Tell him what you are planning to do and why. Consider x-rays if the internal structures are of concern. Consider pain killer / anti-inflamitories such as bute if required during the initial few days. Herbs such as devils claw and homoeopathic arnica also help with inflamation and shock. Work with your vet. This is your horse and your vet is there to help you with his health. That includes hoof health.

What happens initially after shoe removal?

Horse shoes and the nails that hold it in place prevent the hoof from flexing and absorbing concussion like a bare hoof does. The flexing action of a bare hoof also gives the hoof circulation via the hoof mechanism.
The shod hoof cannot operate fully and the blood supply to the hoof, leg and related tissues is reduced - in some cases up to 70%.
When the shoes are removed, the hoof can once more flex as it should do, and the hoof mechanism starts to once more carry blood to all the tissues of the hoof and leg.
Some of these tissues may not have had proper circulation for many years and in the initial stages of circulation returning the pressure within the hoof can be considerably more than the horse is used to. Some horses find this uncomfortable, and some do not even notice - it really is quite individual.
Nerves that have been starved of blood can start to wake up once full circulation returned, resulting in a sensation not unlike pins and needles.
As anyone who has had pins and needles will understand it can be incredibly uncomfortable but is not a life threatening condition! With gentle constant movement the sensation calms down.

How should I manage my horse in the days following shoe removal?

Let your horse move about at his own pace. It's quite important that they can move around to relieve pressure in the hoof and to get circulation to the tissues that have been starved. Try not to force movement, or restrict movement. ie, by stabling and then walking out.
Turn the horse out with a quiet friend on what ever surface he is comfortable. Either a paddock with a bit of "give" in the ground, a sand school or a matted area etc. Try and avoid rock, hard ground, stones, and frisky horses. This is because in the initial day or so your horse may not have much sensation in his hooves as the return of circulation can take a day or two. During this time it is easy to assume that your horse is coping really well and over do it. Just hang back and let him have a week off from any controlled movement, either through leading out or from other horses. By allowing this time the risk of bruising is reduced considerably.

When can I ride my horse again?

This will depend on your horse. Watch him moving about. Does he seem comfortable? Does he trot and canter about easily? Does he prefer soft surfaces to hard?
Even if the rest of your horses body is fit the hooves have had no exercise at all. They may not even be strong enough the carry the weight of the horse in the initial stages let alone the added weight of a rider.
It's really important to build up the amount of ground the hooves cover in a steady and consistant manner. Watch to see how much your horse moves on their own. He will self exercise and do alot of the "homework" themselves by just being allowed unrestricted movement.
When you are ready to bring the horse back into work start in walk on a soft surface, either in a sandschool or with boots. Build this up steadily and consistantly. 10 mins 15, 20, 30, 45 etc and over a period of weeks as you would if you were riding a totally unfit horse. If you go to quick through this essential phase then you risk laming the horse and being set back.

My horse is sore. What can I do to help?

Follow these tips:
> 20 mins cold hosing the hooves (or stand in a stream) to reduce inflamation.
> Anti-inflamitories either herbal (devils claw) or conventional (bute).
> Call your vet if you are concerned about internal structures, ie bones, tendons etc.
> Dietary analysis. What time of year is it? Is the grass particularly rich at the moment? What type/nutritional content of hay do you have? Is your horse being fed hard feed? This can make a huge difference to the sensitivity of the hoof.
> Hoof boots and/or comfort pads.
> Turn your horse out in a quiet padddock and let him move about at his own pace. Provide him with hay and water not too far away but far enough so that he takes a few steps. Movement is key.

Putting shoes back on will more than likely give an instant result but please remember that the problem hasn't gone, it hasn't been cured, it's just been masked due to the numbing affect of reduced circulation provided by the horseshoe.
In order for any tissue to heal it must have a good blood supply to flush out toxins and bring nutrients to encourage healthy growth.
If your horse is sore it's because the hooves aren't healthy. The first step to any healing is to admit there's a problem.

My horse has a foot abcess - what do I do?

An abcess is the horses way of flushing out unwanted debris from the body, for example dead or dying tissue or a foreign particle/s that are not meant to be there. It is a healthy response to an unhealthy ''something'' that needs to be removed from the body. Abcesses are sometimes hard to diagnose, and can occur in a range of severities - I have seen abcesses that make the horse look fracture lame, and equally have seen abcesses that go unnoticed and dont result in lamness - the only evidence being a small area of blackish liquid (and sometimes not even that!)
If your vet has diagnosed an abcess, cold hose the leg, poultice the foot and allow your horse to move. Your barefoot horse will be much better equipped to deal with an abcess as he has healthier blood flow to the foot.


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