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      Hoof Care

     Above: Hind Hoof before a trim. 


     The trim on a barefoot horse is radically different than a trim to prepare for shoeing. Barefoot horses need more sole, frog and wall to work comfortably. Generally I recommend horses transition from shoes directly into boots for a while; Depending on how long the horse has been in shoes, they may have soft or thin soles and some atrophy of the soft tissues in the back of the foot. For horses to become sound completely bare, they need to move often and comfortably. Boots are a critical tool and will help the horse transition much faster.

    Exercise is a critical variable for barefoot success. I encourage horse owners to provide as much access to pasture and turn out as possible. Consistent and frequent exercise develops the horses' digital cushion and lateral cartilages, as well as frog, sole and hoof wall growth. Transitioning horses need lots of comfortable, heel first landings to rehabilitate all their structures and boots make this possible for horses who would other wise be far too tender. I offer boots at the time of shoe removal. The Easycare Gloves are a favorite. They are revolutionizing the way we protect horses feet. Gloves are light weight, easy to use and best of all removable. Horses are able to get all the benefits of being barefoot and their owners utilize hoof protection as needed.


    Composite Shoeing

     For some horses, especially those with pathology a composite shoe is needed. Composite shoes are made of polyurethane plastic and metal internal structure. Composites offer superior shock absorption than either a bare hoof or a metal shoe. I use glue and occasionally nails to attach them and they are a great way to protect and rehabilitate the feet. The horse pictured below had what is called negative palmer angel, or negative plane coffin bone. The shoe combined with dental impression material allowed us to build her a wedge with glue to correct her coffin bone angle. These materials allow some natural flexibility within the hoof capsule which is of benefit to the cartilage and circulation of the foot.










    Boots, Hoof Protection for the 21st Century


     I also recommend boots for use on terrain your horse isn't accustomed to. They come with different features and modifications depending on your horses needs. In my experience owners have a better result with a professional fitting. On the right you can see a photo of the sizing shells used in a "fit kit."  The boot sizes increase by just 5mm, so using the many different shells to get the ideal fit is critical. Often horses will have two different size fronts, the kit allows the proper sizing in all situations. 

     Hoof Casts

      Hoof Casts can be used when the protection of a Hoof Boot is required but the owner wants the convenience of a horse shoe. Casts are applied and stay on the horse 24/7 for up to 6 weeks. Hoof casts have been a good tool for treating Foundered horses as Laminitis causes painful inflammation in the hoof wall and nailing into this can be excruciating for the horse. Casts are applied externally wit glue to the hoof walls but can go underneath the hoof to support pads as well. They can be modified to accommodate Veterinary Prescription packages. It allows you to have 24/7 protection without damaging the hoof wall with nails.


    Ann Ramsey, CERA, Apf-2019