Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Feet

Usually on this blog, when I talk about shoes, I like to focus on MY shoes. But today, this entry is about some very, very important and especially wonderful shoes indeed: EDDIE'S SHOES.

Eddie had shoes on the front when I brought him home with me. I am all about the easy natural aspect of horse management (full turnout, basic nutrition regime, natural coat and hooves, tons of hacking, plenty of hay and grazing, etc.). My horses are free-range and laid back, which works well for me. With that being said, I tried to let Eddie transition into a shoe-free existence, but it just isn't possible for him. He has most likely had bad shoeing and some feet trouble in the past, before my friend Kelly found him and then he came along to me. Eddie without shoes is a disaster. Eddie with shoes is sound, comfortable, balanced, and smooth-moving. So, it's a no-brainer.

Typically, in the spring, I take Ed to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) for a chiropractic work-up with Dr. Adair. Last spring, Eddie went for his work-up in March, then he went back (still stiff and creaky) in June. When I took him back in June, Dr. Adair had me trot him up and he also flexed him to see if we could tell exactly where Eddie's issue points were. His hocks were pretty much fine, so it wasn't really a lameness situation, but I'm always careful with his chiropractic condition and his hind-end, since he gets very stiff and ouchy behind a lot. After I pulled him off the trailer and we walked him outside the hospital, Dr. Adair looked at his hind feet and said "So, when is he due for a re-set?" To be honest, Eddie had just gotten a trim and re-set about 2 weeks before. Dr. Adair said, "His back feet are too long. Let's shorten his toe, get him breaking over more quickly, and pull his shoes back a bit more to support his heel while freeing up the front of his hoof." 

Eddie has slightly twisted back feet, which I worry will negatively affect his movement and his hocks, over time. That is probably from a combination of a sketch history/shoeing in Ed's past, and possibly a result of his QH-ey breeding. He just naturally wants to get his hind feet underneath and shuffle or "ski," as opposed to snapping at the breakover point and using his hips and getting lofty in his spine, choosing instead to scoot along on his back hooves (or, what I like to call "Easy Eddie-style." L-A-Z-Y). Over the past year, my farrier and I have gotten Eddie moving so much better -- just by changing the length, slope, and shape of his hoof -- and he has not needed any chiro this year, he is stronger and more fluid behind, and he moves very straight from the back for maybe the first time in his life! I am so thrilled that we were able to correct a couple of concerning issues with my horse by working naturally to improve his movement. No pharmaceuticals, no supplements, no injections.....just good, regular shoeing. 

Not only was I grateful to have a sports med vet at UT who could help me make some easy physical changes for Eddie, but I was very excited to be a part of a productive improvement for my horse that took time and care to develop. It wasn't a "quick fix" and it is a long-term solution. He is 16 this year and performing better under saddle than at any time that I've owned him! I know this isn't rocket science, but I love being able to employ a healthy change in Eddie's life that doesn't cost any money or discomfort for him that might have, perhaps in a different situation, been the road I would have ended up traveling down. Yay for Dr. Adair for always looking for a natural solution! 

A few weeks ago, one of my friends who is a technical writer/researcher for UTCVM looked up an article for me that I'd seen an excerpt from in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. I printed a copy of it for myself and for my farrier and we both read it from start to finish. It details a report from a clinical study of 77 horses and how the vets were resolving issues with gluteal pain by eliminating long hind-toes and targeting the correct breakover point for each horse. BINGO! According to this article, "These horses tend to 'stand under themselves' with their hind feet, meaning that at rest the foot is placed further forward than normal in relation to the vertical axis of the limb and the main mass of the hindquarter, giving the horse a 'sickle-hocked' appearance. This stance may provide a clue to the reason why many of these horses show a pain response on palpation of the gluteal region and why many are performing below the expectations of their owner and/or trainer" (RA Mansmann et al, 2010, 720). BINGO AGAIN! That described Eddie at this time, one year ago. The article does get into some of the nuts and bolts of the case studies, the diagnostic methods, the transitional approach to changing each horse on an individual basis, and the final result where in every single case the hind end pain was reduced, nearly eliminated, or not present at all any longer. Yep, sounds about right to me, too! Ultimately, they determined that a BD (breakover distance) for most normal, average-sized horses is <20 mm. This does not involve remedial shoeing, special shoes, wedges, pads, or anything other than a gradual and educated change to hoof shape and regular, responsible shoeing (or trimming, if your horse is lucky enough to maintain soundness and hoof shape without shoes). So, for anyone out there who is seeing soreness in the glutes/hips, short-strided movement, or creakiness in hind-end movement, check with your vet about toe length and breakover points. It could save you a lot in vet bills, meds, and just never know!

R.A. Mansmann, VMD, PhD, hon. DACVIM-LA, S. James, DVM, A. T. Blikslager, DVM, PhD, DACVS, & K. vom Orde (2010). Long Toes in the Hind Feet and Pain in the Gluteal Region: An Observational Study of 77 Horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science30 (12) 720-726.

No comments: