Frequently Asked Questions
1. What can I expect after my horse's shoe have been pulled and it has its first ACT barefoot trim?
The time to adjust to being barefoot is dependent on the extent of injury your horse might have sustained to its internal hoof capsules prior to the barefoot trim. If your horse has been shod for some time, it will not have had the opportunity to build protective sole depth, for the frog to thicken through ground contact or for the digital cushion to toughen up. The heels might be contracted or underrun, bars leaning over or impacted. The frog might likely be infected with bacteria and fungus. Just as if you took off your own shoes and decided to become a barefoot human, you would be unable to walk comfortably on gravel until you had built up a thick sole. So simply removing the metal rim shoes from your horse's hooves is just the beginning of the barefoot journey.
Your horse might feel much better and stop stumbling and begin to extend its stride.
Your horse might be tender, unable to travel on hard surfaces without support or unwilling to extend its stride. This might be due to the deep digital flexor tendon and the muscles surrounding it being tight or it might be due to the partial removal of serum laminae that was 'gluing' the dysfunctional hoof together, but which had to be trimmed off in order to get the hoof gradually moving into the correct position anatomically. Although we always try to trim with the intention of keeping the horse comfortable, sometimes it is unforseeable and the horse becomes tender. If this is the case, the hooves will be cast to provide stability to the hoof capsule while the internal foot is reforming.
We find that sometimes the horse is improved and at other times the horse is sore. It is not unusual for a horse to develop abscesses in its hooves when the shoes have been removed. It is said that the hoof begins to detox the dead matter in its hooves and this is a natural and healthy response to the return of increased circulation in the rehabbing hoof. It's not so much the trim that is the difference, but the stage of healing that the hoof is at which dictates the response to the trim. Just as it hurts when our toenails are ingrown and it hurts to have an ingrown toenail treated, sometimes this is the experience when bringing healing to distorted hooves. However, when we apply the ACT, we endeavour to trim the hooves in corrective stages. We are GROWING a new hoof. We can't CUT a certain form into the hoof. We have to grow a new and functional hoof.
Why do some horses become lame on hard surfaces when their shoes are removed?
When a horse has been shod for a long time, it learns to walk and move in a different way from the wild horse. The wild horse walks by loading its weight onto shared areas of the hoof - parts of the sole, the inner walls, frogs and the heel platform. When the horse is shod, its whole weight is carried solely by the hoof wall. This is called peripheral loading of the hoof. Peripheral loading puts tremendous strain on the laminae and prevents the natural shock absorbers in the hoof from performing their correct functions (which is to protect the internal hoof capsule, bones, tendons and muscles etc from impact and shock). Without adequate frog/sole/ground contact, circulation of blood and lymph is impeded; the frog atrophies as do the internal shock absorbing structures - the digital cushion, and the lateral cartilages. The toe is often left long by farriers and trimmers who do not trim according to the anatomy of the internal hoof. Long toes prevent correct breakover and cause the whole foot capsule to move forward, dragging the heels forward, often dropping the coffin bone out of the coffin bone stay, unbalancing the horse and straining muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Due to peripheral loading of the hoof wall, the laminae in the toe becomes inflamed and eventually begins to detach from the dorsal hoof wall. Laminitic conditions always cause heels to appear to grow higher (actually they are pulled forward) as the horse stands primarily on the heels in order to protect the inflamed toe/pedal bone area. In shoes, while the horse's weight is born exclusively on the outer hoof wall, the excess weight commonly causes the hoof wall to jam into the coronet band, sometimes causing bleeding from the band. The horse is then set up to experience painful contracted heels and so called navicular syndrome. With the dysfunction of the shock absorbing structure in the heels, the lateral cartilages often begin to ossify and these horses are then easily injured resulting in conditions such as ringbone, sidebones and even road founder from concussive injuries.
The bars are meant to provide passive contact (weighted) to the ground for stability purposes adn to provide containment support for the internal hoof capsule. Many time in a shod horse, the bars are overlaid or impacted; both conditions can cause bruising and pain. Overlaid bars can be removed and trimmed so that they will eventually grow straight. Impacted bars are able to be gradually dropped down under the horse's weight.and when necessary to trim naturally either and instead of providing containment support for the internal hoof capsule, they too contribute to jamming the internal soft tissue structures.
Horses that are sore in the toe and/or sore in the heel, adapt their stance and movement in an attempt to distribute body weight away from the toes or heels, by leaning in unnatural positions. eg. standing in a box, standing with the front legs outstretched and by resisting extension in their gaits which results in short, choppy strides.
It can be clearly seen why, when its shoes are removed, a horse will very likely demonstrate that it is very sore in its hooves. Sadly, those who do not understand the damage that shoes cause to hooves, erroneously assume that the lame or sore horse is evidence that it NEEDS shoes. It should be clearly understood that it was the shoes that CAUSED the distortion of the hooves. The LAST thing the horse needs is to be reshod with metal rim shoes.
Why are some horses sore after a barefoot trim?
Some horses have more serious hoof distortions that do others. Some horses with very distorted hooves will not become sore after a corrective trim while others with less obvious distortions will surprisingly become sore for a few days. It is very difficult to predict which horse might become sore, however every trimmer should be equipped with the necessary materials required to cast a sore horse immediately. If the owner wants to continue to ride the horse then trims must be gentle and more frequent, which is of course, more expensive. If the owner wants to speed the process, then the horse MUST be cast and/or booted so it is still comfortable and able to move around while being rested. Prior to any work on the horse, the trimmer should consult with the horse owner as to the desired speed of the corrective trimming programme for the horse's rehabilitation. Sometimes horses will build up excess sole unevenly and this will cause a horse to feel sore. Sometimes a quick removal of this sole will cause immediate relief, however as the hoof grows back there might be several times that the horse is sore before it has a gravel crunching hoof. Growing a new hoof takes time, but it is worth it, both for your safety and for your horse's health.
What is involved in rehabilitating deformed hooves?
To rehabilitated the hooves, sore horses NEED to be provided with immediate hoof protection in the way of a gentle trim to eradicate leverages on the toe and fibreglass casts initially usually for 3 weeks, so that the internal hoof capsule is supported while the horse grows a new hoof. Casting provides the horse's hooves protection, stability and comfort. While the horse is building its own protective sole, in order to be ridden on rough surfaces, it will need further protection in the form of equine boots such as Epona (available from Horse Sense Australia), Renegades, Cavallo, Eziboots, Old Macs.