Friday, September 18, 2009

The Search for the Perfect Hoof (Solution)

Since I have gotten some excellent leads on good hoof products, I thought I would write up what I already know or have researched. My readers can then extend the search, armed with data.

This is Brego's right front foot right after we pulled the steel shoes. You can clearly see the nail holes in addition to his enormous and quite healthy frog. (An old barefoot trimmer I cliniced with once remarked while looking at Brego's foot: What do you call a frog that's bigger than a frog? A toad!) Brego's foot measures 7.5" to 8" across and it is wider than it is long, which is the challenge to fit. Most conventional hoof products (boots, shoes, etc) are longer than they are wide. Right now, Brego would wear a size 8 shoe. That is a tremendously big shoe, and very hard to find in "sport" models.

We live close to Meader Supply, which is one of the foremost suppliers of Draft and light horse farrier supplies, so we have access to a boggling array of options. Unfortunately, most do not fit. The most common draft shoe is called "Scotch Bottom Shoes" and they are falling out of favor in the driving community and are completely inappropriate for sport. They encourage big hitch action and not the kind of movement I need for eventing or hunting. My current farrier calls them "archaic". The biggest challenge is understanding not only the needs of a big foot, but also the needs of a sport horse, who must have a comfortable breakover, minimal weight swinging on the fetlock, and excellent traction. In short, I need a performance option for a light horse, in a big horse package.

As for boots, I have tried all the major names. The following boots do not come big enough, or they have the wrong shape for Brego's feet (longer than wide): Renegades, Easyboot Gloves, Easyboot Epics, Marquis, etc. Brego does fit in a pair of Boa Boots, but they are bulky and he tends to slip. They are for walking only.

The following composite shoes do not come big enough: Eponas, Smoothwalkers, Flex Step. I ordered a pair of Hoof-Its and they were too small, but there is a larger size to try, so we may be ok there. If Brego fit in Eponas, I would buy them in a heartbeat. I love the traction options and the mesh insert is perfect to prevent balling in winter.

I have also tried Super Fast glue epoxy, glue on pads with Adhere, Sole Guard, and other "pour on" options. One tube (at $30) is enough for one foot for one fast hunting ride, so they quickly get expensive.

However, Brego has been sound barefoot for 8 years and now that the incessant rain has stopped, he is sound once again. I rode him at a rocky fixture at a hunt on Wednesday and he was fine. I pulled back to hilltop after the stirrup cup to save his feet, but he finished the ride just fine. After a long, foot-tiring ride, I do pack him with Magic Cushion and put him in his Davis soaking boots, which do thankfully come big enough. So there is a possibility, with correct conditioning and cooperative weather, that Brego can work over most of the terrain in New England.

I have written up a post including his original feet when I bought him and described the trimming philosophy before. I also have xrays of his front feet to show what's going on inside.

That does not mean there is not more to do or to learn. Brego has sported a pretty significant "splat" flare since I bought him at 3. It is one of the things that you can't really get ahead of without doing something drastic, like rasping a lot of his hoof wall straight. And every time I have done something drastic, he is uncomfortable. I think for his long term health, however, we need to get his foot more upright. This will lead to more concavity of his foot and allow him to be even more comfortable over rocky terrain. So, each winter, while he is resting in soft snow, I will work on the flare. This year, it has already gotten significantly better, with continual treatments of "White Lightening" to sanitize the white line to help it grow in tighter, pulling his foot up stronger. The 60 days of rain really set us back, but the hope is to get his foot nice and tight, and not wider than it is long, by the end of next year. That would probably put him in a size 7. Still too large for most products, but I think better overall.

The CBC came back completely normal, so we can eliminate EPSM, Anemia, and other horrors from possible causes of distress last month. The Lyme titer should take a week or so to get back.


SmartAlex said...

Wow, those are some biiiig feet! I had an Appaloosa with size 3 hooves once. I can't imagine the challnges of a size 8!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the thoughtful information - and let us know how he does.

Dragonfly Dressage said...

I'm very supprized the Flex Step draft shoes wouldn't work they come all the way up to a size D8 which are 81/2"long by 81/4" wide of course those are to big but they have 3 sizes smaller. I did talk to the company about making me a custom shoe as I wanted a draft horse size shoe with a toe grab and a heel calk but it would cost a furtune for this to be done unless I bought a lot of shoes, so that wasn't an option..I do like their standard draft shoe however it's far superior to most tradional steel draft shoes for the draft sporthorse.

Daun said...

Thanks for your comment. I misspoke before, they do come in big enough sizes, but I was worried about grip since they seemed like a flat piece of plastic. Would you think they would have enough grip?

I am very interested in your thoughts on these shoes.


JeniQ said...

I can't thank you enough for your research. Being a new draft owner, but long time "normal size" horse owner I'm quickly learning Draft feet need different care. I'm lucky my very good farrier and before I bought Rosie I quizzed him about his draft knowledge. So far things are good.

Do you give Brego any hoof suppliments?

Trini said...

Very very good to hear that the big guy is moving and feeling better.
I think that your plan to address the flare and produce more concavity is a sound one and is worth trying.
Building up enough concavity may even mean that when the next cycle of wet weather comes he won't need any additional measures beyond keeping his feet dry.
Good luck and please keep us updated!!

Dragonfly Dressage said...

The company says it affords great traction..however I to would prefer a heel and a toe grab for x-country. I have not tried these shoe yet this season but I am going to give them a try next year (my health this year has kept me from showing)as I am haveing the same issue as you with the tradional metal shoes on my big guy.I do feel that it might allow for far better grip than a metal shoe, the dense rubber causes far more friction than a tradional steel or aluminum shoe and the lighter weight is a big plus.

Dragonfly Dressage said...

I also contacted the company that makes the Smooth Walker rubber shoes to ask their opinion on using their draft shoes in a sporthorse application, I have some concerns on this matter now the shoes are extremely well made and I know that mounted police units have been using them for years but I am concerned that the toe grab and heel calk are too "deep" and may interfere with the breakover or may cause twisting. I am waiting on a reply from the company on this matter but I feel this is a far superior shoe to the Flex Step..I will keep you informed when I hear back from the company. I am also looking to Australia for a synthetic shoe as they are leaps and bounds ahead of the US on this..I just haven't found a company yet that makes a draft size shoe but if I do I'll let you know! :)

Dragonfly Dressage said...

Opps..I forgot to mention one thing as far as boots go Boa Boots do come in LARGE draft sizes and may fit the bill for you and Brego.

Lori said...

lol..I just reread your post about the boa boots..sorry about that it's Saturday and it's been a long week, I agree that they are for limited use,however, in a pinch they I still believe that they are a decent alternative to barefoot

Bev said...

I'd really love to hear your opinion on how my ferrier is doing on trimming Jack's feet. I'm not convinced he's getting it right yet. If I'd take pictures, would you be willing to take a look and tell me what you think?

Jean said...

Glad I dropped by to catch up. I missed you.

There are some companies that make custom horse boots. One of my friends had some made for her horse. Then again, I don't know if they would make ones as large as you need. The brand my friend has are "Hoofwings." I saw a post that said someone saw them for draft horses.

They have a website and contact information, so it may be worth a look for those days when Brego needs a little extra protection.

Fantastic news that he is sound again and happily out there hunting again. (Pulled up after the stirrup cup...h-m-m-m. At least you waited until move. *G*)

Jean said...

Whoops, meant to add that another blogger was raving about the Renegade boots, but it doesn't look as if they make them big enough. But again, might be worth checking out.

lopinon4 said...

I don't mean to pop up out of nowhere. I follow your blog daily, but have never posted a comment. I am trying something new with my boy (who has mild navicular and is suffering in his shoes). I'm not sure if you've looked into this yet, but it might be worth checking out. They are devising a sport kit, especially for horses like yours to be used with XC jumping, etc. It is scheduled to be released shortly. Give it a peek. And, good luck to you!

Jennifer said...

Peace? A little humor, if nothing else.

I promise
I promise
I promise

steph & Paige said...

I know it's been a long time, and I know I'm late to this party.. but I only stalk you every now and again. :-) I was dummed to hear you're going offline, but SOOO understand.

Just wanted to drop this to you.. & you've probably already found it, but there is something we are working on called "hoof casting". It sounds like something that might work for you and Breggo. Lemme know if you want more info.

So proud of you guys. Think of you often. S

Sophie said...

Hi I can only admire your efforts with Brego. I know how difficult it can be - especially when forging a path not often trod.

Tell me is it my eyesight or are those nail holes you reference on and (front two) inside the white line?

Akhal-Eventer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Akhal-Eventer said...

Ok, another comment. . .we are trying out Keratex Hoof Hardener, and Keratex Hoof Gel. . .they are expensive products, but I have actually noticed a difference in Dagjeir's feet. . .the white lines are tighter than before, and I swear he was more comfortable the last time I took him on the trail.

Akhal-Eventer said...

I rehabilitated an OTTB w/ run-under heals and thin soles. He had been chronically lame for 6 years, and was sore on all 4 feet when I got him. His soles had the consistency of sponge cake, and I once accidentally pierced one with my hoof pick while cleaning his feet and blood squirted out--that's how thin, soft and infected they were! I put him on Advanced Biological Concept's Hoof supplement and started an entirely different maintenance routine. I basically left the underside of his feet alone, and only trimmed from above for nearly six months. I took off as much flare as I could w/out going into the water line, and brought his break-over as far back as i could get away with to encourage better angles. I trimmed his frogs & bars (minimally) but didn't so much as touch his soles. I had a tough-love philosophy of exercising him (gently) even when he was a bit sore, and as soon as he was able to, taking him for rides down gravel roads & cement. I sprayed his soles & frogs daily w/ a mixture of apple cider vinegar, betadine & tee trea oil, and only put him in boots if I was going out on a fast trail ride. This seemed to work. . .he became sound barefoot at all three gaits, developed concavity, and I was eventually able to abandon his boots (Easy Boots & Hoof Wings) completely.

Daun said...

Thanks for your comments. If you take a look around at earlier posts you will see that Brego has been working and competing barefoot his whole life.

We had some pretty terrible conditions this year, but finished the season foxhunting sound and doing well, also barefoot.

If you are interested, feel free to read some earlier posts and let me know if you have any other comments or questions.


Akhal-Eventer said...

Thanks Daun!
I am a rather erratic blog reader, so I apologize for being a "master of the obvious!" Yes, after I opened my big mouth, I went back and read earlier posts. Good job with Brego! Have you considered writing a story about eventing barefoot for the Barefoot Performance Horse website?

Happy Holidays!

Daun said...

Ha! Once I have some success I would consider writing up my thoughts. I can't call 2009 a success though, so we'll keep plugging away at it!

Best of luck in your corner of the world. Very interesting stuff on your blog!

Akhal-Eventer said...

Thanks, and if you're ever in my neck of the woods, definitely look us up, though maybe I'll make it to your neighborhood first! I actually lived in New Hampshire for about five years a while back and still have a lot of family in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I don't miss the winters! But honestly, the ones we have hear are not great either, so I can relate to rainy weather woes for 2009!

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