Friday, November 21, 2014

Wild Horse or Domestic Horse, a Hoof is a Hoof, is a Hoof

Majestic, awe inspiring, beautiful, all ways people describe the wild horse. 

As a professional hoof care provider I see many posts that fuel the debate over the use of the feral hoof as a model hoof care. Whether you are a farrier, trimmer, or horse owner emotions can run high, especially with all of the media play the feral horse gets. I too have explored the environment of the feral horse and how their hooves developed as a result of breeding, diet and overall environment. But even before I went afield to work among the feral horse, I had a revelation that disqualified the feral horse hoof as a model.The revelation came to me in the form of a law of physics;  F = M x A.
Remember, I am discussing the development of a hoof model for the treatment methods of the domestic horse. What is a model? In the practice of Farriery or hoof care the model defines the foot,  not simply the hoof. Indulge me while I present an analogy; I really would love to own a Ferrari. Years ago there were kits to transform a Pontiac Fiero into a Ferrari look alike.With this kit I didn't need to know the mechanics of the Ferrari to build a car that looked like one. But, the reality is that it would not perform like one if I simply mimicked the way it looked. I know that this comparison is a bit simplistic and silly, but it does make a point.
Developing a model that must deal with the increased forces generated by domestication requires knowledge of the internal structures of the foot. That is where the definition Structure + Function = Performance comes into play. There are several theories on energy management and foot function that have helped in the development of a model for the practice of farriery. The feral hoof model however came out of the search for a model without the forethought of foot function within a domestic environment. As a result, those proponents of the natural trim model have been searching to find foot function theories to support its use in the treatment of the domestic horse for over twenty years. The more we learn about the equine foot and foot function the more we learn that its health is governed by a few steadfast laws, and one is F=M x A.     

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hoof Explorer

We are always on the look out for teaching aids that we can use, or recommend to our clients. Fortunately there are others that are also on the look out for such aids. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog had an excellent post discussing one such aid. She also gives excellent advice on learning. You can watch the intro video here and to learn more follow this link: Meet Hoof Explorer: The Horse's Foot in Three Beautiful Dimensions, Online, For Free


White Line Disease, Inflammation, or What?

What do you think this is and what else can I do?

I have a horse that is lame intermittently.  In the beginning I thought it was an abscess.  Animalintex was used and the horse got better.  Then the lameness came back.  Last weekend apparently she was quite lame.

The veterinary was called and x-rays were taken.  They are attached.
The vet found what she thinks is white line disease, the black line from the quarter into the toe area on the left front foot. All this started after the owner did a long ride over rocky terrain without the hoof boots she normally puts on her horse.  The vet and I are wondering if it's the result of trauma.

In any case, I saw the horse tonight and the foot looks very clean.  The vet had scrapped the white line looking for infection and found none.  I scrapped the sole just beside the white line a bit and found some small black areas.  I didn't want to dig holes and create more problems.  Both front feet were hot but no pulses.  She had been walked about 1km to get to the yard from her field.  Tapping didn't indicate a cavity.  I'm not sure she was positive with the hoof testers as she was very agitated (the horses in the barn where getting their feed).  The vet said she had a pulse on the weekend and she thought she tested positive with the hoof tester at that time.

We washed the foot, sprayed it with Thrush Ender and put a Sole Mate Therapeutic pad on it with a vet wrap.  The owner is going to do a Clean Trax on Saturday.

This horse has had laminitis two times in the past (last time 3 years ago).  She also was treated with acid around her coronary bands on her front feet when she was a trotter.  This damaged the CB and the hoof wall is very uneven as a result.

What do you think this is and what else can I do?

My response:

As you may know, I am not a veterinarian and I do not look at x-rays from a veterinary diagnostic perspective, but rather from the perspective of an equine podiatrist. That being said, I do offer my opinion when asked to do so, in the hope that you and your veterinarian, working as a team will be successful in helping this horse. I have reviewed the x-rays, and I will agree with the veterinarian that something is going on in that quarter.
Inflammation and gas pockets appears as dark areas on x-rays, and bone health (density) appear as varying shades of gray. With this in mind, rarefaction (low density) of P3 at the location the veterinarian suspects white line disease suggests that this could be chronic inflammation or possibly a lesion, and could explain the intermittent lameness.

rarefaction and inflammation 
Trauma from riding without the boot could be responsible for flare up of inflammation. The inflammation may or may not result in abscessing, but I don’t think it will. Conformation or way of going can have a lot to do with this type of chronic inflammation. Does this horse land balanced or does conformation result in dynamic imbalances while going? The rarefaction of P3 suggests that whatever has caused the inflammation has done so repeatedly. Once this horse is comfortable and relatively sound, I suggest you tape a pair of Sole Mates on this horse and then walk and trot the horse in hand for ten or fifteen minutes. Remove the pads and examine the impression.

Pad impression
Training your eye to see foot fall is important, taking advantage of available diagnostic tools is smart. This will give you a good idea as to how this horse loads during the stride. If this horse does not land dynamically balanced, you will have to try and figure out why. You did all the right things by treating the symptoms, now let's figure out the why of it so you can work up how to protect or prevent further trauma in that foot moving forward.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dealing with the Downturned Economy

Surviving in today's economy means implementing aggressive business strategies, and staying ahead of the curve.

As a follow up to the post "Do Farriers Schools Need to Adapt" I think a glimpse of how our school is adapting to todays economy may offer insight into how we go about assisting bright talented communicative people in succeeding in the hoof care industry.

In an effort to help our graduates grow in today's downturned economy we have had to integrate into our curriculum new education. Education offers insights on strong ethical business practices and professional communication.
On line continuing educational opportunities make sense
We continue to look for ways to support our graduates in their professional development. One way is by making continuing education (CE) more affordable, adding free teleconferences and adding special dates for advanced learning. These new CE offerings represent from 3 to 60 hours of continuing education.
Graduates participate in gait analysis research study
We have found that those graduates that have developed the communication skills necessary to work closely with veterinarians excel in business, even during this economic turmoil.
New CE opportunities  for 2015 will include on-line modules of study on business, leadership, and communication.

It has become clear that today's horse owner is more likely to be proactive in their approach to hoof care, and as a result actively seek out those hoof care providers that participate in continuing education. At the Institute we actively promote those graduates that meet the Institute's yearly CE requirement of (40 hours). Promotion consists of web site promotion, articles distribution, presence at major equine events worldwide, YouTube and television exposure.

I believe it can be summed up by saying that today's hoof care provider has to have good communication skills, and the knowledge to support those skills. In today's economy the hoof care provider needs to be a hoof care professional that cannot only talk the talk, but also walk the walk; today's horse owner demands it. Learn more about the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry.
Remember ... Sound Reasoning - Sound Horses

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do farriers schools need to adapt?

With the growing number of manufactured horseshoes, boots, and host of other devices being devised for the horse's hoof perhaps it is time that the traditional farrier school take a cue from other more rapidly changing industries.
We just received our copy of the American Farriers Journal annual suppliers and service guide. In this guide was an article that listed the most commented on blog post on their blog; #1 "Do shoeing schools need to adapt. AFJ blog post 
The blog post was written by Red Renchin a professional farrier, from a perspective that I found quite interesting.
Though I have to say that from my perspective, Mr. Renchin's view appeared a bit narrow. I agree with Mr. Renchin that today's farriers schools may not be offering curriculums that support todays entry level farrier and need to change. I also believe that the path for change needs to be evaluated very closely. 
In light of the fact that many farrier grads don't last very long in the industry, I can understand Mr. Renchin asking: Why is this? "He says, there are several reasons that come to mind: the work is difficult, poor horsemanship, injury, lack of commitment to an apprenticeship, too few horses in certain areas and so on. He goes on to say, But I wonder how much of this can be cured by the education available to prospective farriers. He continues, Could another reason be that graduates need different horseshoeing skills?"
His answer to a very reasonable question comes from a perspective that may not serve future hoof care professionals.
Let me offer my opinion, which comes from a perspective that view the horseshoe as only one of the many tools available to our farriers and hoof care providers today. From my perspective, my views as to why todays farriers don't excel in business are quite different.
I believe the answer is that farrier schools are not providing their graduates with the basic business and communication skills needed to survive in today's business environment, even if that environment revolves around horses. In my humble opinion, curriculums should not revolve around horse shoeing by rather around equine podiatry, functional anatomy, business ethics and communication all aimed at developing a sense of professionalism rather than tradesman. It is true that the best farriers are excellent craftsmen, but they also possess discipline, communication skills, and good business ethics.
Experience at our school over the past decade has shown us that those graduates practicing CPD (continuing professional development), logging 40 hours or more of advanced learning per year have a very high success rate in business.
Todays farrier's schools need to adapt by providing curriculums to meet the needs of today's farrier. 
With the advent of the internet and global communication, it is clear that the horse owner is rapidly becoming dissatisfied with the level of professionalism, business and communication skills the entry level farrier exhibits. Also, the seasoned farrier is being placed under the microscope, and should be seeking appropriate CPD. The farrier that doesn't continue to develop their communication and business skills, in my humble opinion will increasingly find themselves shoeing and trimming for those clients that simply don't respect the job or their work.  
As the educational director of an equine podiatry school I re-evaluate our curriculum quarterly. Our goal is to provide answers to the questions that today's farrier, veterinarian, and horse owner are asking, and to provide our students with the tools needed to excel in todays horse industry. Essentially we aim to provide our graduates with the skills needed to bridge the ever widening gap between veterinarian, farrier, and educated horse owner. Times they are a changing, and today's farrier and perspective farrier should be demanding educational reform, seeking out schools that offer curriculums geared towards continuing professional development and that will provide them with tools to help them survive in a rapidly evolving industry.

Monday, November 17, 2014

X-rays beyond Balance

Do X-rays have value to the hoof care provider beyond referencing balance?

High exposure vs. Lower exposure, both have their purpose.
At our school we introduce students to “Physiological Sequencing”, an exercise that helps the hoof care provider understand the developmental process the foot has undergone. Physiological sequencing simply defines how the foot undergoes change in response to a change in stimulus. It is understood that within the foot there are several types of tissue, with the definition of a tissue being: A tissue is a collection of the same cells with the same characteristics, size shape and arrangement. Tissue is a component of the whole organism and carries out a specific function.
In the horse’s foot the first tissue to show physical change in response to a change in stimulus is soft tissue, that tissue which is vascular (having blood and nerves), the second tissue to show a physical change is classified as Dynamic. Dynamic tissue is avascular tissue such as horn and cartilage. Hoof wall flares, false sole, changes in cartilages are all examples of changes to dynamic tissue. The last tissue that we observe physical change in is bone. Bone, though we understand that bone is always undergoing change, we as hoof care providers need to understand that by the time we observe physical change in bone, a sequence of events has occurred involving soft and dynamic tissue.
Why have I spent time explaining physiological sequencing on a post about x-rays, because x-rays can better be used by the hoof care provider to develop an understanding of what chronic conditions may be present and responsible for the picture presented by a given x-ray.
The farrier cannot be expected to treat or balance the hoof of the horse if they do not understand the current state of health of the supporting structures of the hoof, the foot’s very foundations. The hoof care provider should be able to view an x-ray and be able to interpret how that horse has been loading a given foot, and even how it has been traveling. Bone health and remodeling is a response to a stimulus, and that stimulus is created when the horse moves.
There is an exercise that I use to help in developing a student's eye. I have attached two power points. One is a series of x-rays, the other a series of hoof photographs. The link is to a quiz that challenges you to match the hoof to the appropriate x-ray. The key is to develop your eye in seeing the true foundations of the foot you are working on. Do not concentrate on bone only; observe the conformation of the cartilages of the caudal foot.
In order to be successful in taking this quiz you will need to understand the basics of radiographs.
  1.  Though radiographs can appear three dimensional, you must remind yourself that they are two dimensional, and that interpreting density is the task at hand. Mutiple views are needed to create a three dimensional image.
  2. Beam direction is irrelevant. Whether the beam is medial to lateral or lateral to medial the image appears the same.
  3. Understanding exposure is crucial. High exposures are reserved for deep structures, such as the navicular bone. Lower exposures used when viewing the distal border of the pedal bone, or to outline the bones of the foot for balance.
  4. Incorrect exposure can lead to false readings when trying to implement physiological sequencing. Example: A solar margin view (distal border of P3) taken at a high exposure will result in an image that could be interpreted as P3 having bone loss (rarefication).
  5. Oblique views (angles) are used to define margins.
  6. Oblique views are intentional, Lateral/Medial (LM) and Dorsal/Palmar (DP) views are often presented to the farrier for purpose of balance, they should not be presented on an oblique.
I  spend more than 140 hours teaching physiological sequencing to our advanced level students enrolled in our level two program. . X-rays can be extremely helpful in developing a hoof treatment protocol, way beyond simply balancing of the hoof. This is not diagnosing, it is learning.