Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Weighing in on Obesity and Applied Equine Podiatry

My poor horse's aching feet.

Obesity is not a condition usually associated with hoof care. It is however, a major cause of Deformed Hoof Syndrome (DHS) and loss of proper foot function. Many of today's horses suffering hoof ailments are often overweight.
How do we define the obese horse? The obese horse is one that is 150 to 200 pounds over its recommended weight, this determined by weight tape and the application of the Body Condition Scoring System (BCS).

The BCS System
Score of 1(poor) to 9 (Extremely Fat)
Developed by Henneke et al in 1983 at Texas A&M
Used throughout the horse industry as standard score system
Accepted scientific method
Admissible in court

How it is done
Focus on 6 key areas:
Spinous process
Tail head
Behind the shoulder

The system utilizes Visual Appraisal and Hands On /Palpation of those areas exhibiting fat deposits listed above.

As a Applied Equine Podiatrist I am concerned with horses that score 7 or higher on the BCS.

May have crease down back. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat. Fat around tailhead is soft. Fat deposits along withers, behind shoulders and along the neck.

Crease down back. Difficult to palpate ribs. Fat around tailhead very soft. Area along withers filled with fat. Area behind shoulder filled in flush. Noticeable thickening of neck. Fat deposited along inner buttocks.


Obvious crease down back. Patchy fat appearing over ribs. Bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders and along neck. Fat along inner buttocks may rub together. Flank filled in flush.

Rehabilitating the obese horse with Deformed Hoof Syndrome (DHS) is far more difficult, than a horse that is carrying correct weight and condition. The added weight hinders the horse's ability to protect itself from injury, and those structures responsible for suspension within the foot are often stressed to their maximum sustainability. Solar bruising is common, this because those structures responsible for suspension are just simply over stressed and downward movement of the bones of the foot are not properly held in check. The result is excessive pressure and force being applied to the solar dermis. 

When I receive a request to remove horseshoes from a horse, with the goal being a sound shoeless horse it is my responsibility to determine the level of usability of the structures of the foot. I do this by utilizing a Spectrum of Usability (published by IAEP, Inc.) and BCS. I then take into account the added force the foot must endure as a result of the overweight condition.  In many instances I find it necessary to recommend some form of orthotics that will offer support and provide dynamic stabilization. 

Taking responsibility for the health of your horse's hooves involves conditioning the whole horse. Be responsible and don't simply pull those horseshoes, not without first determining the true state of health of the foot within. Learn to use both the BCS, and the Spectrum of Usability.

About the Author:
Keith "KC" La Pierre has been a professional farrier for over 33 years. He is the Co-Founder of the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry, and developer of the Spectrum of Usability. He teaches and lectures both in the USA and Abroad. For more information and articles by KC La Pierre visit the Institutes website at www.equinepodiatry.com