Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lameness locator

How cool is this???

... the human eye isn’t very reliable in recording and processing information. As a result, studies have shown that veterinarians tend not to be very consistent in their observations of lame horses. That is, one veterinarian may think a horse is lame in one leg, whereas another might pick another limb (or limbs) as the culprit ...

... This fall, a new piece of diagnostic equipment was made available to the veterinary community. It’s called the “Lameness Locator.” It was developed by Dr. Kevin Keegan, a professor of surgery at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Mo. I think it has the possibility of revolutionizing lameness diagnosis, because it moves the process to more objective measurements. Essentially, the machine is a very precise way to measure the observations that we try to make anyway.

It’s a very clever bit of technology. It combines:

  • Two accelerometers - devices that measure acceleration—in this case measuring the up and down movements of the head and pelvis
  • A gyroscope - a device for measuring or maintaining orientation—in this case the orientation in space of the right fore limb
  • Bluetooth technology - for sending data over short distances
  • A proprietary computer program to collect and analyze all of the data

These devices are much more accurate at recording the movements of the head, pelvis and limb than is the human eye; the human eye is sampling about 20 times per second, whereas the Lameness Locator takes 200 samples per second

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going to the bar

OK, I have a new obsession: the bar. Not just any bar, the hoof bar.

No you can't order a beer with your friends there, but the more I find out about them, the more I'm intrigued. On a farrier forum not too long ago, it was brought to my attention that Buttercup's bars were getting out of control. I will talk to my farrier about this on our May 31 trim (see the new count down clock on the blog? Isn't that neat?).

So naturally, I've been doing some research.

Here is an informative video I found:

And here is an interesting story:

Is Trimming Bars Really Necessary?
By Scott Kroeger
(Ref. A Lifetime of Soundness by Dr. Hiltrud Strasser pages 134-135)

It's a trick question...

If your horse is able to move 24 hours, 7 days a week over sufficiently hard and stony ground (covering 20+ kms a day) then you would probably never have to worry about doing anything to the bars of your horse's feet--all things being ideal. But that is seldom the case. Horse hooves grow and if not worn down naturally--become overgrown which leads to problems. That is where you come in.

The following scenarios can occur if you do not tend to the overgrowth of the bars:

  • They will grow so as to touch the ground on weight bearing, sending tiny shockwaves up into the solar corium as the bars press the corium against the navicular bone. This causes bruising of the corium and pain. The longer the bar and higher the heel, the worse the pain. This is most often the cause of "Navicular Syndrome" in horses.
  • Hoof bars naturally grow down and forward. If they are not worn down naturally, the bar grows long contacting the ground during weight bearing. Over time they will overlay themselves onto the floor of the sole and grow forward covering the sole. The problem with this (aside from a now deformed bar) is that the solar corium will quit producing sole with an overlaid bar...making the sole very thin underneath. If the bar is "chunked" out through natural or unnatural wear, there can be sole penetration.
  • Forward growing bars coupled with other forms of contraction within the foot (i.e. sole contraction and frog contraction) often show the bars jamming the frog so much as to cause a curl or semi-circle of the bars instead of nice straight bars. These type of deformed bars will continue to bunch and crowd the frog, meeting resistance that will often cause the formation of bar pools at the end of the bars on the solar floor. These bar pools can be very deep and if left alone will continue deformed growth of the bar.
  • Long overlayed bars along with high heels produces leverage forces on the hoof capsules doing damage in several places, one of which is the cracks in the bar causing pain to the horse.

What you should do...

  • Natural looking bars extend from the heel down to the middle of the frog (half-way between the apex of the frog and the heel). The level of the frog descends from the heel down to the floor of the sole.
  • Proper measurements are: mid-way on the bar a measurement of 1 cm should exist to the crown of the hoof wall level. A 1 cm measurement exists from mid-way on the bar down inside the lowest level of the collateral groove. This is you ultimate goal and may not be achievable in the first few trims.
  • Trimming the bars back to this conformation can be a delicate procedure and may have to be done in stages depending on the amount of sole underneath the bar that is NOT there.
  • With the blade of the hoof knife flat against the bottom of the hoof, use the hook of the knife to remove excess bar.
  • Seek to straighten the bar by removing the excess and forcing the line of the bar down to the floor of the sole near the collateral grove exactly half-way along the frog. No semi circle bars. You may have to descend below the normal straight line to the solar floor midway on the frog in order to achieve this.
  • The thickness of a healthy bar is 2-3 millimetres and should be a flat surface ramping down from the heel to the solar floor.
  • Trim out any cracks in the bar if possible.
  • Trim out any bar pooling as you will need to restore the proper horn tubule direction of the bar and retrain the growth pattern.

What to be careful of...

  • Turning the knife up and gouging the sole...keep it flat on the sole...and take small flakes at a time.
  • Removing too much bar so that you either draw blood or you compromise the integrity of the sole. You should never trim a bar so that you draw blood. You should never trim so that the sole is spongy. Know when to stop. Trim as much as you can and then leave it for a later trim as the sole straightens out and strengthens. Your immediate goal is to remove enough bar so that it is not weight-bearing except where it meets the heel.
  • You may have to do this in stages if there is no sole due to overlayed bars.
  • Bars that are highly impacted may fall dramatically when not weight bearing and can "regrow" as much as a full centimetre or more in the space of 24 hours. It may take several weeks before impacted bars return to a normal state and not fall down anymore. Regular trimming is essential during this time.
  • The bar triangle can also be rather thin if there is significant sole contraction. Test it by pressing down on the bar triangle to feel for movement.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to dig out the bars down to the corium in order to decontract a hoof and achieve hoof mechanism. This procedure is not recommended by any except those who are SHP trained or under their strict guidance.

Remember that trimming the bars is only one small part of the overall barefoot trim and is not to be used in isolation from the rest of a properly done barefoot trim


That story really hit home for me, whereas the video gave me a good visual of what to look for. Here is Bud's hoof now:

Her bars are clearly laid over and out of control. Her heel buttresses (yellow) are where they need to be. The red line is where her bars are laid over and the squiggly red is where they are laying down. They should be near the blue collateral groove:

We'll see what the farrier has to say, but I don't see a reason to keep them. I will do some more research in some of the books I have in the meantime.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beyond hooves

(Bud, about to sneeze)

This is quite possibly the hardest topic to discuss with a non-horse person.

"I don't understand why they had to put *insert racehorse name here* down; he had three other good legs left."
"Well, a horse can't survive on only three legs -- even for just six to eight weeks."
"What do you mean? Dogs can do it. Why not horses?"
"The amount of weight on the remaining three legs is too much for them and problems will crop up like founder."

And even then, the person might still not understand.

Yesterday, the chiropractor came out to do a follow-up visit on Buttercup. Although Bud's been doing good back in work since mid January, I noticed some problems with her gait. She also has been sore from her farrier visit last week and usually sore after every trim for a few days. (This is being discussed with my current farrier right now and I want to get her on a more frequent cycle so that she doesn't have to be completely re-done every six weeks.)

I was actually surprised that Bud had to have nearly the same adjustment she had back in November. Several cervical vertebra were out. Right pelvis stuck. Lots and lots of sticky ribs.

And the chiro found indications of hock soreness on her.

This shouldn't be surprising on a horse that has spent the last two years in and out of chronic or acute hoof pain. As one front hoof hurts, the horse compensates by shifting more weight to the rear opposite hoof and the other corresponding hoof. As the other front hoof starts to hurt from the extra weight, the horse begins to compensate with the rear opposite hoof.

But it doesn't end with the hooves. Think about having a rock in your shoe that you can't remove. To prevent walking on it, you're going to change your gait, twist your hips, twist your spine and twist your shoulders. Pretty soon your lower back will hurt, in addition to your other leg hurting from compensating.

So Buttercup's hocks hurt from her trying to rock back off her front hooves. Her neck is stiff from trying to hold herself off the ouchie hooves. Her pelvis is sticky from trying to hold herself also.

Chiropractic adjustments aren't a panacea, either. Once the root of the problem is fixed (in Bud's case, her hooves), a chiropractic adjustment can get everything back in place, but then there is muscle memory to overcome. Those muscles will just pull those bones right back into place. You can try acupuncture (there was no way after all the pops yesterday that Bud was going to allow herself to be stuck with pins) or muscle massages or correct work. But the odds are you may need a follow-up adjustment.

I was hoping for this to be our last hoof-related adjustment. But I think I'm wrong. I think she'll need at least one more and then we can go to more of a maintenance routine of once a year or only when needed.

At a Jean Luc Cornille clinic a few weeks back, Jean Luc told the audience that if your horse needs a lot of adjustments, start looking at the rider. I agree with this (not surprisingly, I'm really into his research right now; up to a point. Horses that have actual mechanical reasons, like hooves recovering or a terrible fall, may need more than just one adjustment to help bring them back to normal.

Of course, when Buttercup is comfortable again – she's comfortable in her boots but that's not good enough for work – I will make sure that my back is completely vertical and only moving as much as her back moves so that we can "dance the same dance."

In the meantime, I'll be stretching and massaging Bud this week after some handwalking. Hopefully we won't lose too many days of her being sore.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farrier visit May 3, 2010

The spell of dry weather we've had this cycle really created some challenges with Buttercup's hooves. Her hooves started growing and the hoof wall started getting pressure exerted on it, and the flares and her crack that were quickly disappearing all came back.

So to keep that in check, we had to drastically roll up her hoof wall again. She is slightly sore as of Tuesday, but sound for walk/trot on the pasture footing. As you can see from the pics, her hoof walls are definitely rolled up.

Unfortunately, I somehow forgot to take solar shots. They are beautiful. We got rid of a lot problem areas and the heels are right underneath heel bulb. You can also see some waves in her coronary band. That related to a hoof balance issue, something we've been fighting with but only able to manage until now. I'm confident we have the right hoof balanced nicely and the front left will get there in just a few trim cycles.

So that crack that was reduced to being only a half-inch open and the rest superficial has opened up more than an inch (eyeballing, so I could be wrong). Just a little disheartening.

Farrier admonished me for continuing to work her in hoofboots and told me I'm not doing her any favors. Per his request, I'm retiring the hoofboots for trail riding when we may encounter rocks or other poor footing.


Edit May 13 to add solar shots: