(Click on the
Values Comparison Spreadsheet (PDF by Vickey
1. Vitamins and Minerals
in the Equine Diet (PDF by Vickey
Bowker's Hoof Wall Growth Theory
Management of the Equine Hoof
5. Hoof Dressings
- Good or Bad for the Equine Hoof?
6. How to tell the medial from
the lateral side of the hoof (Microsoft Word, by Vickey
from Pete Ramey's Site (some good reading here!)
Hoof - Barefoot and Balanced (more good
9. Should You Be Riding That Horse??? (NEW ARTICLE!) (PDF by Vickey
Balancing the diet.....not as
difficult as you might think!
walk into the feed store and you do what 50 gazillion other
horse owners do...you feel overwhelmed by all the choices,
spend half an hour comparing tags on the feed bags, select
something that "sounds good", drop your 22 bucks, and head
home to dole out sweet feed to expectant
Purina, Nutrena, Buckeye, Triple Crown,
Landmark, the special "feed mill mix" - how do you know if you
made the right choice? And more importantly, how do you know
that your horse needs a grain or particular supplement in the
And now that you've spent time considering
grain, what about forage options (hay, beet pulp, alfalfa
cubes), and supplements? Did you make the right choice there
Chances are very good that your horse's diet is
NOT balanced properly. As consumers, we get caught up in the
hype of glossy brochures and slick marketing. What our horses
REALLY need to perform and feel their best depends on several
factors: breed, age, sex, use, current health, and individual
genetics. The feed and supplement manufacturers would like you
to believe that their product is THE thing to keep your horse
in tip top form, but the truth is often far removed from the
One supplement rarely fits all, and one
grain mixture is seldom the answer to a sleek coat and optimum
performance. The best that we can do as stewards of our
horse's health and vitality is to carefully analyze ALL
aspects of the diet, and look objectively at the raw facts.
Does the feed and forage going into the horse's mouth meet
100% of all recommended daily amounts, or not?
a VERY simple way to do this. I use the Feed XL program to analyze the
diets of my horses, and tweak as necessary to get the most out
of my feeding program. Couple this with a very simple and
affordable hay analysis, and you can nail down your horse's
needs and consumption to a science!
At nearly every
public event I attend, I will inevitably receive a compliment
on the condition and appearance of my horses. This doesn't
surprise me, because I take great care to be sure that 100% of
ALL my horses' dietary needs are being fully met. The cost to
utilize Feed XL is roughly $45-$60 per year for the average
horse owner with a few horses. This is a very small price to
pay for a better balanced diet, and more thorough
understanding of your horses' intake and output.
you're interested in a particular supplement, or feed product,
plug the information into Feed XL and see how it balances with
the rest of your feeding program. Make adjustments as
necessary - and guess what? Chances are VERY good that you've
been over-feeding expensive supplements and grains! It's easy
to chuck an armload of hay and a scoop of grain, a glug of
oil, and a tablespoon of powder to a hungry horse, but the
peace of mind in KNOWING what your horses are ACTUALLY
consuming is comforting. Create a file for each of your horses
and update it as you add or detract something.
No, I am
NOT a dealer, spokesperson, or stakeholder in the Feed XL
program. I'm just a user, and I've found it to be so
incredibly helpful, that I can't help but pass on the good
word to others. Feed XL helps you to develop a plan and stick
to it. Print out your forms, post them in the feed room, and
stick to the plan. If you notice your horse dropping a bit of
weight, or getting too plump, adjust as needed. As owners, we
need to be more conscious of what we feed our horses, and how
it affects their health and function.
cognitive function, and performance can only come out of a
correctly balanced feeding program!
Vitamins and Minerals in the
Analyzing equine diets in my
spare time has shown me that horses most often are not getting
a complete profile of all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids,
fatty acids, and fats required for adequate health. Click this link to
load a PDF document I created that will help to illustrate the
importance of vitamins and minerals in the equine diet. Even a
"good" diet consisting of high quality hay and a pound or so
of a commercial grain mix can be severely deficient in
Feed Value Comparison of Popular Equine
Here is an Excel spreadsheet I created that will help you
compare the feed values of many popular equine feeds:Feed Value Comparison Spreadsheet
HELP! My horse is SORE after every
Oh boy, if
I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I'd be in Canada
learning to ski instead of working so hard.
unclear to me why some people trim horses so darned short. I
have some theories, however. e.g., attempting to remove all
distortion in one trim, attempting to make the trim "last" for
8 weeks, misusing nippers to save time........who knows. What
I "do" know is that horses suffer when this
One thing my customers usually note is that I
leave more hoof under their horse than they are generally
accustomed to seeing. As long as the hoof is BALANCED, you
don't have to worry about a little extra height. In fact, that
height is very desirable, especially in larger/heavier horses.
When I trim, I generally leave more hoof wall standing above
the sole than owners are used to seeing. This extra height
gives the horse some ground clearnace, and allows the sole to
be partially weight bearing, but not overloaded. Some people
call this a "natural shoe." For the most part, I just call it
leaving wall height above the sole.
Here is a photo I
put together to illustrate the concept.
shows the maximum amount of hoof height I would maintain.
Seems simple right? A no brainer. Well,
amazingly, it must not be a no brainer, because I see so many
horses that are walking on their soles, and they are LAME.
Some of them have been stall rested and buted daily to get
past the pain of a trim. This is unacceptable in my practice.
If you want a sound, working, shoeless horse who can
go out on trails and go down the side of the road, you NEED
extra height to the foot. The typical trimming protocol that
uses the nippers to bite through the abaxial border of the
sole and leave your dog a nice horseshoe shaped treat WILL NOT
WORK for a working, barefoot horse.
I typically do
more rasping and less nipping than owners are accustomed to.
It only takes one wrong nip to take away a substantial amount
of hoof material that can't be put back.
you want a sound, happy, working barefoot horse, YOU NEED SOME
EXTRA HEIGHT! The amount of height left depends on a lot of
factors, how much and where is the horse worked, how wet is
the environment, how has the horse responded in the past to
the extra hoof wall, does he tend to crack and split or not,
how thick is the wall, how thin is the sole, how healthy are
the frogs, and so forth....
It is WELL worth the
effort to develop and maintain the extra hoof wall height,
because horses are so much happier because of it.
Pasture Trim vs. Barefoot
When it comes to hoof care, there is
nothing else that confuses owners (and trimmers and farriers!)
more than this terminology - pasture trim versus barefoot
My position is that a good trim is a good trim,
regardless of who does it or what its called. If the horse is
sound for the intended purpose, the owner is happy, the horse
is happy, and the hooves are as healthy as possible or at
least on the road to getting there - then the trim is good. No
two hoof care professionals can agree on what "pasture trim"
actually means, so how about if we just forget the term :-) It
ignites flames of irritation and disgust with farriers, and
feelings of superiority by trimmers and barefooters. Somehow
people feel that if they can assign a designer name to their
designer trim, they will be better than the competition, the
horse will be sounder, they will make more money, and farriers
the world over will be stomped beneath their (bare!)
Barefoot trims can be incorrect, and even
damaging also - simply calling it a barefoot trim isn't enough
to guarantee soundness or success. Some of the soundest and
hardest working shoeless horses are trimmed by farriers who do
the same ole' trim on that horse that they do on a shod
horse....with one exception...
Beveled (or rolled)
walls! All good farriers and trimmers know that a barefooted
horse with flat, sharp hoof walls are more prone to cracks and
chips. Take the same feet and get that leading edge of wall up
off the ground, and the chance for health increases
Now this is where trimmers
often veer off from "traditional protocol." Traditional
protocol would have you trim frogs into a neat triangle. Many
horses do great with the frogs NEVER trimmed. The frog is
meant to share load with the sole and walls and when it is
over-trimmed, or trimmed unnecessarily, you reduce its mass
and thus weight bearing surface. I rarely trim frogs into the
neat little triangle that you often see in photos. There's
just no need to unless it is overgrown, or diseased. In the
photo below, I have pulled off a flag of frog with my fingers
that was shedding, then removed the fat bulbous hooks at the
back of the frog to prevent it from trapping dirt. In some
horses and some situations, I leave those bulbous hooks alone.
It all depends on the horse and the environment they live in.
Another point of interest is that healthy, balanced
hooves that live in a good environment with a healthy diet and
plenty of turnout/exercise, generally need VERY little trimmed
from their hooves. There are horses on my book that literally
take 10 minutes and the trim is done. I often go months
without touching frogs or bars. I can't remember the last time
I exfoliated any sole from 99% of the horses I trim. It's just
One thing to keep in mind -
you're not paying by the pound for hoof shavings. You are
paying for healthy, balanced feet. Sometimes that means only
the smallest bit of rasping or touching up and only a few
minutes worth of time. The important thing is to keep the
bones balanced and aligned within the foot and leg.
So.........whether you call it a pasture trim or a barefoot
trim - it matters little. At the end of the day, the horse
will tell you if the trim was CORRECT or not! I have learned
this lesson the hard way and its made me a better hoof care
provider because of it.
Trimming in preparation for
shoeing IS a bit different in that it is more important to
clean out the sole and leave the walls flat. If the farrier
leaves the foot this flat with the sole pared out, the horse
could develop soreness, cracks, and hoof wall chipping.
Healthy, correct bare feet will have evenly sloping
hairlines, low heels, fat healthy frogs, wide fat heel bulbs
with a well developed digital cushion and lateral cartilages,
thick sole, and thick healthy hoof wall. They will be free of
growth rings, thrush, and white line separation. If these
attributes are present, then it is safe to say that the trim,
and the diet, and the environment are ideal for that horse.
Anatomy of the Equine
Explanation of Terms, and
It takes 1 year to grow a new hoof
(or does it????)
frequently hear people say "It will take your horse a whole
year to grow a new hoof." Well, this statement is misleading.
It might take a full year for the most dorsal aspect of the
toe to reach the ground level, but the rest of the hoof is
reaching the ground at a much faster rate. Also, don't forget
that "the hoof" is not synonymous with "the dorsal toe wall."
People tend to take into consideration only the most dorsal
aspect of the toe wall and forget the rest of the hoof! The
origins of the sole, frog, and bars are much closer to the
ground surface than the coronary band which grows outer wall.
And the heels and quarters are closer to the ground than the
dorsal toe wall. In a healthy hoof with correct hoof form and
function, you will turn over heel at nearly 4 times the rate
you will turn over toe growth.
So what DOES concavity
look like anyway?!
like this! I washed this horse's foot with a garden hose then
walked her acorss the gravel driveway. After picking up the
foot, you can clearly see what area of the hoof (directly
under the coffin bone) has been protected by the natural arch
of the hoof! Cool isn't it!! When a horse is flat footed, they
have very little arch to the foot meaning that the solar
surface of the bone is essentially unprotected. Trimming in
such a way as to encourage and cultivate this natural arch is
essential for soundness.
The Spectrum of
Usability is a tool to rate the overall hoof health of the
horse, and establish guidelines for recommended use and
rehabilitation. It is beneficial to periodically assess each
individual structure of each hoof to track progress, and to
establish a baseline. Working a horse within his spectrum is a
good insurance policy to guard against making a horse sore
because his structures can't handle the work he is
The Spectrum of Usability is mainly
beneficial to high performance shoeless horses, or to owners
who wish to have documented progression of the rehabilitation
process. So what exactly "IS" the Spectrum of Usability, and
what do the numbers mean? Click the above thumbnail to expand
a sample copy.
So in overview:
Please note it's possible
for one structure on a horse to be extremely poor, and another
structure to be very strong. By reviewing the sheet, you can
tell which structure needs rehab, and which structures are
doing well. The "Qualifying Reason" section will note why the
horse is recieving a particular overall score. If the horse
has a great foot, but a puncture wound to one frog causes that
structure to rate a "1" then obviously it would not be wise to
take the horse on a long trail ride without protection. The
horse may come in at a "5" overall, but the weak link may
warrant rest and healing before resuming work. This will be
noted on the form, and I encourage you to follow up with your
veterinarian if you have any concerns or further
- 1: Bleeding, extremely pathalogical, missing structures,
extreme injury or disease
- 3: Structures present but weak
- 5: Good overall structure, healthy, suitable for
moderate trail riding barefoot
- 7: Extremely strong, healthy structures, horse probably
capable of higher performance work while barefoot
- 10: The most correct, perfect hoof possible (and in
Obviously this is a rough guideline designed
to give some direction and instruction. I complete a Spectrum
of Usability every time I see your horse. It only takes 5
minutes, and it's helpful for review after I've left and you
can't remember what we talked about. This way anything
noteworthy is documented on the form. Owners like having these
forms for their horse's file so records can be kept over the
years of changes, and problems. With the busy lives everyone
leads, it's easy to forget information over time.
Acccck! The Big
Punky frogs, black gooey discharge, loss
of stability in the back of the foot, bad smell, frog wasting,
pain.....these are all signs that something is amiss and needs
to be dealt with PRONTO!
Most hoof care professionals
agree that thrush (or any type of frog infection: yeast,
bacteria, fungus), is usually caused by one of four things, or
all at once:
1. Poor environment - wet conditions,
soiled bedding, standing in manure, too much moisture
Poor hoof form - tall overgrown heels, underrun heels, long
3. Improper or negligent cleaning of hooves
sugar diet coupled with long periods of stalling
what if your horse gets his feet cleaned every day, his hoof
form is pretty good, your pastures are high and dry, the
manure is picked up daily, but the horse STILL has thrush?!?
Isn't that just frustrating? Of course it is! I know this
first hand, as I've been there in the not so distant past. If
your situation sounds strangely common with this sentiment,
then it may be high time for a Clean Trax treatment! Clean
Trax is a non-necrotizing hoof cleanser that kills spores deep
within the tissue, and not just surface germs like ordinary
topicals do. In other words, Clean Trax will not harm
sensitive tissue like harsh chemicals found in Koppertox,
Thrush Buster, and others can. Clean Trax can be ordered from
most online farrier supply stores, and the package directions
must be followed EXACTLY to be effective. I have never found
another thrush treatment to be as thoroughly effective as
Clean Trax. If you have a chronic thrush problem you can't
seem to kick, you MUST give it a shot! If you are interested
in Clean Traxing your horse but aren't sure of the
instructions, please contact me and I will help
Another treatment option is TODAY and TOMORROW Dry
Cow Mastitis Treatments. I've used both with success. You can
purchase both from Jeffers Equine. They come in a box of 12
tubes. One tube will treat 2-4 feet, depending on the depth of
the central sulculs. You squirt the treatment down into the
sulcus and fill with cotton. Continue twice daily for about 10
days, or until you can no longer fit any cotton into the
central sulcus. This takes longer than Clean Trax, and doesn't
kill spores, but is still very effective.
frog maintenance, I use Desitin 40% (not the 10%!), and Gold
Bond medicated foot powder (the original in the yellow
bottle.) Smear the frog, central sulcus, and collateral
grooves with Desitin, and coat with Gold Bond powder. Desitin
is wonderful for creating a moisture sealed barrier,
especially during the wet season. Gold Bond absorbs moisture
and helps dry out the frog when the horse comes in at night
after a day of wet paddock slogging. I use one or other of
these almost daily on all of my horses. I've found the frogs
to be much healthier and resiliant.
Another great use
for Gold Bond is a good healthy squeeze into your hoof boots.
It helps eliminate funky boot odor, and keep the frogs dry.
One word of caution though - if your boots are on the
borderline of being too big, adding the powder can cause them
to slip around on the feet too much. So this is best with
tighter fitting boots.
Pete Ramey uses some type of
anti-fungal cream mixed with Gold Bond, but I haven't had a
chance to try that out yet. I have heard that it's very
And finally one of the most important
treatment protocols is STIMULUS for growth! Walking the horse
in Sole Mates pads, or EVA foam pads helps to stimulate the
corium that grows new hoof material. Walking a thrushy horse
daily in pads helps to stimulate new frog growth, which will
fill in that deep central sulcus. Bear in mind that sand can
be very irritating and counter-productive, as the particles
enter the sulcus and cause irritation and aggravation. If your
horse has a deep sulculs, keep him in a sand-free location
until the area fills in with new growth. Sometimes it doesn't
make any sense - which horses get thrush and which don't. We
can do everything possible to prevent it, but sometimes the
horse just has a poor immune system. From my experience, your
best bet is to keep the feet trimmed PROPERLY on a cycle
appropriate for your horse, keep the environment clean and
dry, pick out feet daily, use the above medications
accordingly, and keep your horse on a lower sugar diet.
If normal treatment paths are not effective, or if the
problem is continually reccuring, even after a treatment or
two of Clean Trax, you should contact your veterinarian for
assistance. The one case of recurring, persistent thrush I've
had to deal with is on a foundered horse. Compromised
circulation is suspect in this case as is hoof form that isn't
quite back to normal. Veterinary consultation is also
advisable on the very difficult cases because you want to make
sure you truly have thrush, and not equine canker.