Most horses that come out of shoes will generally have some form of structure degeneration and or infection. These problems may not have been apparent to the owner and the foot may have looked in pretty good health. This is because shoes do a very good job of hiding infection i.e. white line disease or masking problems such as contracted heels.
Do you actually know what a healthy equine foot should look like? We spend so much time looking at bad feet that its no surprise that we are starting to accept that a skinny frog or under run heels are normal!
A structured rehabilitation program will be personalised to your horse to treat infection and to regain the structures that have degenerated.
Each horse is an individual and although some can be ridden straight out of shoes, others cannot. Therefore hard work and commitment from the owner will be required to achieve a health foot again. The trim its self is a very small part of the rehabilitation process. Achieving a healthy foot will be mainly down to you.
Many people like the idea of going shoe-less but the rehabilitation process can seem daunting and time consuming in the beginning. Ask your self this: If you horse damaged a tendon and you were informed to box rest for 4 weeks and then walk your horse out in hand for 10-15 mins per day in order to heal him, would you? Rehabilitating your horse’s feet is no different as you are repairing damage caused over a long period of time.
Listed below are some of the frequently prescribe rehabilitation procedures. If you're about to be visited for the first time by a DAEP, be prepared for any of the following:
A non necrotising solution used to soak hooves to eradicate infection. Each hoof will be placed in a soaking boot (that extends over the knee) with 1 gallon of solution for 45minutes and then wrapped to trap the vapour. Usually only required once, even with severe infection. It is best practice to perform maintenance soaks 1-2 times per year to prevent re-infection from occurring. To treat all four feet will take approximately 3hrs. Most horses accept this treatment very well but occasionally some will require sedation by your Vet. Most horses will require Clean Trax soaking. Even the tiniest bit of infection can cause a whole host of problems in the future. We advise against products such as Hydrogen Peroxide as these will not only kill the bacterial but also the living tissue surrounding it.
Special pads called ‘Sole Mates’ are duck-taped to the bottom of the foot or placed in a hoof boot and the horse is then walked over a prescribed surface. Pads are commonly used to stimulate frog growth and to strengthen the caudal (back) structures of the foot. Pad walking is very frequently prescribed as its benefits are endless. Again, very few horses that come out of shoes have a healthy frog or caudal aspect of the foot. This is because the shoe has prevented the foot from distorting and providing the correct stimulus required for the tissues in the foot to remain healthy (think of it as never using your arm, the muscles would become weak).
Walking your horse in hand over a prescribed surface. This is often recommended to return migrated structures i.e. the heels back to their correct location or to stimulate the growth of inner wall.
Adjusting your horses environment
Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference to your horse’s feet. Where your horse lives will be evaluated during the visit and recommendations provided as to how to make the most of your surroundings. Correct stimulus from the surrounding environment will achieve correct hoof growth. Your horse’s hooves will need to be exposed to a variety of conditions to achieve this.
You cannot expect to turn your horse out for 12hrs a day in a muddy paddock and then be able to ride once a week for 3hrs over various terrains.
Advice on how to maintain your horses feet with adequate exercise will be given during the visit.
Although excellent results are often seen quickly after starting a rehabilitation program, as with most horses, you are trying to undo many years of incorrect hoof care or damage. Achieving a foot capable of performing to your discipline may take many months of hard work and commitment.