Saturday, December 27, 2008

Linda Cowles Hoof Clinic, Humboldt, August 16, 2008

note: these are my notes - that means they may be full of misperceptions and only partially understood instruction. I can't recommend Linda's clinics highly enough. They are chock full of information, humor, and a deep intuitive understanding of how to grow a healthy hoof. Attend one if you can.

Linda Cowles Hoof Clinic, Humboldt County
August 16, 2008

I'm posting my notes from Linda's uber informative clinic (last August). If you read this and see where I mis-stated any information, please, please leave a comment so I can have a more accurate picture.

The notes are pretty rough and random, sorry!

  • Pacific Hoof Care Professionals
is a group developed to support professionals and non-professionals in acquiring skills over time.
  • When you are trimming, it is important to have a second set of eyes to help catch anything you might have missed.
Throughout the clinic Linda stressed DIET!!!!!!!!! One of the 1st things to consider in hoof care and rehabilitation is the effect of diet and carbohydrates on hoof and general systemic health. NO SUGAR. NO MOLASSES. She recommended an excellent class nutrition by Eleanor Kellon, VMD
available at Course Dates are here

Linda gave a simple example of the impact of diet - iron in water From Pete Ramey

Read Pete Ramey's "Feeding the Hoof" (

"During this course, when I looked back at my pasture and hay analysis from the past, it became clear that the lack of copper and zinc were the least of my problems. In my area, the grass, hay, water (and even the mineral blocks I was recommending) consistently have toxic levels of iron. [Excess iron cancels the absorption of copper and zinc- even if there is an “adequate” amount of those minerals available. Excess iron
has many effects, including predisposition to infection, a predisposition to arthritis and increased risk of tendon/ligament problems, liver disease and altered glucose metabolism – including insulin resistance and overt diabetes.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD"

A question
was asked about wry hoof - Linda replied that pain causes the horse to walk on the other side of the hoof to try to stop the hoof mechanism that is causing the pain. Over time this imbalance between sides begins to distort the hoof capsule. passive hoof doesn't touch all the way active weight bearing, the hoof is engaged Red - casting hoof, hoof mechanism is not engaged
  • Heel Buttresses - visualize butt cheeks
THRUSH Soundness starts with the frog. Linda shared several treatment options:

- industrial sanitizer, chlorine dioxide, like White Lightning but easier to use and much cheaper. Activates with citric acid. Use 1 - 3 times, next to days clean with soap and water.

Usnea Tincture - gives great relief (vodka kills properties of herb) use small amount and apply inside crevices in frog (Linda applied to tiny lines in back of hoof, once applied the wetness of the tincture clearly showed a network of tracks harboring or inviting thrush) Oxine

Pete's Goo

Apple Cider Vinegar
- 50/50

Gold Bond Dry cow teat medication To clean up the crack between hoof buttresses - use cardboard or rolled vet wrap to floss crack between bulbs. After treatment, cover with desitin.

Bacteria and fungus have a use in the hoof - but out of control with sugars and system imbalance. Yeast and thrush are symptoms of underlying problem. Often this is diet. Need to consider diet and what is causing system imbalance

1. need to clean with soap, water, scrub brush - everyday. Linda uses Dawn.

HOOF RINGS You can read these - they show events in the life of the hoof. When the system is stressed, enzymes - lamina die and reattach. The hoof falls lower and lower in the hoof capsule. Too much sugar creates endotoxins in the gut. These loosen the lamina attachment. At corona - bump. Hoof wall constantly reattaches. The lamina excrete substance - "hoof putty" Linda called it, that helps reattach.

STRETCHED TOE A toe first landing - pulls out the toe wall and contributes to: laminar wedge, white line separation, and wall separation. Better feed and lower sugar = better walls. No grain hays - anything with berry on top higher in sugar

  • Linda uses mechanic's wheeled seat she gets at Pep Boys Tools
  • AB Dick hoof knives
  • AG 50/30 Corona Grape Pruner
  • Bonzai Bud Nipper
ASSESSMENT Dr. Kerry Ridgeway CD - Assessment Consider:
  1. Walk
  2. Back
  3. Hips
  4. winging out?
  5. toe first (look for puffs of dust in front of hoof)
  6. angle coming off hock
  7. hind goose stepping indicates problem
Pretend you are the horse, move like the horse, where would it hurt you? 1st Heels - reaps across to look at lines, hairline to hoof edge Next Remove flaps. Divide hoof in half. Use rasp to rasp central sulcus. 2. Balance Hoof coffin bone and sole juncture Magic Marker - choose growth line or width of rasp from hairline Wall Separation Inside - wall - 1 rasp width above line of sold and wall juncture Outside - most significant growth ring - down vertical lines at 10 and 2

TRIMMING FROM THE TOP Downward rasp stroke parallel to growth of hoof. Have hand on top straight line from elbow, handle, rasp swooping motion down and sideways to back of hoof. When there are thick wall flares, thin wall so it will wear Iron Free Hoof - Trim from the Top Kim Cassidy - Markers for Trimming from the Top mark rasp with arrow - goes away from center of hoof at wall and sole juncture mark line one rasp width from sole for trim guide when trimming, put fingers around wall at the tip, this protects the toe callous

THE BEVEL Indigo asked "Is the bevel the same as a mustang roll?"
Linda described 2 bevel cuts with the rasp. The 1st is done from the top and "backs up the hoof". The 2nd is done from the bottom and helps to keep loading pressure off of the white line. The "mustang roll" is when these two bevels are rounded into a smoothly rolled edge.
Moon sickle, callous, bump - no bump when break-over is in right place. When there is flare, gets stretched and burnishes - bump. Frogs shed 2x year increase in keratin production makes hoof wall grow faster

heel height = 1 rasp width above sole heel is flat - more or less flat
How far to bring the heel down? Can do anything as long as going in the right direction. If laminetic or foundered, adhesions might develop between check tendon and deep flexor tendon (can feel bump) dropping the heel will pull on adhesions. Use caution.

With navicular there are adhesions between deep flexor tendon and coffin bone With insufficient digital cushion, bringing hoof down too fast will create discomfort and contribute to toe first landings.

Consider The digital cushion, how well developed or how atrophied. The hoof will start to build coffin bone backwards, calcification develops to provide support that is not there from degenerated digital cushion.

Dr. Diane Isabel - Bowker's research partner, used Doppler radar to show that the horse peripherally loaded has 20 of the blood flow of horse that is solar loaded - no nutrition getting to the site. The concussion from shod walking = 60% more concussion shoe trotting 600% more concussion

Thrush pulls foot - mustang roll from 3 - 9 o'clock Toe back, forces horse to use back of foot soreness, thrush, etc. can make them sore fog sheds 2x year may be triggered by keratin stimulator hormone

Changes in coffin bone can result in short/long hoof wall and sole/hoof juncture will look perfect. Thin wall you want to go backwards and stop putting pressure on outside wall.

Thrush Treatment soak 3 days in row use Pete's goo Cracks must be open. Pressure on tissue under what appears to be healthy frog.

Bars may grow high to protect frog. Need to debried surface, anaerobic bacteria will die when exposed to air. Do not want to force horse to use heel.

Frequently feel sole juncture. hold rasp 1/2 off coronet band.

The steeper the bevel, the skinnier the bottom is.

If inside toe gets long, the diagonal heel gets under run - think of slinky. Toe long = under run heel Wall is slipcover on top of sub structure.

On one horse, Linda did heels first because so they were so tall, = discomfort What is done 1st? what most obviously needs fixing.

If coronet is upright & hoof wall has waist, too long and bending watch diet More sugar, more skin problems

With laminal wedge can go 1 rasp width past edge of wedge.

When the hoof is higher on inside more bevel - thinner on inside, thin inside wall.

Additional tidbits from Linda's website

Coronet Band "Flare"

The final step was to use my rasp to smooth and bevel the edge of
the wall working from the top of the hoof. After an initial 45 degree
bevel that touched the white line, I inspected the mares coronet band
for upward flare caused by excessive wall length in the quarters, and
beveled the base of the wall immediately below it a little higher to
allow the wall to wear faster and thus relax down faster in that area.

Most of the coronet flair had relaxed down by the time I took pictures, as
can be seen by looking at the inside quarters of the front left hoof.

Underrun Heels

Underrun heels are easy to fix, particularly in the early stages. A heel is called "underrun"
when the horse stops walking on the bottom of the heel and begins to walk on the back of
the heel wall.

Many people feel that underrun heels are "too short" because, as they stretch towards the toes, the heels become progressively weaker and are flattened by the weight of the horse. This
flattening allows the heel bulbs to remain close to the ground where they need to be, but the
center of balance is transferred farther forward as a result.

Hoof wall is meant to bear vertical weight and resist lateral pressure. With underrun heels, we ask it to to bear lateral weight (as the horse begins to walk on the back of the hoof wall) and resist vertical pressure (when sheering occurs as the horse weights and un-weights each foot).

To "fix" an underrun heel, shorten the heel with a hoof knife by moving the heel buttress (the part of the hoof the horse should walk on) to the back of the foot where it belongs. Done correctly, an underrun heel can be fixed in four to six weeks.

Hooves are living tissue, very similar to skin or human nails.  The hoof wall is composed of tubules and lamina connected in a way that allows them to move as the hoof expands and
contracts, as the hoof is weighted and unweighted.

This flexible structure also allows the fibers to shift in a vertical direction. Irregular growth, wear or trimming results in curved growth rings and coronet bands.  A hoof *isn't* like a chunk of dried wood, unable to change.  The hoof actively attempts to shed worn out or unnecessary material, such as hoof wall that extends beyond the level of the sole, the old sole and worn out frog. 

Above: Flexible hoof wall
responds to pressure from excess
wall length in the "quarters"
by pressing wall tubules upward.
The curved "quarters"
in the above picture relax and
straighten within hours of removing
excess length. The downward
direction of the lines at the
rear of the hoof are telltale
signs that the heel is beginning
to collapse towards the front,
a condition called "underrun

The hoof wall that surrounds
the hoof capsule is still very
malleable and able to change.
In the picture of Nicks hoof
on the left , I drew lines showing
the distortion caused by the
wall being longer in the "quarters"
- the sides of the wall.

Domestic horses usually wear

the toe and heel faster than
the quarters because they don't
travel 20 to 30 miles over loose
dirt and rock like wild horses
do. Quarter flare is common
in barefoot horses with pasture
trims and shod horses. Horses
with Mustang type trims wear
this area more effectively because
their wall develops a gentle
scoop conformation in the quarters
that allows loose rock to escape
to the sides, which abrades
the wall in the quarters.

Excess wall length in the quarters

flares the wall outward at the
ground. It simultaneously exerts
upward pressure that can cause
a flare in the coronet band.
When the wall is trimmed to
the correct length in the quarters,
the flare in the wall and coronet
band smooth out in hours.

Another indication of excess
wall length is "white line
separation". As the wall
becomes too long, the weight
of the horse bends the wall
away from the hoof, tearing
or stretching the attachment,
the white line.

A good analogy would be a person

with long nails trying to use
the tips of their fingers to
support their weight. The long
nails aren't made to support
weight, so they bend. If a person
was forced to support their
weight on long nails, the nails
would bend and the bending would
pry the nail away from the cuticle.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ain't Gonna Shoe No More, No More

It wasn't easy getting to this point and I gotta say, my decision to pull Red's shoes did not come from an understanding of the healthy hoof function that is promoted by most barefoot trims (I am not comfy with the Strasser protocol).

The event that set me on the path to becoming an owner-trimmer was commonplace - Red threw a shoe. No big deal. HA!!!! I felt completely helpless and dependent on the availability of my farrier. Didn't like it at all. Besides, a couple of women in my barn trimmed their horses' hoofs. I never considered that I might be able to do the same, but I saw how sound their horses were barefoot.

When my farrier made it out to deal with the missing shoe, I asked him if my horse could go without shoes. "Sure, don't see a problem", he said. Thirty minutes later I had a barefoot horse. No more thrown shoes, no more not knowing what to do (sarcastic smirk). Let me show you what "barefoot" looked like at this point in our journey.

Bear in mind (hey, a pun - cool!) that I had NO education regarding barefoot trimming at this point. I just sorta knew that many horses could go barefoot. Red got his shoeless hoofs and very gingerly tippy toed back to the general pasture. He just needed awhile to toughen up his feet. Right? OK out there - those of you who know the pathologies promoted by the pasture trim have gotta be shaking your heads and clucking your disapproval.

This situation went on for a couple of trim cycles (8 - 10 weeks). It really didn't take much for me to figure something wasn't right. When I mentioned to my farrier that it seemed to take about one month before Red stopped being lame after a trim, he said" Well, about 75% of the horses I trim are tender-footed afterwards." HUH?

I am embarrassed/ashamed to to admit that I did not, at that instant, fire my farrier. I really liked this guy - and I did not want to do anything that would hurt my horse. And so I continued to subject him to pasture trims
AND I started to educate myself about what it would take to make my horse sound on all surfaces at all times.

I asked people (the very knowledgeable woman in my barn sort of mentored me), searched online, read everything I could, read Pete Ramey's "Making Natural Hoofcare Work for You" over and over and over again. And FINALLY I bought my own hoof file. Still, I was so, so timid about laying the file on Red's hoofs. I started small, with a conservative mustang roll.

My farrier started to comment on how good Red's hoofs were holding up between trims. We went through a couple of more trim cycles this way. Meanwhile my knowledge base was growing. I was beginning to understand the the sole of each hoof provided the finest trim guide I could ask for. I realized that Red was sore after his farrier trims because his toe callous was chopped off each time.

Finally, I spoke up. I asked my farrier to stop doing this. He looked at me, sort rolled his eyes, and said, "There is no such thing as a toe callous." He proceeded to trim aways Red's toe callouses yet one more time - for the last time.

It took along time folks. Too long, but bear with me here please. Making the leap to natural hoof care, taking up the file yourself, can be a profound change of paradigms and a radical act. If you live in a community where there is little support for barefoot trimming, you face (truly) the chance of being black-balled by your local farriers. Sound crazy? Not so.

When you DARE TO BE BARE you are not only helping your horse, you are becoming part of a social change movement that is growing at warp speed. This is a different way of doing business, a radically different approach to what it takes to make and keep your horse sound. You will find old school (iron bound) vets and farriers that speak from an entirely different world view. The knowledge base that supports the Barefoot Movement is extensive and growing daily.

On September, 2007 I became an owner-trimmer. Our journey has just begun.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In the Beginning

When I purchased Red, he had shoes. I never questioned why he wore iron on each hoof. Hey, he was a horse, those were horse shoes. I made a commitment to provide him with the best care and that meant finding a farrier ASAP and being sure to schedule regular shoeing appointments. It also meant ensuring that Red was well behaved and safe to work on. I religiously picked out his hoofs every day. What more could I do?

Actually, I never worried about his feet during the first few months. Yeah, he did have toe cracks with some weird V carved into the hoof, to stop the cracks from getting bigge, or something. I figured farriers knew what they were up to. I loved my new farrier. A truly nice guy, he was good with Red and patient with my horse's initial bad behavior (oh, just rearing, kicking, and spinning), trusting that I was working on this.

And I did work on it, diligently. Red was terrible with his feet. He would pull them away, lean back until he his belling threatened to bump the barn floor, and scoot sideways - anything to avoid giving his hoofs over.

With the help of Red's uncontrollable lust for carrots, and a big, soft cotton rope, it wasn't long before he would lift his hoofs when I requested and hold them until I released him. The rope was useful for looping around a pastern and lifting his hoof while I'd say "up hoof." That way I was far out of the kick zone. The carrots became his reward for putting his hoof down when I said "hoof down." Red's hoofs started going down only when I asked and as soon as they would touch the mat under our tie post his head would turn to me for his carrot. For those of you who practice the "never feed treats" philos - Red has this little sign that says "Will Work for Carrots." It is what worked for us.

My very nice farrier was happy with Red's new manners in the farrier shed and I was happy with our farrier. One of my annoying traits is I"m curious and like to ask questions. So while we were chatting away over the metallic clang of hammer on nails, I asked my nice farrier how come the cracks in Red's hoofs weren't going away - what the heck were they anyway. Well, I learned they were "sand cracks" and my farrier guy said that horses sometimes got them when they were in damp earth conditions for too long. Ah, OK. Well what would help? I then learned that they would probably go away on their own, if not my farrier would rig up a some sort of thingie that would stabilize the crack while it grew out. Hmmm, OK.

Before long, more and more questions started to blossom on the curiosity tree in my mind.