PODIATRY

Your horse’s feet are complex. Their health is an essential part in the upkeep of your horse. 

I cannot overestimate the importance of proper foot care for your horse. The feet, musculoskeletal system, and teeth go hand in hand and have a symbiotic relationship keeping your horse at its optimal comfort and performance, while decreasing the incidences of pain, injury, lameness, downtime, and expenditure of finances.

Proper evaluation and care of your horse’s feet will prevent injuries in the feet and in other areas of your horse. Various shoeing options are available to help relieve pathologies that are present in the foot, as well as in other areas of your horse’s body. An example is arthritic joints.

In reverse, proper alignment and movement of your horse via chiropractic, acupuncture, and dentistry can alleviate problems with the feet, such as pulled shoes.

Many horses’ lameness and musculoskeletal problems start and end with the feet.

 


Podiatry — Helpful Information for Your Horse

Proper foot care is an essential part of the preservation of the horse. Do the best to help your horse by taking care of its feet and knowing that there are possible shoeing options that may help your horse as a whole.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the foot and the rest of the horse’s body that allows the horse to move comfortably with minimal restrictions, work freely, and to perform at its maximum potential. Keep in mind that not only does a horse need to move as a whole, it needs to do this with several possible sources of interference, such as a bit in its mouth, and a non-moveable object (saddle) sandwiched between it and another moving entity (rider). 

Being observant of your horses feet will be very helpful. Check your horse’s feet and shoes prior to each ride. Many times I have evaluated horses that are being worked with loose shoes, unbeknownst to the rider. This leads to tight, strained, or torn tendons and ligaments, and sore muscles. Imagine yourself leaping over hurdles (jumping), running (trotting, cantering), taking ballet lessons (dressage), or climbing Mount Everest (endurance) in flip flops! Loose shoes are unstable shoes.

Proper evaluation and care of your horses feet will help the whole horse. Regular and well-maintained correct trimming and shoeing of your horse will help prevent medical concerns and injuries throughout the rest of your horse’s body, such as bowed tendons.

Proper foot care will help avoid problems. There are many podiatry options available to the horse regarding syndromes that are related to the foot itself or to other musculoskeletal issues occurring with your horse. These options can allow for increased comfort, decreased pain and/or decreased progression of the problem. An example of this is bone spavin (arthritis of the hock joint), which then can progress to sore hips, and a sore back.

Proper chiropractic, acupuncture and dental care of your horse will help your horses feet. Chiropractic, acupuncture, and dental care will help keep your horse in its center of gravity, correct balance, and proper movement. This will reduce the incidence of problems occurring in the foot such as ringbone (arthritis of the coffin or pastern joint), stressed or torn tendons within the foot, interference, and pulled shoes.

Veterinarian and farrier communication: For proper care of your horse’s feet, I find it is helpful and worthwhile that the farrier and I have direct and open communication. In some cases it is critical and of utmost importance to discuss cases I work with, if need be, directly with your horse’s farrier. It is valuable to attend each other’s meetings, and possibly meet each other in person to review radiographs with you and your horse. When the veterinarian and farrier have a direct and open dialogue regarding your horse, it will enhance a positive outcome that will favor your horse. 

How the veterinarian may assist your farrier and how the farrier may assist your veterinarian to benefit your horse:

       • The veterinarian can assist the farrier:

  • By pointing out areas of concern that were found upon a physical exam; for example, positive Churchill test of the hocks.
  • By performing properly marked radiographs of the foot so that the veterinarian and farrier can see and evaluate what is truly happening within the foot capsule, allowing for a proper trim and application of the shoe in cases when precision is of utmost importance; for example, applying heart bar shoes to a laminitis or founder case.
  • The farrier can assist the veterinarian:
  • By easing pain in different areas of the horse where the veterinarian has diagnosed as being a concern to your horse. A farrier may do this with a multiple range of shoes; for example, applying a patten shoe to relieve pressure from an injured deep digital flexor tendon, or a half round shoe for easier breakover in an arthritic joint.

We should remember that we are all in service to the horse and that our common end goal is to increase the optimal health and function of the horse by allowing it to be more comfortable, perform at its maximum ability, and halt progression of a problem.

Having the veterinarian and farrier working together is of great value. Encourage communication, and your horse will benefit.

If only it were always as simple as this:

“If you keep the patient in mind, you will never lose." 
    - Robin Williams, from the movie "Patch Adams"

Keeping the patient in mind by communicating directly with each other allows for the optimal health of each individual horse.

Conclusion:

Conscientious professional foot care will help decrease problems within the foot itself and the rest of your horse’s body. Correct balance and proper alignment of the horse’s body via chiropractic, acupuncture, and dentistry will also help maintain foot soundness.