Sunday, March 6, 2016

PNER Convention Notes – “Endurance Foot Care” – by Sue Summers and Lee Pearce

One of the talks I attended at the PNER convention in January 2016 was all about the things we put on our horses’ feet to protect them. As most horse people know, the old adage “no foot, no horse” often holds true. And when you are asking your equine partner to carry you for twenty five, fifty, or even a hundred miles, good hoof-care is key!

They started the talk by hammering home the fact that knowledge is not understanding. By using the example of a backwards steering bike (where when you turn the handlebars the wheel turns the opposite direction) they illustrated that once you have a ridged way of thinking, It’s hard, or even impossible to change. A lot of us get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over, believing it will work like we expect it too (this holds true to when we think the same thing is going to work for every horse.). I think the idea that “knowledge is not understanding” is a tenet that I should keep in the back of my mind for other areas of my life.

All endurance horses should have some kind of hoof protection – and what that protection entails depends on terrain, the horse, the nutrition intake, etc! There are so many hoof protection products on the market right now so you have lots of things to try. Both Summers and Pearce told us what products they like to use as farriers. What follows are some pictures I took of different products that were passed around during the presentation (I’ll try and link to the products I recall throughout and I’m sure my readers will chime in about what they recognize as well).

Protecting your horse's feet starts before you saddle up to ride or even consider what protection our horse may need. These were some of overriding themes of this talk:
  • Bad shoeing is going to be cumulative! Horses can lie to you – they may not be moving as efficiently as they could. And you want them to move efficiently in this sport. 
  • The most important part of hoof protection is a GOOD TRIM.
  • The LONG foot is the enemy. Keep everything short and balanced. Essentially this makes it easier for them to move. (Again, it’s all about efficiency.)
  • The environment that foot lives in will affect everything else. For example, crushed heels seem to be common where it is very sandy – because you don’t get that natural dirt pack. Feet packed with dirt isn’t a bad thing. Think of it like Mother Nature’s own pad!

Steel and Metal Shoes

The old standard is, of course, steel shoes. Steel shoes are still in common use and work very well for many horses. Both Pearce and Summers like Triumph steel for when you are not going to be riding through a lot of rocks. Aluminum shoes are good for heavy competition – especially for gaited horses who wing out (because then they have less weight on legs). The biggest issue with aluminum is they wear out quickly.

A Table full of examples!

Glue-on Boots

There are two main brands for glue-on boots right now: Easyboot and Renegade. Sue Summers noted she prefers the Easyboot Glove glue-ons. Renegades are also popular.

It was emphasized that these DO stay on if applied properly! This usually means: Adhere on the wall of the boot and Gooberglue (also called Silkaflex) on the sole of the boot and hoof. Gooberglue dries more slowly and is like a sponge. Horses love it and in the presenters’ experience, horses with this kind of padding in a glue-on shell no longer look for the soft footing on the trail. Summers noted that she applies Durasole before shoe or glue-on. It’s also good for a barefoot horse.

There are some issues to consider with a glue-on shell. For instance, most hind feet are more triangle shaped and most glue-ons are more round shaped. Summers noted that because of this she often has a gap along the edge of the toe she has to fill with glue on the hind feet. Also, the hoof has to be completely dry before you apply them! Another downside is they are hard to take off and are usually one-use only (though people do sand out the excess glue and re-use them, but that’s labor-intensive).

This hoof-needing-to-be-dry issue would be the reason I don’t use them for Deli in her current living situation. She can’t be stalled overnight to get dry and we live on the wet side. Glue-ons would probably only work well during the height of summer on a non-humid day. 

Glue-ons are usually just for a single ride. They can stay on for 2 weeks for a ride and they are fabulous for multi-days. Sue Summers has a tip for glue-ons: she duct-tapes the heel to keep the glue from picking up things in turnout (because it takes around 4 hours to dry).

Here is a video from Easycare showing the process for gluing –on one of their shells. And here is a revised gluing method, also from easy-care. This gives a good idea of what you need to do to glue-on shells!

This is the bottom of a boot used in Tevis.

More wear examples.

Strap-on Boots

Neither of the presenters seemed to be a fan of the strap-on boots and they did not go into depth as to why. Summers noted that the horses seem to move choppier with the strap-ons, giving them a shorter stride. They also mentioned potential issues with rubbing and that you were more likely to lose them.

I do use strap-ons for Deli and plan to continue to in the near future. The Easyboot Gloves, in particular have worked really well for Deli (I have never lost a single one) and I am using Renegades for her hind feet due to an issue with the Gloves not fitting her scarred right hind pastern well. The rubbing can be an issue: our last tough ride the Renegade on one foot did cause a rub. One of my mentors has suggesting using bodyglide next time. Or I may try the Gloves for the hinds again because I’ve found the Easycare products (and customer service) so much more reliable. I'd love to try other things in the future if we do start going to regular rides. As they say: use what works for you!

Composite Shoes

Composite shoes are made from some combination of plastic and possibly metal. Some can be glued on and others can be nailed and/or glued. The general idea of a composite shoe is to get some of the benefits of a traditional steel shoe while getting some of the benefits of a boot (lighter, more shock-absorbing, flexible). In fact the presenters noted that composites in general reduce 65% of the concussion to the foot and they are lighter.

One of the major issues with composite shoes is that the horse’s foot has to be the same shape. Your farrier can’t shape the shoe to fit your horse over a forge. The horses do love the composite shoes – but they have to have a foot that fits the shape of the shoe as it comes!

The “EasyShoe Performance N/G” is a product both Summers and Pearce recommended and passed around. It is quite a clever design, in my opinion: you can glue AND/OR nail (has a metal plate inside it, which give the ridged structure needed for nailing-on). Summers noted that these shoes do last: she knows people that reset them. It seemed like this shoe is versatile based on what the presenters were saying. For example, you can fill the hole in the center with equi-thane adhesive, and you can add spacers to the back of this shoe. The presenters noted that this shoe is really great for horses with contracted heels (especially when utilizing spacers).

Easycare also has other models which are ONLY for gluing-on (Though Pearce noted he sometimes puts nails in them). Unlike the glue-on boots these can stay on for a full trim cycle. 

When comparing glue on boots versus composite shoes:
  • You can keep the glue-on or other composite shoes on for 6 weeks
  • Glue-on boots stay on better, and so are better for an intense ride.
  • At Tevis and other extreme endurance rides glue-on boots have been the most successful. But it you are going to use something new (like a glue-on boot) you don’t want the first time to be at a hardcore ride. Try them out on a 50 first!
  • What should inform your decision if  you are trying to decide between glue-on boots (or strap on) versus a nailed-on shoe versus a composite shoe of some kind?
  • The conformation of the pastern AND the hoof conformation need to be taken into account. When you have long toes and long pastern (especially with weak heels) you are adding a lot more stress with glue-on boots. Why? Because you are extending the breakover and have more leverage.
  • The shape of the hoof will change ability to do composite shoes.
  • Horses that have feet that tend to want to flatten out (pancake) do not do good in composite shoes because they just exaggerates that flattening out trend. Consequently, an upright and contracted will do really well in a composite because it will help the foot to spread out!
Pads & Packing
  • Wedge pads affect bone alignment. These can be used if a horse has bad heel (like a crushed heel) and you have to take heel off to get to better quality horn. However, hopefully wedge pads are always temporary. In fact, they can be detrimental so you have to know what you are doing (so incorporate the veterinarian and get feet x-rayed).
  • Packing under pads usually encourages a thicker sole. Putting a sponge or something in boots will thicken soles up too! However, when you are doing pour-in packing, do not have the cushion or pads so that they are flush with the ground. This can cause sole soreness and pressure points.
  • Summers noted she was a big fan of concussion rim pads (in the front feet in particular).
  • Equipak CS is also a recommended product – it has copper sulfate in it to help with white line and thrush.
  • Leather pads not so useful in endurance – they can get sand and things underneath them and lame the horse easily. This introduction of material defeats the purpose of packing (which is to keep sand and stuff out).
  • Just having a pad makes problems of bacterial growth arise, so always PACK when you are PADDING.
  • Both the presenters love the product: Magic cushion. They note it’s best for horses with sore feet after the ride as a therapeutic treatment.
That's all for now!

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