Before and after
Below some examples of what can be done with correct trimming. All these horses already had natural living conditions - the only thing changed is the hoofcare.
Dutch Warmblood mare, born in 1990
Long term problems with severe cracks in all 4 feet. Horse had natural living conditions for several years already. In those years the hoof care was a 'pasture trim' done by a farrier. Horse is now fully useable again, moves well and is very active.
Left hind, summer 2006 Left hind, winter 2006/2007
Thoroughbred gelding, born in 1998
Horse had been barefoot for a year when these pictures were taken. Trim during that time was a 'wild horse trim'.
Due to personal circumstances the owner of this horse has had little time to ride or otherwise exercise the horse, which of course slowed rehabilitation somewhat.
Currently the horse is moving well, fully usable and very active.
08-10-2006 Right front Left front
Hooves are extremely underslung (heels are 'too far forward'). Bulbs and frog are pressed in and forward. Split between bulbs very deep, bulbs uneven and pressed together. Hooves are contracted (too narrow, especially at the heels).
08-05-2007 Right front Left front
Hooves are less narrow overall. Heels less underslung (not so 'far under the hoof' anymore). Bulbs less pressed together, 'split' not so deep anymore. Left front (temporarily) almost square on one side.
29-08-2007 Right front Left front
Clear widening of both front feet. Split in bulbs less deep. Small bruise in left front frog area. Between May 2007 (pictures above) and August of 2007, the horse went up a size in boots. Hooves are still somewhat contracted, bulbs pressed together.
Thoroughbred gelding, born in 1999
Problems with hoof cracks and lameness for several years. These pictures were taken in March 2007. A partial hoof wall resection in a hoof clinic did not help.
The hind shoes were taken off in spring 2007, the front shoes in May 2007.
The horse is currently (spring 2008) in full training again. The picture with rider, below, shows the horse just after a three hour ride - without boots.
Right front, March 2007
Right front, February 2008 February 2008, after a 'little' ride..
Arab mare, born in 1989
Hoof form has a huge impact on the whole horse. Also it is often said that it is 'normal' that older horses deteriorate in their body shape.
This horse was already barefoot and had natural living conditions. Correct trimming made a big difference in the way this horse was standing and carrying herself (even though she was 18 years at the time these pictures were taken).
Of course it is possible to 'set up' such pictures, but the last picture shows that the improved conformation also lasted when standing in the field.
March 5, 2007. Before first trim. Horse is standing with front and hind feet very far under itself. Steep shoulder, back-end high.
March 8, 2007. After first trim and 'check-up'. Cannon bones are vertical. Horse is no longer standing under itself. Shoulder is less steep. Hind end and neck more relaxed.
March 27, 2007. Improved conformation, also when resting in the field. Whole horse more relaxed, conformation much more correct.
Trakehner mare, born in 1990
Long, sloping pasterns are usually seen as either a genetic defect or an effect of old age. Usually this is treated by raising the heels, which actually has the opposite effect since that will slacken the flexor tendon even more.
This negative effect of high heels has been described already almost a century ago:
'Raising the heel or shortening the toe not only tilts the coffin bone forward and makes the hoof stand steeper at the toe, but slackens the tendon that attaches to the under surface of the coffin bone (perforans tendon), and therefore allows the fetlock joint to sink downward and backward and the long pastern to assume a more nearly horizontal position. The foot-axis, viewed from one side, is now broken forward; that is, the long pastern is less steep than the toe, and the heels are either too long or the toe is too short.'
John W. Adams, A.B., V.M.
Professor of Surgery and Lecturer on Shoeing
Veterinary Department, University of Pennsylvania
'Diseases of the Horse'
USA Department of Agriculture, 1911
April 2007 Very long, sloping pastern. Angles are abnormal; fetlock seems to be 'dropping'. Underslung heels. Whole hoof seems to be under tension.
March 2008 Hoof/pastern/fetlock joint angles more normal. Fetlock is not as low anymore. Even in an older horse improvement is definitely possible.
Coldblood trotter mare, born in 2001
This 6-year old mare had been shod for 2 years. In that period the front feet developed very deep cracks (hind feet minor cracks). The cracks had gotten so bad that the farrier said shoeing was no longer possible. He recommended that the horse should go barefoot.
At the time the shoes were taken off (February 2008), the front feet were literally collapsing under the weight of the horse.
Half a year later the cracks are growing out nicely. However, since they were so deep it is possible that the coffin bone has been 'dented' and/or that some hairline cracks will remain. This should not make the horse any less useable.
The new, healthier hoof wall has not grown down fully yet (of course this takes time) but with boots the horse goes well on all surfaces.
Right front, February 2008 Left front sole view, February 2008
Severe cracks front and side Deep keratoma (pressure from tip of shoe).
Separations all around.
Left front. Very high heels, enormous weight on front of hoof. Hoof has very severe crack and is starting to collaps in front because of the unphysiological pressure.
Right front, August 2008. Cracks have closed Left front. Keratoma smaller. Separations
along the top 2/3 of the hoof. almost gone (still some in toe area).
Left front, August 2008. Crack is starting to heal - last few centimeters still separated. Hoof form much more normal with no more excess pressure on front of hoof.
'In the horse, as in man, all diseases are easier to cure at the start than after they have become chronic and have been wrongly diagnosed.'
Xenophon 431-355 BC
'The Art of Horsemanship'
'In Newmarket, England, one of the favorite training gallops is a lovely stretch of heath called the Limekilns because the soil is a porous, rapidly drying limestone. The veterinary surgeons and trainers know that after a dry spell followed by a light evening rain, horses training on the Limekilns are liable to fracture the proximal phalanx. The limestone soil dries quickly; the light rain moistens the grass, and a slippery surface is created. Add to this the rolling, uphill nature of certain sections of the gallop, and screwdriver fractures become virtually a way of life. It is sadly true that training these horses barefoot would markedly decrease the incidence of screwdriver fractures because slipping would largely be avoided.
In North America such screwdriver fractures are probably seen (we have no data) more often in cutting, roping, barrel racing horses. Large caulks are often put on the shoes of such animals 'for better traction'. When the horses make sharp, low, sit-down turns, the foot is riveted to the ground by the caulks, the body twists around, and the proximal phalanx breaks.
Prevention is obvious - no caulks, no speed work on slippery surfaces, pull off the shoes if you must go. The hoof makes much better contact with the ground unshod.'
James Rooney, DVM
'The Lame Horse', 1998