05 February 2015

A picture can be worth a thousand shrieks

    "The continuing saga of Raven's feet". 

    Last week, Matt the Farrier returned to work on Raven's feet.
(see "A silver lining to white line disease").

    I was able to take decent photos of his feet this time.

    In  a way, I wish I hadn't.
    Take a look at these and tell me they don't make you cringe.


     Especially the last one...that nail end was a tendon ripping, artery opening accident waiting to happen.

     I can't tell from the first series of photos how bad they were. The damage was hidden in part by the epoxy from earlier sessions. We were focusing too closely on the white line to really pay attention to this.

     But, again, things aren't as bleak as they may appear.

     The white line is almost gone. Matt dug out just a little bit in both hind hooves. It's almost cleared up. 
     Raven's hoof angles are improving measurably. Not only can we see that the heels are opening up and actually impacting the ground when we're holding a hoof,  we (I) can see it in the way he moves.

    Even before Matt came back for this latest session, I could see Raven feeling 'happier' in his feet. Watching Sue ride as often as I do, I've learned what is normal for Raven. Up until now, he's always dragged those hind hooves. You could see long, shallow grooves left from them as he trotted (in a freshly raked arena). I'd watch the puffs of dirt rise up from them as he trotted on hot dry days. His hooves were burnished on the fronts. In other words, he's always dragged his feet.

    But last month, watching him move under saddle, I saw something different. Not as much dragging, in fact, hardly any dragging at all. Instead, when they trotted past me, I'd see: shoes. Four of them, not two in front and just a suggestion in the back. His trot has developed more bounce, more rhythm, more balance. His whole body language said that he was feeling more comfortable in his feet. 

   Matt was early, as usual. (it's so nice to have a farrier that not only is on time, but is sometimes early).  He got right to work on Raven's feet. This time we were going to do something different. We decided to let Raven's back feet go barefoot.

   There's a lot of argument regarding barefoot horses. My last owned horse, Jordan, had feet like rocks. My farrier at the time would bitch that he had to use his harder rasp on Jordan, a CMK Arabian. Within six months of buying Jordan, I realized he didn't need shoes, and had them pulled. He went barefoot for the rest of his life and was quite happy. So was I: shoes are expensive. I kept him trimmed every 8 weeks.

   Alas, Raven isn't so lucky. He's 1/2 Trakehner, 1/2 Thoroughbred. He has the TB speed and the TB feet-meaning they're not as tough as one would wish. 

    The Last Farrier, a well meaning man, advised Raven NEVER go barefoot. But as I've discussed earlier, I'm convinced that he was unintentionally the reason for the problem. He was right: Raven's feet were so bad that going barefoot would have been disastrous. 

    I'm a big fan of letting a horse go barefoot, especially if he's not going to be used for trail riding. But I also understand, now, that many horses just cannot go barefoot. Five thousand years of domestication has given us a wonderful animal and friend, but it came with a price in the form of anatomical and conformational weaknesses.

  There's a mindset among some horsemen that NO horse should wear shoes. 

   The 'natural shoeing' set think that a horse is a horse, but they're not. Basing their ideology on the legendary toughness of mustang's feet, they insist that all horses can and should be barefoot. 
But they are wrong. The reason the mustangs that were examined and their feet extolled over are mustangs that had good feet. Mustangs with bad feet DIE.  (I think one of the wierdest things I ever saw was a mustang at the BLM with a split hoof. I mean, split in two, toe to heel. The only reason he was alive was that he'd been rounded up). The basic premise of natural selection is that the sick, the old and/or the disabled animal is the one that is picked off by a predator.

   Domesticated horses are bred for many things, but never, as far as I can tell, solely for good solid feet. So they don't have them. While I don't like it, I understand that most horses NEED shoes. We ask too much of their feet: carrying us as well as the horse, on unnatural surfaces, in unnatural conditions, applying unnatural forces, keeping them confined in small paddocks or worse, in stalls,  in too soft, too wet, too dry, and trimming them as well as we are able and not always succeeding.  That is where all our foot problems arise. Shoeing and improper trimming exacerbates an already poor hoof. 

   If you still doubt me, consider Homo sapiens. Us. Chances are you grew up in what we consider 'first world' conditions-you lived in a house, you walked on sidewalks, you started wearing shoes at a very early age. Your feet look 'normal' to you, until you look at the feet of someone from, say, Kenya, a person who grew up never wearing anything more substantial than a pair of flipflops. 

    Humans who have never worn shoes have feet that look almost deformed to us. Their toes and feet splay out. They are the natural human foot, a part of the human body that was never meant to be shod. WE shod humans are the ones with the deformed feet.

    People who grow up in warm climates, such as that found in Africa, living in poor rural communities, often never wear a shoe. They might not be able to afford shoes, but they are also in a place where they don't need them. It pays off, too. Let's consider the  Thoroughbreds of the human species, Kenyans. When it comes to running long distance marathons, there's the Kenyans, and then there are the also rans, all us white folk who seldom went barefoot, bringing up the rear. The Kenyans sometimes run the marathons barefoot. 

I believe they compete in the Olympics barefoot. When they compete in our marathons,  (you will please forgive the pun, but I can't resist) they are a shoe in. They're so far ahead of the rest of the runners that, several years ago, some boneheaded racist tried to make a rule that any Kenyan that ran in the Boston Marathon be disqualified solely because everyone knew they'd beat all the white (and black) Americans by many, many minutes. Thankfully the dipshits were shouted down and, hopefully, run out of town on a rail. I have no patience whatsoever with racists.The point being, Kenyans win. Every time. It's because they grew up in natural feet.

   The above photos were captured from the net and I'm sorry but I cannot find any citations of the original posters. The first is fairly recent, showing the feet of two Africans who are showing normal, never shod feet. 
   The middle picture was taken as part of a study of the human foot done in the early 1900's. It shows a picture of an African person who'd never worn a shoe in his or her life.  The third one shows a pair of normal, never shod feet in fig. 1, and, in Fig. 2  a pair of shoes or boots that look all too familiar to shoes of today (especially high heeled ones and cowboy boots) and the third showing the resulting pair of feet from wearing such footwear. 

  See the differences? That's what happens to feet. As they grow, they're formed by the footwear. Our feet, while they grow throughout our lifetime, can and do change but it's usually in response to wearing shoes. I don't believe that they can revert to the natural form. Horses, though, have a different foot that changes shape to suit the environment. 

   That doesn't mean that there's not a propensity for the 'natural shoeing' mindset to also afflict human runners.

     There are millions of runners/joggers in the US. You can see them everywhere-running in parks, alongside roads, running with dogs, pushing strollers, running fast, jogging slowly-but moving at a fast clip-in shoes. 
  About two years ago, the 'natural running' fad hit the US. 

   Someone who obviously had good feet to begin with came up with the idea that we should all be running barefoot. We were "designe to run barefoot."  (you will excuse the term: I don't believe in 'creation science' or 'intelligent design". One look at our bodies will tell you that if we were designed by some creator, he was insane. Bluntly put, we evolved.)
We DID evolve to run barefoot. But civilization changed that, as it has changed everything else about us. 
    The barefoot running craze hit-and lasted perhaps one season. People who ran in shoes for miles without pain had it forcibly proved to them that running barefoot is a terrible idea.

    The instances of foot injuries skyrocketed. Podiatrists were inundated with runners who had shin splints, bone spurs, plantar fasciaitis, torn ligaments, green stick fractures of the tibia, sciatica, broken ankles, people with hip, back and neck injuries-all due to trying to be something they aren't: barefoot runners. That's just skeletal injuries: skin damage from our relatively filthy roads, strewn with gravel, rocks, broken glass, pieces of metal, dog dung, pollutants such as oil, you name it, it was on the roster. Feet that had carried their owners for miles, were suddenly sources of pain and medical emergencies because they had been forced to be barefoot. You can't unscramble an egg, and you can't run barefoot if you've been wearing shoes all your life.  

    We are so formed by shoes that one day, I was forced to walk about in my rubber boots without my orthotics in them. One day. And the next week I was in great pain and so lame I could barely walk.  

    Back to the topic! 

    Once Matt had pulled the shoes and the epoxy, I took photos...and am still cringing at the damage still evident from bad shoeing and the white line disease. Yet underneath, the sole is improving, and Raven is growing the hoof out at a good pace. 

   He dug out what was left of the white line. The feet are looking better even though, externally, they look dreadful. 

   Matt, however, was so encouraged by the real improvements he's wrought in Raven's feet that he decided to forego the epoxy, for now...and let the horse go barefoot. (in the rear only).

    We decided to let the hooves grow out without shoes. NOT, though, unshod. No, we put him in boots. They're rubber overshoes.  Matt insisted we keep applying the white line killing stuff and to keep the hooves dry. We are making progress. Spring and summer are coming, and with the warmer weather, his feet will grow faster. We take them off at night when he's in his stall to let his feet breathe and dry out. (because he sweats in them, a bit).

    He seems quite content to be in them. It sounds odd to hear him walk..instead of that sweet, sweet 'clip clop' (a sound so near to my heart that it probably could replace my own heartbeat) and is now a "clip fwub clip fwub". 

   We're getting there. Next trimming, I'll post more photos. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

M, Still unable to get notification when you post - will keep trying! Mostly agree with barefoot not necessarily being the universal panacea, as the current trend would have it, borne out of own experiences (and a chiropodist brother in law's comments!).
Just a thought; I understood that the Kenyans' superiority n long-distance running was mainly down to their habituation to high-altitude conditions and thus improved lung capacity.