September 3, 2015

Gemmie Update: Mr. Farrier Comes Again

The Plan:  Remove bar shoe and replace with steel keg shoe right front.

The Execution:

Time sure does fly by. Thursday night was time to get rid of that bar shoe and place her into a regular shoe. I understood the point of the bar shoe to prevent any heel bulb expansion and allow full healing to occur. With no tendon involvement and pretty spectacular healing, I really wasn't fully understanding the need to continue to shoe her. Yes, I have drank fully and deeply the Barefoot Kool-Aid, but that doesn't make me wrong. In my mind, if I wanted her to grow the most normal hoof she can then it just made sense to get the hoof functioning as normal as possible = barefoot. However, the vet had said shoes for a year and the hubby was concerned over the medial hoof wall crack, so shoes it was going to be.

I arrived early and saw this wonderful harbinger of fall in the South:

He was a good 3 inches across and bright yellow with blue and peach legs. If you look at the center of the web, it gives away this extremely interesting spider. It is a Signature Spider and each signs the web with its own "signature". I love the spiders down here and fall is peak time for them to come out.

As I waited for Mr. Farrier to arrive, I got a close look at Gem's hooves. I've been keeping my eye on something that is off about her injured hoof. Below is the front right lateral hoof wall (outside). This was not injured in any way. There is a small healed rub mark from the  dressing along the coronary band, but the actual wall was not injured. As it is growing out the new growth is growing in a solid 1/2 - 3/4" wider than the old hoof wall thus forming a bulge and crevasse.

I tried getting a shot from behind to show how much farther the new growth is protruding outward.

Lucky for you, I also discovered a paint app for my Mac. The red line below is drawn straight up the side hoof wall. The red arrow is showing the bulge as the new growth is coming in wider than the old hoof wall. The yellow arrow is pointing out the crevasse this is creating at the junction of new and old hoof wall.

The red arrow below is showing the crevasse from the side view.

Below is her medial hoof wall which was injured and the resultant crack.

The sold red arrow below is showing where the cut entered through the hoof root and into the hoof wall itself. This area is being watched closely as it will most likely end up as a weak area prone to cracking. The blue arrow is pointing to the horizontal crack from the injury and subsequent wire suturing. 

Mr. Farrier arrived and I bombarded him with questions. What was going on with the lateral hoof wall? Will this normalize with time? Is the medial crack of big concern for breaking off? Will she have a vertical weak area? What will putting shoes on her do functionally right now? Should I look into the synthetic lines? Will she ever go barefoot again? When?

Poor Mr. Farrier didn't know what he walked in to.

He just slowed me down, crawled on his hands and knees to look her over closely, then sat with his back against the barn wall and we hashed it all out. Seriously, I am in LOVE.

The lateral hoof wall is due to the fiberglass cast she was in for over a month. The restriction placed on the hoof made it shrink in narrower. We compared the width of her right versus left fronts and the right is a sold inch narrower. Since I had just measured her for boots prior to injury I know that this was not the case pre injury. He admitted to never seeing this in person before and basically we just have to watch as it grows out to see what it is going to do. The hope is that it continues to grow down the entire way at this new width and that in a year's time she will have a whole new, healthy hoof capsule. What will be really interesting is when this section comes into close contact with the ground. Will it chip off? Will it be an issue?

Next was the medial crack. Dusty's big concern all along has been this coming off and taking half her hoof with it. Its why he pushed for shoes. As Mr. Farrier looked at it closely, he remarked how extremely tough her feet are, how the crack was tight, and concluded that for the moment it is not going to do much of anything. Once again we need to be patient as it grows out.

Last we discussed shoes. My main question was what function would the steel shoe be providing that being barefoot wouldn't allow? Will it protect the crack from propagating? After a 30 minute discussion we concluded that the shoe would be doing nothing. Her feet are rock solid awesome. The crack isn't down far enough to be offloaded by the shoe. In fact, he said that he is concerned that by not allowing the hoof to function naturally, that we would be limiting its ability to grow back normally. He worried that we would force the hoof to remain more narrow thus creating a large crack laterally. He also said that once the cracked medial wall (he referred to it as a hoof wall scar) grew down to be weight bearing, that it would not allow a shoe on as it would not give a solid, flat surface to shoe. This would then require a filler but even then you run the risk of having the heel bulb drop as it tries to make contact.

We both looked at each other and shook our heads. Barefoot it would be.

We both then pulled out our phones to call someone to confirm that we were not crazy. I called Dusty who had questions, but in the end agreed that allowing the hoof to function naturally would be the best bet. He cautioned to keep a close eye on her early on and call Mr. Farrier out if there is any issue to shoe her immediately.

Mr. Farrier called his mentor who is a highly regarding lameness/hoof expert vet. She talked to him at length and agreed with the plan.

With a little lump in my throat and a whole lot of second guessing, I watched as he removed her shoes. I know this will make me sound crazy. I wouldn't have believed it if Mr. Farrier hadn't also mentioned it, but as soon as the shoes were off and Gem put her bare feet on the ground she let out a sigh, chewed a bit and then broke out into a full body sweat. We were both shocked and it solidified our decision. Increased blood flow, increased air flow, better proprioception and natural loading seems like the best way to get the hoof to be "normal" again.

Once he had her trimmed up, he asked me to walk her out of the barn and onto the paved driveway. I walked her coming and going and then asked her to trot. She was spot on solid, sound and heel first. He remarked that she looked fine, but may be a little sore in the next 5-7 days given the fact that she hasn't been bare in 3 months. He also remarked that she hadn't lost much of her natural concavity and that her sole callus was still intact.

 He painted her with some hoof tuff stuff and recommended I get some to apply 3 times a week for a while. I will get some this weekend and start ASAP. He wants it more to seal the medial wall crack from moisture than anything else.

After he was gone, I grabbed my own rasp and finished her toes the way I like. He does a great trim otherwise and her heels will need a bit of time to come down more again, but he left her toes much longer than I prefer. I just touched them up and made a more aggressive mustang roll and called it quits. For $30 you can't beat it.

In the end I am feeling 75% confident about this choice. A part of me is really scared I did the wrong thing and she is going to ruin all of this hard work, but only time will tell that. I have the Renegades which I plan to try to fit her in the next couple of weeks. I am hoping they work out still even with the mildly deformed heel bulb. I think it will be safer to ride her on harder or rocky ground in the boots until a whole new hoof wall is grown down.

What do you all think? Did we make a good choice or not?


  1. I think you made a good choice. There were a whole lot of moments where you could have seen signs that shoes were the way to go. Obviously time will tell but I think you're going to be vigilant about any changes that might indicate shoes need to come back.

    1. I sure hope I did. I'm generally not one to second guess, but this has me going back and forth.

  2. I think you made the best decision based on the information you had. I think some people automatically think horses need to be shod (just like a Dr we ran into who thought our son needed to be circumsized) and don't really evaluate what is the reality with an individual horse.

    1. The surgeon was very much anti barefoot and never understood why I didn't have shoes on her in the first place. Her opinion was so biased towards shoes that I couldn't rely on her at all for this decision.

  3. When I was in a very similar situation, I chose to go ahead with shoes for a little while, but glue-ons to minimize the damage and still provide support. I was always very explicitly clear that my longterm goal was barefoot again, and it took another 6 months, but we got there, and I'm really happy that he's barefoot.

    The good news is that you are an attentive horse owner and this is not an irreversible decision. If she turns out to need shoes, you will know quickly and you can get them on. I bet she'll be just fine, though.

    1. I debated on glue on shoes/boots as well. Too many choices! I will be watching her like a hawk and the farrier plans to come back out in a week to re evaluate her.