Racing thoroughbreds are often trimmed with long toes and no heels or underrun heels. It is because they think that this increases or lengthens their stride. If they have a long stride, they cover more ground, and maybe just maybe they will win more often.
Unfortunately, a lot of horses of all breeds are shod this way, and it can lead to so many problems such as navicular, lamitnitis, and all sorts of lameness issues. Chaco had long toes and underrun heels, and with a lot of vigilant trimming, I got his heels to open up and brought his toe and heels back. We still have a lot of improvement to be made, but his hooves are so much healthier.
Dulce was trimmed this way if not more severely. My guess is he had ridiculously thin soles when he left the track, which made him prone to getting an abscess. On top of that he had two ulcers in his mouth and the one in his hindgut. Thin soles and the inability to digest his food and absorb nutrition to strengthen those hooves led to the current state of Dulce’s hooves.
I vacillate between what I worry most about: his weight or his hooves. Since he gained nine pounds this week and is at 890 instead of 881 (he started out at 830 pounds), I’m worried more about his hooves today especially after yesterday.
A horse’s hooves tell stories; lots of stories. They are similar to trees in that you can read the rings on a horse’s hooves. What you shoot for is a hoof without rings. Dulce has a lot of rings. The poor guy has gone through so much, and his hooves reveal his story to me. His diet has changed several times. I can see the stress on his hooves that happened from how he was trimmed and shod on the track. I can see when the ulceration happened and the stress he experienced. Soon, I will see the rings that I created by bringing him here and changing his diet again. Hopefully, after those rings drop down, we will see the hoof of my dreams; one without rings, a strong hoof wall, healthy sole and frogs. That is going to take awhile to grow out and create.
How do you create a healthy hoof? All sorts of ways, but for me and many it starts with how you feed the hoof. Think about how you are what you eat. The same goes for a horse. If you feed yourself a bunch of sugar, you’ll see rings in your fingernails and your teeth will go bad. Guess what sugar does to a horse? It’s not good for their teeth, and it can cause rings in a hoof wall. What’s so bad about those rings? Well, those areas are weakly connected to the structures behind the hoof wall if at all. When that happens, all sorts of problems can start up. As a barefoot trimmer, I feed my horses a low sugar, low starch diet. That means no oats, no corn, and no molasses. They are on a forage based diet that consists of timothy hay pellets, molasses free beet pulp, and ground up flax seed.
Also, overloading your horse on iron can cause severe weakness in the hoof as well. Studies are showing that high amounts of iron can block out the other essential minerals that create a strong, healthy hoof. Well water can play a horrible role in this. Without knowing it at the time, Shandoka proved it to me. When I lived in Norwood, Shandoka was on our well water, which was high in iron. His hooves cracked all the time on the smallest rocks. When we moved to Montrose, he went onto filtered water. His hooves never chipped or cracked again.
It’s amazing how much this simple diet has changed Harley’s and Chaco’s hooves for the better. Their hooves never chip, they stayed solid in all of the mud this winter, and I ride Harley barefoot on the trails. Chaco, because of his leg, is ridden with boots.
Each morning I turn Dulce out on the pasture in his boots. In the afternoon, we take the boots off, and I let him go barefoot for about five to six hours. Yesterday morning he and Chaco decided to play, and one of his boots came off. Dulce was so full of himself. He held his head so beautifully, his nostrils flared from excitement, and he ran up to me so proud that he and Chaco were finally hitting it off. That is when I saw the bootless hoof, and what I knew was going to happen eventually, and I dreaded happening, but here it was; a quarter crack.
He had a bad spot on his hoof where I think another abscess from long ago blew threw. It is one of the weakest spots on his right hoof (see the picture above). In all disciplines this causes a total freak out when a quarter crack occurs. It can lead to lameness, infections, months of lay off as it grows out, etc. I did freak out. I’ve never had a horse develop a quarter crack somehow, and yesterday I felt like a failure even though this had nothing to do with me or anyone in particular. It happened, because he has experienced a lot of changes.
Luckily, my dear friend Heather calmed me down, although I drove as fast as I could into town to get a different boot. She reminded me that this is a bad part of the hoof that needed to go. She’s right. This area was probably putting pressure on the growth that is about to drop down, so it let go. It is time to let nature take its course as Heather said.
How am I taking care of it? I filed off the sharp edges, I soaked the hoof in a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water, scrubbed the heck out of it, made a nice pad out of a flip flop for the boot, and then I squirted a bunch of Gold Bond medicated powder into his boot. The boot stayed on even in all of the mud created by a prolonged downpour last night. Today I went out and removed the boot without pulling the quarter crack off. Woohoo! I scrubbed it with cleantrax, and I rebooted him. He is as sound as can be, and I keep praying for the best.
My grandpa would have sat me down at his table after I poured him a cup of coffee to tell me all sorts of stories of famous racehorses that had a similar problem. He isn’t here anymore, but this morning my mom reminded me that Omaha Beach has a quarter crack. He has won two races with it, and he will be running in the Kentucky Derby this Saturday.
I’m unfortunately learning how to take care of this on Dulce, but we’ll get through this. We’ll grow out better hooves, and he will have the hooves in my dreams for him. His coat is nice and shiny right now, which means I will get a healthy hoof to drop down one day. I can’t wait!