Sueño’s Hooves

I am so excited that I decided to write a quick blog about Sueño’s hooves. Before I start, I want to say this…

Whenever I hear someone refer to the hooves of a thoroughbred as “typical,’ which means weak hoof walls, thin soles, underrun heels, and long toes it is like someone is running their fingernails down a chalkboard or worse….

Shoving peanut butter into my mouth.

When Sueño arrived, he had one very upright hoof, and one that was pancaked out. At first Ibthought he had a club foot, because it looked like one. When I lifted his hoof, I saw he had a 2.5 inch heel, which meant there was a lot of room for improvement. You want a horse’s heels to be around 3/4 of an inch to an inch tall. The right front had very short heels and flared quarters along with a toe that needed to be brought back.

That’s okay because I love rehabbing hooves especially on thoroughbreds. I love to show people that a thoroughbred can have really strong, healthy, barefoot hooves, and Sueño would be another opportunity to show this. When I saw Sueño’s hooves, I realized immediately I had a big challenge ahead of me, and he would be great teacher for myself and others.

First thing I did was put him on the diet recommended by Pete Ramey. Instead of me explaining it, here is his article explaining it.

I recommend this diet to people that want to shift to barefoot or keep their horses in shoes. If your horse is always throwing a shoe, you need to look at their diet. If your horse isn’t racing or doing endurance, they don’t need oats. All of my horses are on a low NSC diet. They do not get candy or anything high in sugar. That doesn’t mean they don’t get treats, but they are all very low in sugar. Farrier’s Formula is okay, but it really isn’t enough for horses. I wouldn’t be able to rehab my horses the way I have with Farrier’s Formula. California Trace works great to balance out my hay, so they get a balanced mineral diet.

Sueño does not get sugar treats, molasses, peppermint candies, or sweet feed. His hooves were so disconnected with huge rings that if I would have fed him any sugary feed, it would have continued, and we could have gone downhill with severe hoof issues. Several studies haven proven that sugar creates disconnected hoof wall. When a hoof wall disconnects from the structures underneath, the coffin bone sinks too far down into the hoof capsule. I knew without having to get an x-ray, that the coffin bone had sunk a bit too far into the hoof capsule.

Sugar, carbs, and high amounts of iron undermine the hoof creating a weak hoof. My friend Heather one day said something like, “Everyone says a good hoof is being bred out of the Thoroughbred when in reality it is being fed out of them.” She is so right. All of my Thoroughbreds have rock hard hoof walls. They never crack or chip. They also have nice, thick souls. I walk them over rock all the time, and they never get ouchy. I’ve gone on a couple of rides with Dulce barefoot, and not one little chips of the hoof wall occurred. Also, no stone bruises. When my horse Shandoka was in shoes, he always had stone bruises. When I took the shoes off and changed his diet, he never did again.

If you are on well water and your horse has weak walls, soft souls, and throws his or her shoes all the time, look into how much iron your horse is getting. Iron isn’t a bad thing, but if they are getting too much, it blocks the absorption of copper and zinc, which are vital for creating and growing strong hooves. If you are on a well, and your horse has weak walls, you can buy an RV water filter and put it on your hose. It will filter it out. They are inexpensive, and they can be found at Walmart.

If you don’t want to do that, you can add more copper and zinc to your horse’s feed to offset the iron intake, and if you do this, consult an equine nutritionist after getting your water tested. Also, those brown and red salt licks are filled with iron. Only put out a white salt lick. Check your feed to see how high the iron levels are. Tribute recently lowered the amount of iron in their feed and added more Vitamin E.

Try to cut out all extraneous sugars and carbs that you can. I do not feed my horses any oats. They don’t need them. If I were racing or doing endurance rides, I would feed them oats (then it would be naked oats if I could find them), but since they aren’t, they don’t need them. Oats can be very aggravating to the gut as well causing ulcers. I feed them ground flaxseed instead. The flaxseed has to be ground up before feeding. Manna Pro and Triple Crown sell ground flax. My horses have PLENTY of energy, and it is a very focused energy instead of a skittish, hot energy created by oats or corn.

When I began working on his right hoof, I brought his toe back, and I removed the quarter flares. He had hardly any heels, so I simply kept them balanced and rockered them to encourage him to walk and run heel toe. What is a rocker? I basically am creating a rocking chair effect. I don’t take any heel height off, but I file at a 35 degree angle with the inner structures of his hoof to create the rocking chair effect.

His left front as I mention was very upright. Trying to keep that one in a good place was not easy. Here is what I did trimming wise. Again, we have a bit of a ways to go, but in a month, this hoof is in a much better place.

During the winter, he barely grew any hoof except for heel on his left front. You have to be very careful when you lower tall heels, because it will lame your horse if you drop them down too fast. This happened with my horse Shandoka when he got his first trim from a farrier. He was lame for two months. Lowering the heels really affects the tendons and ligaments. When I began working on him in the winter, I would lower his heels a quarter inch, allow his legs to adjust. If he moved fine, I would lower them another quarter inch a week later, and so on and so on until I got his heels down to 3/4 of an inch. He moved great at this height, so I knew we were at the right spot for him. Even thought I did this, he still looked horribly upright.

In addition to the trimming, an important aspect is also stretching. I stretch out his front legs every day. He was not fond of it at first, but he is finally relaxing into it. His left shoulder fascia is really tight, and as of yesterday, I finally got that to release a bit more. Again, we are moving in the right direction.

While I did this on his left front, I worked on keeping his right front toe back and the quarters tight. As I did this, his heels began to grow. We were moving in the right direction on both hooves.

When summer hit, he began growing hoof wall out the yin yang. Before I knew it, another old, disconnected ring was hitting creating flares, which can cause the hoof wall further up to disconnect. I began filing on him every single week. Why?

His heels were out of control. I would bring them down to where they needed to be, and in two weeks they were as high as could be again. This is not good for the tendons and ligaments. They were being flung around like a yo yo. He also wore on the medial side and not on the lateral creating crooked hooves.

I utilized some of Jec Ballou’s exercises for straightness using polls and a bar ditch. Within two weeks, he was wearing his heels down equally. I was shocked how quick that changed, so no more crooked hooves. I also began filing on his heels each week to keep them in place and touching up his rocker each week. I also stayed on his quarters, which constantly flare out to a perfect circle. I keep bringing them back in. I also make sure when the rings at the toe hit the ground, they have a strong bevel on them, so they don’t become a lever creating more disconnection further up the hoof wall. As you can see in the picture below, his left front has much better angles in a month of weekly work. Since it is working so well, we will keep doing it throughout the summer, and we will see if he improves anymore. I believe his tendons and ligaments kept wanting to go back to their original position, so his heels grew like crazy to accommodate them. By doing this work, they are becoming more and more relaxed, and I believe his heels will grow normally one day. I am ridiculously excited.

This is how Sueño’s left front looked when he got here. I actually thought he may be a club foot. Straight up and down all around. He was totally stood up.
The top picture is a month ago, and the bottom picture is today. We have a ways to go still, and I think he will improve. If this is where he stays, I will be grateful. It is 150% better than when he first got here.

On the right front, I make sure his toe doesn’t take off dragging his heels forward. His heels are staying in place and growing straight down. Horses with underrun heels look like they have no heels. Truth is they have a lot of heel, but it has grown towards the toe. When that happens, lots of times the toe is too long. The hoof is trying to find a way to balance itself out, so the toe drags the heels forward. Staying on that right toe allowed his heels to grow and keeps them in place. I still think his toe needs to come back a bit more, but his hoof isn’t quite ready for that. It has moved back a lot so far. My guess is we will see a change in the next few months. The great thing is that he has heels on his right hoof. Such a nice sight to see.

I thought I had a before picture of his right front, but I can’t find it. If you decide to, trust me, it is a much different hoof. If I ever find it, I will update the blog with it.

We have a ways to go, and I hope to post the changes in six months and a year. The last of his Florida hooves are now hitting the ground. Now we have to grow out this new hoof from when he moved here, which displays all of the changes he went through. The third hoof is going to be nice if nothing unforeseen happens. It all takes time, but it is worth it. Am I changing his confirmation? Yes, I am. It was a scary choice, but it was one that was needed. If I wouldn’t have tried to adjust his left heel, get those tendons and ligaments to relax, he would have had major issues as he got older. Like I said, he has a very tight left shoulder that is beginning to balance out more and more as I stretch him and help this hoof change.

This is why I love keeping my horse’s barefoot. If Sueño had shoes on, I’d never be able to create this kind of change. If you keep your horses in shoes, follow the diet on Pete’s page. It will help you out a lot. Feeding the hoof can make all the difference!

I highly recommend you get your hay tested, and that you balance out your minerals for your horses. If you are on a well, get your water tested for iron. Try to cut out as much sugar as possible, and find yourself a good barefoot trimmer. If you have a horse similar to Sueño that needs to be filed on in between trims, ask your barefoot trimmer to teach you. I also recommend that you read all of Pete’s articles at His videos are great as well, and they are a constant help to me.

For those of you that have OTTB’s, don’t buy into the idea that they will always have bad hooves; that there is even a typical TB hoof. You can change them for the better. I have done it over and over, and if I can do it, there is no reason why you can’t.

Author: reenchantedOTTBS

I'm an artist, writer, and a lover of thoroughbreds. I was born and raised in horse racing, and now I wish to help rehome them, educate people about how fantastic they are, and show what they can do.

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