Thursday, May 28, 2020

thoroughbred hoof + skin care

Let's be crystal clear here: I own a horse bc I enjoy riding horses. And not just circles inside the safety of four walls -- I want to ride everywhere. By myself and with friends. Occasionally at speed, and over obstacles. Ooh, and also at horse shows.

These are my priorities. Everything in my horse habit exists to support the pursuit of riding. That isn't necessarily true for every horse person at all times, but it's where I'm at today. So I own a horse suited to that pursuit, and put in whatever work or planning it takes to make it my reality.

bebe shetland picture!!! soak it in, guys, bc it's the only cute thing you'll see this entire post haha
Horses are funny, sensitive, fragile creatures, tho. Each and every one of them has so so so much to teach us. Including that, no matter our priorities (like mine above), none of it really matters if the horse isn't healthy happy and thriving.

Charlie is my first horse, and has, in his kind, generous, benevolent way, made it his friggin business to teach me much much MUCH more about the finer points of what it means to really truly and completely manage the care of a riding horse. The "prerequisites," let's call them haha.

hooves. apparently a prerequisite to riding! in charlieland, generally we prefer our hooves with shoes.... at least this was the day before his farrier appt, ugh
Before Charlie, leasing Isabel let me peek behind the curtain of "ownership," and at least get a start on that education. She had a few relatively tame wounds, an epic battle with skin funk, was patient zero in an infectious flu outbreak, had some gastric needs, and -- most relevant to today's post -- my lease role included managing her farrier schedule.

So ya know. In some ways, she was the perfect introduction to that degree of care, bc overall Izzy was a very sturdy little mare haha.

freshly trimmed and shod hoof. with the wall literally crumbling, ugh
Charlie is allllll Thoroughbred tho. And has thus expanded my education substantially. Particularly, in regards to hooves.

And it was clear from the very beginning with Charlie that his hooves would be ground zero for basically any and all progress we could make.

farrier left some extra surface area exposed on the shoe to help support and protect the wall
We therefore got into an early and aggressive treatment plan with the farrier at Charlie's first barn, and I jumped all aboard the supplement train -- including feed-through Farrier's Formula and Platinum Performance; and topical applications like Keratex.

Still tho, at times I feel like my knowledge about some stuff is more academic or bookish than real-world practical, if that makes sense. And especially with hoof issues, I sometimes feel caught off guard by subtle developments - like I don't notice the problem until it's almost too late.

sorry for the blur. not too much chipping here anyway tho
With Charlie (and probably many TBs in the Mid Atlantic region), hooves change really really fast in the spring, after the relative dormancy of winter.

Charlie's winter shoeing cycles can easily go 6 weeks, and in one amazing stretch this year he even went 8 (eight!!!) weeks. Each week his farrier looked at the feet like, "Yea I think we should wait tho!" Crazy haha.

ugh if i had to bet which hoof would have lost the shoe tho, this one would have been it -- not the right hind!
But it's like the cycle immediately after Charlie's most dormant phase ends up being completely and totally whip-lash-inducing different.

The ground thaws, tree sap starts flowing, the air becomes perfumed with blossoms and grass starts growing.... As do Charlie's feet haha, and fast.

go figure, his white hoof is usually the sturdiest. still pretty chipped up tho
But they grow out really weak, flaky and crumbly. I usually try to start slathering on the keratex around late February.... And at least these past two years have remembered to make his May shoeing appointment be at the 5 week mark (which, Charlie will typically stick on that 5wk cycle until Nov-Dec).

bleh. again tho - you can really see the shoe's extra surface area here for extra protection
But idk, both this year and last year I've still ended up in a bad hoof place come May / June.

Both years, at that May appt at the 5wk mark, my farrier has taken a look and said, "Hm I think we should actually go another week here." I generally like my farrier a lot and pay him for his judgement, so I go with his advice.

Last year it was nearly a disaster, tho, since we ended up at our annual Memorial Day horse trial at Loch Moy with a shoe that was jussssssst barely hanging on. So, in retrospect, knowing there was a show on the calendar last year I wish I had asked the farrier to do it at 5 anyway.

he didn't lose a ton ton of wall with the shoe.... but still lost enough
This year.... Well. Honestly it really didn't matter. And Charlie's feet didn't even look quite that bad. Tho he lost a shoe the day before the appointment anyway, and not even the one I would have guessed. Go figure.

So again, I think the lesson is..... that May appointment really should happen at 5 weeks even if the hoof looks like it could wait. Bc the hoof will not wait, it turns out. And that last week ends up doing a lot of damage to the walls with chipping and crumbling.

ugh. thoroughbred feet, why you so soft?
Obvi we were at a disadvantage this year too bc I could only visit every 2 weeks from mid March to mid May. And sure, I did what I could with the keratex but that's just not enough.

I asked my farrier what I could do differently, but he said to just keep going with the keratex. He said it works best when used often, daily if at all possible. Apparently there are polymers in the formula that accumulate and bond on the surface of the wall --- and this is part of what gives the hoof more strength and elasticity?

Idk, chemistry ain't my thing haha. But if that's what the farrier says, that's what I'll do.....

this freakin horse haha
It's frustrating, tho, going into the worst hoof months of the year -- July and August -- with hooves already cracked and compromised. The bugs are already out, the horses are stomping like crazy, and the ground itself is becoming increasingly more dry and hard between rains.

Last year we struggled badly with hoof soreness starting in June. Again, mostly bc I was too slow in realizing it. So by the time I figured it out, it was An Issue. This year... Esp considering the state of the equestrian sporting calendar, there's really no point in even pushing it.

My hope is to keep his feet from getting any worse through this cycle, so that he actually ends up with a good solid wall during his next trim -- and we'll get him back into those leather pads. Then just go from there. Hopefully haha.

the white hoof might be the healthiest, but that white sock certainly didn't want to be left out of the fun!! also -- bonus abscess?!?!? charlie -- why you keepin secrets, bro??
In a way, it's kinda convenient that Charlie has also chosen this moment to cultivate an impressively disgusting blooming bed of scratches on his lone white leg. Oh, and also blow an abscess without ever telling a SOUL about it. Normally even Stevie Wonder can see when this horse has a sore foot, go figure.

And I SWEAR, these came out of fricken nowhere. The whole red puffy scabby nasty catastrophe erupted basically overnight after I was allowed to start visiting again. Which ya know. At least that was convenient haha.

ugh gross :( these sores always seem so painful, poor guy
And actually, I think I do know how the infection was introduced. Charlie had a very small graze on his pastern from interfering (clumsy oaf) and that's probably how the bacteria or fungus or whatever the fuck it is got in. Then BOOM, gross disgusting scabby outbreak.

i've learned my lesson about celebrating prematurely with skin fungus.... but we are sooooo close now!
My treatment method is based on what finally cleared up Izzy's months-long epic scratches battle. First I clean the area carefully -- for Izzy I had a betadine scrub but right now I only have chlorhex in my locker. Not sure it makes a difference, just gotta get it clean.

Then I pat it dry, and apply a layer of animax/dermalone/panalog ointment. And actually, my bottle of this stuff is legit left over from treating Isabel haha -- it's that old.

animax / dermalone / panalog ointment is worth its weight in literal gold. my bottle is ancient but i will use every single last drop from it
With Isabel, we would keep her in her stall for up to an hour after applying the ointment to ensure it really dried and absorbed, but obviously that's not always feasible during tightly scheduled quarantine visits with Charlie.

It's worked out tho. The fungus is healing, and knowing I want to wait to let that stuff dry as much as possible really gives me no excuse for not also taking care of his hooves at the same time.

anything for this elegant majestical beastie!
So ya know. Never a dull moment in Charlie land.

One of my goals for the year was to stop needing to learn things the hard way, so it's obnoxious to be repeating the same hoof pattern we had last year when maybe I should have been more prepared. At least the whole "global pandemic" situation is a pretty forgivable excuse... (lol? too soon? ugh...)

That's just how it goes with horses tho haha. We do our best and make all our plans and goals and what have you.... And then the horse is always there to humble us and keep things in perspective lol.

Does your horse have similar hoof growth patterns throughout the year? Have you had to deal with playing catching up on some issue or another like that? Or maybe you've figured out the secret formula for getting in front of these sort of things before they ever even crop up??? If so, do tell LOL.


  1. I have to say, I am very lucky ::knock on wood:: that as of now, Nay Nay seems to be OK barefoot and seems to have decent feet. He was a bit foot sore this winter when the ground was frozen mud but never really developed any issues or bruises. He actually looked like Jiminy his first year dealing with it and Subi one of his first years at home. Each of their hooves just got better. So, I'm hoping that Nay too will be OK with time. Now, if he needs shoes? Fine, I'll wait for my trainer and farrier to say now is the time. But for now he's got fabulous feet.

    Subi was mismanaged for so long, but he's been barefoot for 10 years now. Granted, he's retired now, but his feet have come a long way and he's had very few abscesses over the years (like 2 total and he's never actually been off so I only know when the farrier asks me about it and my response is, "what abscess?"). Would he be able to maintain his feet in hard work, no clue. This works for us, but not for most people.

    I just think that some thoroughbreds have good feet (Subi and Nay) and some have awful feet. Good management helps (you do a lot for Charlie), but even the best management can't fix genetics. Just like crap management can hurt the best feet (Subi for years before I brought him out of full care -- I was convinced he had awful TB feet, but nope, it was just management as I had zero control and all culminated in a summer off barefoot and crippled with his feet wrapped so he could walked as a result of pulled shoes, missed appointments, and barn management -- that was a fun summer for both of us as he re-grew hoof to get shoes back).

    Nay Nay now is dealing with cannon crud so that's fun...

    1. For sure- genetics, diet, lifestyle, level of work, turnout.... it definitely all plays a big role in hoof health!

  2. Hooves are not usually a problem with Bird. He's got good, solid Arab feet and manages (barefoot) an 8 week trim schedule without too much difficulty. I do boot (easyboots) when we are heading for extreme rocks or excessive pavement. Road work days get boots on the front at a minimum. Most of our riding is in the (relatively nice) turf of the hayfield, though, which is fine for barefoot. Arena gravel & sand are also fine in barefoot, but we only see that if we travel. He's honestly a pretty easy horse... about his only issue is that he's parrotmouthed, so we see The Tooth Guy every year to keep that under control. (He does not like The Tooth Guy. Drugs are involved.)

    1. Yea Izzy was barefoot behind and never really had any issues. It’s so nice when they’re low maintenance like that!


    So I kinda went through a similar clusterfuck with Spicy and it led to me just ditching the shoes. I felt like the nails and the constantly ripping off of the shoes was doing more harm than good. Part of it was my farrier insisted on putting the nails so close to the edge of the foot that it was just... wrecked.

    So last summer when he was off because I just straight up didn't have time, I yoinked the shoes. He was definitely not super sound for a solid 90 days. I had cavallo hoof boots but mostly I just kinda lunged him and trail rode him through ouchy feets.

    Definitely not for everyone, but fast forward to today and I walked him barefoot on gravel. My BO has a laminitic horse and he lives in scoot boots 24/7 and hes way more comfortable than he is in shoes.

    It's just hard when you go through cycles of wet and dry and the nails just. cant. make it.

    1. Yea definitely. And ya know there are many people (esp on the internet) who believe the absolute best thing you can do for a horse is get them out of shoes and minimize the invasiveness of care. I don’t necessarily disagree, but my philosophy tends to be more along the lines of the best thing you can do for a horse is set them up to be comfortable happy healthy in the job you’re asking them to do. Charlie’s job is running and jumping, so he gets the support he needs to be confident in that job, and I just do what I have to do to maintain that support lol

    2. oh yeah I don't disagree there. if we get back to heavy work, or if we weren't where we are (its SUPER sandy where spicy is) I don't know that I could've just sucked it up. But I do think sometimes the nails can create a more broken apart foot.

    3. yea i mean.... the nails do actually put physical holes in the hoof wall. that's... a little unavoidable in traditional shoeing practices wherein the shoe is nailed to the hoof. there's pros and cons to everything tho!

  4. My new secret formula to prevent any of this is the addition of California Trace + (the + because we're low in Selenium here in the east) to my horses diets. Holy magnificent foot, Batman! Stan ESPECIALLY. Both my farrier and I are absolutely FLOORED at the difference in Stan's hooves.

    I mean, all three horses feet are of better quality than ever before, but the most dramatic difference is definitely in Stan. Q and Grif each have stronger soles/hoof wall/hoof horn. Infinitely less chipping and cracking is going on now. Definitely a longer term lifestyle change, but so, so worth it.

    1. Yea I definitely think good dietary juju is a key factor in the equation. Charlie gets high quality grain stuffs and plenty of forage and is on excellent pasture plus gets a hoof-oriented supplement..... but I was looking back at pics for this post from like spring/summer 2018 and there was definitely less chipping. He was on platinum performance at that time (which probably has some similar stuff to the supp you describe) so I went ahead and ordered more. Bc yea. Definitely worth it if it makes that kind of difference! I’ll keep the trace in mind too if we don’t see what I’m hoping for over time

    2. Perfect! Nice sleuthing.

      I just compared the two products out of curiosity and found that PP has a lot more amino acids than CAT+, but the quantities of the minerals/amino acids in CAT+ are 3x (and sometimes more) than PP. Super fascinating! I'm taking a 2 month online course with a DVM on nutrition starting in 2 weeks so I'm looking forward to learning more about all of this. #nerdalert

    3. ooooh congrats on the online course -- that's really exciting! thanks also for doing that research for me bc i'm notoriously..... not really so knowledgeable or, erm, all that inquisitive (sorry not sorry) about the actual minerals vitamins ingredients etc etc etc.

      but the amino acid thing with the PP makes a lot of sense since we put charlie on that in the very early days as basically an overall holistic wellness boost. it could be coincidence (can't it always?) but that was the turning point from when charlie became reliably sound in his let down from the track and his muscles really started to heal and recover. in terms of actual quantities.... all i remember about the PP is that i fed a TON of it, and buy it 25lbs at a time LOL. either way, will let you know how it goes and whether we end up trying the trace too

  5. Gemmie had amazing hooves. All endurance miles (minus the 100) were barefoot and I rasped them myself every 8-10 weeks. Eeyore is a mess. We are on a strict 5 week schedule all year and even then sometime she could be at 4 weeks. His feet crumble and scoop but a lot of it stems from his shit conformation so there isn't a lot to do that won't make him lame. I have been using a new all natural product that has made a huge difference in his constant struggle with thrush and it has made his feet way less crumbly, shelly and prone to losing hoes so that was a good find.

    1. oh man it's always such a good feeling when we finally find a product that makes that difference. sometimes i wish the products that worked best for charlie weren't always full of so many harsh chemicals but.... well, they work haha so i keep using them

  6. I've never had the issue of crumbly feet (never had a TB), but I've had horses who needed to wear shoes to keep up with other issues. Farly had the little qh feet and we constantly battled contracted heels. Phantom's left front is apparently a little tricky. My farrier recently put a rocker toe on that foot, can't say if I notice a difference or not.

    Cisco has thankfully always been barefoot and apparently has pretty good feet, but thin soles. I'd like to get him some hoof boots for when I want to hack him out but his feet are generally wider than long, and boots don't come in that shape. As of late his feet have not been flaring nearly as much between trims so I'll measure him again and see if I can find something to fit.

    Thankfully I've always had access to good farriers and had my horses on a regular schedule. My currents farriers work as a team. One just got his CJF certification and the other I think is working on it.

    The only other consistent issues I've had are stinky sheaths (smegma transplant treatment) and Phantom's cannon crud that I've never figured out how to treat.

    1. honestly i think having a good farrier you trust and who's willing to be creative or talk through a plan is such a difference maker. it's esp convenient at my barn that we have three farriers in every single week, and while only one is our "normal" farrier, any can handle any urgent needs -- so at least charlie never really has to wait to get done if he needs it!

  7. So - if my farrier had finally come last week after missing two cycles due to COVID, AND he had said that Val's feet look the best they ever had in the ten years he's worked on him, AND I had done the interim trims even the nipper part AND I'd remembered to Keratex weekly and always before a rainy spell --- well if that HAD happened I'd feel proud and maybe a little braggy about it but of course I'd never tempt the hoof fates/powers that be by commenting or even thinking those thoughts...

    Seriously though - Keratex on the soles and bottom of the walls + hoof conditioner on the horn to promote flexibility + rasping between trimmings has been a lifesaver for maintaining a barefoot tb with the classic thin soles and "shelly" feet. The cannon crud has been a never ending struggle tho...

    1. lololol no no no, must not tempt the hoof fates / powers that be!! those gods are angered easily ;) for real tho, it's always such a good feeling when things are holding together and looking good. and even better when the inner circle pros mention it too!

  8. Hooves and hoof health fascinate me - it like a mystery that needs to be solved but you never can. I'm a big keratex fan and am going to start using the moisturizer and coconut balm on Fred. What do you use on Charlie? I've heard the hardener is good too.

    I use keratex mud shield powder on scratches after washing with chlorhex. I'll have to see if I can get the ANIMEX stuff you mention sounds handy to have around.

    Liz will have to be our nutrition guru one she is done the course! I'm off to check my feed for selenium and I'm about to start Fred on farriers formula (bye $$) as he has had 2 abscesses this month alone. *sigh* Both blew through the heel bulb like Charlie's in that pic. Fun times... lol

    1. i use the keratex hardener on his hoof walls, with special attention to the nail holes. basically as you see it painted on in all the pictures above. sometimes i put it on the sole too, esp like when charlie had the lost hoof in one of the first pics, or when charlie comes out of his leather pads after summer.

      chlorhex has really turned into my favorite antiseptic, since it's so gentle. i buy big jugs of it and will use it (diluted) for just about everything --- including an occasional bath if charlie seems itchy or funky lol. and animax is the bomb. needs a prescription i believe but probably worth a chat with your vet if you have persistent skin funk issues

  9. Gina and Moe have amazing feet- tough, crackless, and hard. Both are fine barefoot, although Gina gets front shoes during hunt season because the fixture is so rocky. I don't do anything special, so I guess it's just excellent genes lol

    Candy's feet are prone to cracks and she's had a couple of abscesses over the years when it's especially wet out. But she's also pretty comfortable barefoot (although rocky terrain will bother her more than the other two TBs).

    I use Desitin on scratches (both Candy and Gina seem prone to them) and it works like a charm!

    1. i know so many people who use desitin, and have even done so myself a few times.... but i just hate how messy it is :( like i want to be able to clean the leg off every day and check in on how it's doing and reapply whatever treatment i'm using... and the desitin just gets so so nasty and cakey and is so hard to clean off, and always gets everywhere.... ugh lol.... honestly i basically just use MTG for everything, and just pull out the animax if the MTG doesn't work in a day or two.

  10. Ugh feet - I noticed Dante's feet not holding up well at the end of his last cycle and realized that it was time for 24/7 fly boots again since it was undoubtably from stomping. He got decked out in his fly gear pretty quick and everyone kept commenting "flies already" because the weather just hadn't caught up yet, and its like my horse is telling me he's being bugged by bugs so he gets the gear! I don't care if I haven't seen a fly at all yet (they were just there when I wasn't)

    Glad you are getting Sir Charles sorted, I totally understand what you mean about "learning the same lessons over again" because I feel like that's my life.

    1. yea the flies really came out of nowhere for us too, altho they are most certainly here now. i used to do fly boots with charlie and am really tempted to try again..... but i get so so so nervous at the prospect of them staying on 24/7 esp in wet conditions (there is a stream in his field that he wades through to drink every day) and without having a lot of confidence that barn staff would be checking on them. i might end up springing for the shoo fly boots like you suggested tho. we'll see, i guess, if the daily keratex ends up making a difference first.

  11. Irish has crappy feet. So far he's doing well but honestly, they are a farriers nightmare

  12. Long time reader, first time poster!
    I just tried a cycle of easy boot glue on shoes (which were put on by a local barefoot farrier) after my new horse didn't make it more than a 4 week cycle without pulling a shoe since I got him in January. They lasted 3 weeks but he was so so sound on them and his feet look way better. I'm getting another set put on on Monday. They are supposed to last up to 8 weeks once the horse's hoof is transition to using them. I also just started my guy on Cal Trace + at the barefoot trimmer's suggestion. Fingers crossed it works.
    I also love love the shoo fly boots. Best $50 I've ever spent. I'm in texas and they are not hot at all, dry super easily, and if they fall off in the pasture, they seem to fall totally off. I was worried they would get stuck halfway on and halfway off and be a danger, but I had no need to worry!

  13. I don't think you need to defend your reason for owning a horse is to compete and jump, I feel like I'm in the same boat! I don't have any great advice for you on the farrier/foot end, but for the scratches I've always had luck with clipping the hair as short as possible (like 40# blade), cleaning and gently picking off scabs if loose, and then using a combination of desitin and biozide ointment.


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