Monday, April 29, 2019
When I got my very first horses, not so long ago, I imagined hooves as wooden blocks at the bottoms of legs. That’s how much I knew about horses and feet in general. Unfortunately, or fortunately–whichever way I look at it–my earliest riding horse had a background of laminitis–a hoof condition about which I knew nothing. That mare always had been shod, but preferring a barefoot horse I had her shoes removed. Our first long trail ride glaringly indicated something wrong. She moved slowly, seemed in pain, and increasingly so as we continued. Someone pointed out that her feet were sore. I wondered, “Hooves get sore?”. Thinking back, my early ignorance is beyond embarrassing; it’s self-flagellation to remember having made a barefoot horse in laminitic condition carry my insensitive self.
I learned about laminitis, an inflammation of soft tissues in the hoof–that part of a horse that I’d thought wood-like. Within a hoof is a key bone, called a coffin bone. Surrounding and supporting that key bone are all sort of tissues and blood vessels that are essential to a healthy and functioning foot, and to a fully-functional horse. I began realizing that a horse’s hooves are components one must get right. I studied hoof structures, the dynamics of flexing and movement, and eventually became enough educated to evaluate farrier skills. Also, I did start shoeing my mare, using the type that a rider buckles on the horse prior to riding and removes afterwards. In them, she easily covered trails.
Fast forward to my current horses. They arrived with feet tough as nails, and hooves that had been everywhere, done everything, never needing shoes. For years, I rode these horses barefoot, until parts of my own body began to fail. With an increasingly sore back and painful knees, I began considering starting to drive instead of riding. That forced me again to focus on hooves. Pulling a cart or carriage creates traction that pressures hooves, and they quickly wear too-thin. Keeping a driving horse’s hooves healthy requires shoeing them with iron. My horses often pull on pavements that add landing impact, so shoeing them requires an impact-absorbing pad between hoof and iron.
Hooves and physical structure are essential to equine health and veterinarians are improving their skills in observing and understanding, diagnosing and correcting movements. My “horse career” has taken me far from an early single desire to “trail ride on a horse”, until now, when much of each spring requires attending to joint and hoof health.
And, there are my feet. They’ve carried me through career years that forced them into high heels and other just-awful shoe designs with inadequate support. I’m sorry for my feet in that past and feel lucky they still support. We humans could use easy accesses to standardized periodic routine foot diagnoses, for best-way-to-treat-feet guidelines. Assessing feet relative to life styles and activities to inform care could increase pain-free living.
Dear Friends, our feet deserve the best and its appropriate to address needs. Diana