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Four Year Old Arab Mare - 7/2005

Its September 2008, and I'm updating my web site, and as I open these old case studies up I start realizing how far I've come in my understanding of atypical feet, how much we all know, now, compared to 3 years ago.... and how much more we all have to learn.

Athena's feet perplaxed me three years ago, and now? I see that hard, dry cracked frog, and I see THRUSH! The whole reason her feet had retained sole and high bars was because she had thrush in those cracks and crevices. Now, I would never trim this heel into the live sole. I would clean up the frog, and treat the thrush until the sole in the heel buttress region was ready to shed, remove that shedding sole and take the heels down.

I'm going to leave this page as is, so we can all experience some of my improved prerspective... Hind-sight, eh?? Yep!


June 2005 - Every time I trim a new horse, I learn something valuable... I keep remembering what Pete's told me - "Never say "never"". This trim showed me how callous can look healthy but be causing problems....

Several friends have 4 year olds out of the same Arab stallion. All of these youngsters are compact, race-bred athletes with smooth gaits and great personalities. My friend Judith Ogus's filly had a very upright club on her front left foot. Judith had talked to several farriers and vets about possible options, including surgery. She had asked me to look at the filly earlier in the year, but as I didn't have time to work on her, I was hesitant to offer advice.

After spending the week camping and riding in the Bay Area, I stopped by to visit Judith, and she asked me to look at her mare. I was running late, but couldn't resist the opportunity to perform a quick setup trim and offer a prognosis for lowering the heels to a better level.

Helping her out is scary... several experts have looked at the mare without providing solutions. Judith is hoping that this girl will be an FEI level athlete. And Judith and her partner Beck Hart are good friends and very respected endurance riders, important members of our tight Bay Area endurance community. I wanted to be absolutely sure that what I did would help her horse.

I was in a hurry to get started, so didn't start using my camera until I had lowered the filly's heels by almost 1/2".

I was perplexed by the unusually dense sole in the heel buttress area. Usually I see some indication that I'm approaching the "live sole" after I've removed so much heel... or I see bruising or injury, an indication of why the heel isn't wearing as fast as the rest of the hoof.

The sole at the heel buttress looked nicely compacted, an indication that she used the heel comfortably. Her sole appeared to be calloused, and normally I don't disturb callous. But this callous had cracks...

One indicator that this wasn't a "normal" club foot was the slight bruising on the bar where it approached the sulcus. Another was the white line separation and wall crack, signs that the wall was too long.

Testing the cracked callous on the inside of her hoof brought off a huge chunk of sole almost 1/4" deep, and as I felt the fidgety four year old's leg relax into my lap, I knew I was on the right path. I normally don't trim sole, even on a set up trim, but this was one of those times when I'd give my knives a workout.

As I gazed at her sole, I noticed how deep it was adjacent to the sulcus, and realized that this wasn't a "club foot". This mare has a very normal foot distorted by a thick layer of retained calloused sole! I raced to get my camera, and passing Judith, blurted out "You aren't going to believe this! Yes, it's good news!"

My friend Danielle took pictures as I used my knife to pry chunks of unshed dead sole away to expose a wonderfully concaved hoof. I knew where my live sole was, so I trimmed her high heels down to a very nice level, and rasped the wall to remove flare and bevel the edge.

As I started working on the more"normal" right front hoof, I saw a small amount of retained callous and calloused bar packing the sole in the sulcus area.

Most of the callous on her front right foot was the good kind, hard shiny callous over live sole. I removed the chunks near the frog and left the rest alone.

I didn't touch the frog on either hoof, because the mare seemed comfortable with it. My my experience is that it flattens out quickly under the pressure of the horse... I let the horse tell me whether I should trim something.

I pull out bonsai nippers and use the rounded edge to pull overgrown bars and chunky sole away from the hoof before trimming it back.


Taking the flare off of the front right foot revealed a nice scoop in the quarters. I use to rasp almost all quarter flare off, but it can leave a horse tender for a day or two if there is a lot of flare, so now I take extreme flare off in two or three trims.

The heel on the front left is still much more upright than the front right, but it is a dramatic change from where we started... I wish I had taken pictures before I started!

This profile shows the differences in the "normal" hoof, which flared in the quarters in response to excess wall length, and the false club foot on the right.
Linda Cowles Hoof Care
Serving the greater SF Bay Area & Northern California
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