Equine Hoof Care Teams at Work

Proactive real-life shoeing and management strategies for three common foot conditions

Just 10 years ago the diagnosis of a hoof condition such as podotrochlosis (aka navicular syndrome) or laminitis was career-ending for most horses. Thanks to research into equine biomechanics, advances in farriery, and innovations in veterinary medicine, however, some once-condemning conditions are now, in large part, manageable. In this article two equine hoof care professionals share examples of how they diagnosed, treated, and maintained horses suffering from hoof-related lamenesses. While these are only two professionals’ experiences, and every case should be treated individually, the stories shed light on the importance of communication between the owner and the care team to keep the horse performing to the best of its ability.

The Horse With Laminitis

Laminitis is an extremely painful condition that occurs when the tissues that suspend the coffin bone within the hoof capsule become damaged and inflamed and, in severe cases, separate and release the coffin bone to rotate downward.

“When it comes to treating laminitis, you have to be extremely proactive,” says Raul Bras, DVM, CJF, a podiatrist at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. “When you see a horse every day, you are able to notice any small changes and stay on top of them.”

When Bras begins working with a laminitic horse, the first thing he does is identify the cause and initiate treatment with oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). “There are different causes that can trigger the inflammatory cascade,” he explains. “First we get a treatment plan together to manage whatever caused the inflammation, be it metabolic syndrome, a reaction to steroid injections, or something else.”

Next, he places NANRIC Ultimate shoes on the affected feet. “The Ultimate shoe has an 18- to 20-degree wedge, an angle which has been shown to help get the blood supply into the areas that get compromised with laminitis,” he says. “Ultimately, it reduces the forces the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT, which runs down the back of the leg and inserts on the coffin bone) has on the coffin bone, which are what allow it to displace in the weeks after the initial lameness occurs.”

Bras recommends owners of at-risk horses have a set of NANRIC Ultimate shoes on hand they can tape onto the hooves while waiting for the vet. “Those will immediately put the horse into an angle that will diminish the compromised blood supply that’s created by the laminitis.”

If he catches the case early enough, Bras prescribes cryotherapy (cold therapy, achieved by submerging the affected feet in an ice slurry, a boot, or a commercial icing system) treatment for at least 72 hours. Cryotherapy, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, has been proven to ameliorate or decrease the rotation of the coffin bone when used immediately after onset. After cryotherapy is complete, Bras continues treating the horse with NSAIDs for two to three days.

As far as diagnostic tools, Bras is a proponent of venograms—special radiographs (X rays) to assess blood supply within the foot. “You have to be so aggressive when you’re treating laminitis,” he says. “A lot of people like to sit back and wait to see what happens but, by the time they can react to something, it’s too late. A venogram is like the weather forecast; it lets you know what’s

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