Massage is a wonderfully relaxing, healing experience. As you stretch out comfortably on the table and the massage therapist’s hands alternate pressure and release over your sore muscles, they begin to relax, blood flow improves, and you begin feeling better. Why else would you get one?

The same principles apply to your horse’s feet. When they are compromised due to disease processes such as laminitis, or poor internal hoof balance that leads to poor blood flow and overstressing of internal structures, putting the feet in comfortable alignment and applying massage helps them heal. The main difference between this situation and your massage is that the horse does it himself.

Ric Redden, DVM, founder of the International Equine Podiatry Center in Versailles, Ky., discussed massaging hoof circulation with self-adjusting palmar angles at the recent Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium, held Jan. 25-28 in Louisville, Ky. His approach is simple–he applies shoes with curved ground surfaces (termed banana shoes, rock and roll shoes, or full-motion rocker shoes) that allow the horse to stand with his feet at whatever angle is most comfortable. This will be the angle that relieves the most pressure on any damaged areas, allowing them to rest and heal.

Additionally, the very nature of the curved shoe means the horse’s hoof and bone angles will shift a bit as he shifts his weight, even if his feet never leave the ground. This is where the massage comes in; as the horse’s weight and his anatomy shift, the blood supply within the foot is continually altered and massaged.

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