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Hoof imbalance & toe crack: What do you see?

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  • Hoof imbalance & toe crack: What do you see?

    Before I talk to my farrier, and risk making him mad, can those of you familiar with the well-trimmed hoof tell me what you see in the attached photos?

    I got my gelding 5 years ago. He had 4 shoes but my farrier and the PPE vet said he could go barefoot no problem. We work on sand or sand/rubber footing schooling upper level dressage. I moved to a new barn 4 years ago and the last 2 summers he developed a 1/2" toe crack that grew out in the winter. Farrier said it was due to stomping at flies, so I got fly boots, etc.

    Well, this winter it's still there. My farrier is a Journeyman, meaning he is educated and certified up the wazoo and he teaches. He works with 2 equine clinics and shoes horses at the top show barns in my area, with a long waiting list. He says not to worry about it as it isn't getting worse and I think I am annoying him by questioning why the crack appeared in the first place, and is no longer growing out. But I'm the type that thinks if something changes in my horse, I need to know why and/or correct it.

    What do you think? Profile:

    Sole view:
    Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

  • #2
    From just these two pictures/angles, I see what appears to be toe distortion, an elongated/stretched frog as well as some heel contraction. IMO inexcusable if I understand you correctly that he has been doing this horse as he deems necessary for a couple years.

    You wont be able to tell the farrier anything if he doesn't already know. Like you said, he is educated out the wazoo. He should already know it eh?



    • #3
      They really aren't the best pictures to properly critique. For a lateral view, the cannon bone needs to be vertical, horse standing square, and the camera needs to be at ground level with the lens perpendicular to the center of the foot. Your "lateral" view here is too far forward and too high

      Same with the solar - lens has to be perpendicular to the center of the sole.
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • #4
        ^ that too. But my opinion stands till proven otherwise.


        • Original Poster

          I wasn't quite sure how to take the photos and/or the angles that would be ideal. But I agree that the heels are pinched and bulbs aren't the same roundness either. The outer half of the foot is roundish and the inner half is less "full". Also looking at the back of the heel, its angle compared to his pastern angle aren't parallel.
          I don't think the hoof scream "crappy trimming", and we work on a fairly good surface, not too hard or deep. But I think I could do better by my horse...
          Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


          • #6
            I think the trimming looks good. I would be interested in what this horse is eating. And what is different this winter with his turnout/pasture.


            • #7
              Wow. Is your horse really that vertical through the pasterns, or is that just an artifact of the angle of the shots?

              I certainly wouldn't be happy with that trim, but the horse's conformation might be working against him here as well. Perhaps radiographs would be helpful?


              • Original Poster

                My horse gets timothy hay and Nutrena Life Design 14 pelleted feed. He has a himalayan salt lick, 1 C. BOSS and 10,000mg MSM. This has been his feed regime for the last 4 years. I fed biotin the first summer the toe crack showed up and farrier requested that I not continue. Said quality of horn was good and didn't want to speed up growth unnecessarily. I'm in the midwest, so in winter there isn't much pasture left, otherwise turnout is the same: rotates between fields or dirt paddock.

                Simkie: you may be seeing the RF leg in the background? His LF leg is the light silver gray hair only. Does that make things look better? He has excellent breeding and conformation. His VERY thorough PPE done on east coast was passed with flying colors.
                Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                • #9
                  I've looked at the first pic a few times, and I just see a horse that's totally straight up and down in the pasterns. Since you say he's got excellent conformation, it must just be an artifact of the angle.

                  But since you're not happy with the feet and you have an ongoing problem, it's really not a bad idea to have the vet take a look and get some rads, especially if you'd like to try to keep this farrier.

                  It might also not be a bad idea to post where you are, in case anyone here has a recommendation for someone who might be able to address your horse's problems more effectively than his current farrier.


                  • #10
                    I would not be happy with an unexplained toe crack that would grow out and return. Toe cracks are usually either a product of untreated seedy toe or imbalance left or allowed in the foot. This foot appears (although yes, it is a bad angle so I am extrapolating a bit) to be elongated in the toe when you look at the bottom of the foot. A healthy foot is typically quite round. Something is going on here. I suspect, since the pasterns DO look quite upright, that the farrier is trying to trim to leave toe on this horse and it is wearing away at the front and allowing the toe pillars to basically pull the toe apart. X rays would tell a few things.

                    It also appears this horse has toe distortion/flare all the way up to the coronet band (unless the photo angle, combined with how the horse is weighting his foot, is just really odd...which is possible given the limited info we can gather from them) The front angle of the hoof wall does not match the pastern bone, and it should...That would mean the wall growth is tight with no stretching and the coffin bone is in proper line with the others.

                    JMO based on two not too awesome photographs. Its subject to change with more information. I would still not be happy with the trimming when there is clearly a problem manifesting that indeed went away twice and now isnt going away and is unexplained. This farrier should at least know why the crack is occurring again and again but this would negate the crack happening at all wouldn't it Cracks are not normal unless its a growth line defect.


                    • #11
                      your horse has a very weak frog. When one structure is weak, it places a greater demand on the other structures to carry the load.

                      I am not saying this is THE reason for a toe crack but the weak frog needs to be in an environment that helps develop it.

                      Another big reason cracks occur is diet...and that is not the farrier's fault. ;-)

                      Asking a horse to carry a work load with weak structures is asking for breakdown over time.

                      Sidenote-you should never be 'afraid' to ask someone questions when you are paying them to do a job.

                      Also be very careful taking any internet advice from those offering advice on balance issues from photos. And be sure to ask the background of those offering advice. You may be surprised to learn it is someone with very little true experience on the topic.

                      All that said, the frog is pretty sad. LOL


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by hank View Post
                        I think the trimming looks good. I would be interested in what this horse is eating. And what is different this winter with his turnout/pasture.

                        from years of reading this forum I can tell you, hank does not speak often but hank's advice is always spot on.


                        • #13
                          Not the best pics. How long after the trim were these taken?

                          Was fall/early winter turnout wet or dry? Or back and forth?


                          • #14
                            I would like to see some video of this horses way of going. I bet he lands toe first, at least on his left front. You can see the toe is stretched forward/flared and frog looks atrophied like it's not making sufficient contact with the ground. This is not how I would expect a healthy foot to look after being barefoot for 4 years and trimmed correctly according to his conformation.
                            Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                            Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                            "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


                            • #15
                              Welllll no one is going to like this answer but I would bet a little $$ that this horse has a minor rotation and that if a venogram were done, has compromised circulation to the toe and is always going to be prone to growing thick toe pillars and a crappy toe wall. Which doesnt mean things cannot be improved.

                              OP, if your farrier casts, I would recommend doing a course of white lightening, trimming to whatever good rads say and then a full equipack with a cast over it. Alternate one cycle with and one without for a few months and see what you get. I would also bet on improved frog and heel structures after a few cycles - as long as you alter his diet a bit, eliminating the BOSS and Nutrena is a good place to start.

                              I say this because I have inherited quite a few teenage horses who have this exact hoof shape/issues and that is what rads and venograms reveal. I rarely shoe and do not have the farrier skills to shoe and pad/equipack a foot with these issues - but the casting technique I use works so well for this problem I have not needed to involve the farrier I work with.
                              "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                              • #16
                                I very seldom see lameness with these kind of persistent toe cracks unless the horse's hoof care has been severely neglected. I'm going to throw some % numbers out here as rough estimates based on my experience with a few thousand toe cracks.

                                Persistent cracks in the toe have anaerobic stuff growing in the crack making it difficult for the crack to grow out unless the horn is resected past the affected area - which makes for an ugly foot till it grows out.

                                You could try treating the crack with white lightning (Oxine AH) or Clean Trax and then follow behind that with Durasole (a few drops into the crack after the White Lightning dries may prevent future anaerobes from growing.) IMEs this works in about ~25% of the cases I encounter.

                                On 74% I do a horn resection, protect with a shoe, treat the resected area with Durasole and return to barefoot after the resection grows out.

                                For the remaining <1%, there may be an anatomical reason you have a persistent crack in the toe - dead center, never goes away. If the horse has a very pronounced and deep crena marginalis, then the laminar connection will always be weak in this area and there will always be an increasing tendency for the crack to return as the horse ages.

                                From what I can see in the pictures It would not surprise me if this horse had a deep crena. You can confirm the crena marginalis issue with a radiograph. If I'm right, then you are probably going to have to pay for a full resection and shoes to support the area while the resection grows out, and live with the uncertainty of whether or not it will return despite whatever you do.

                                If this is an immunity problem due to nutrition I would defer any nutritional consulting to somebody with DVM after their name.

                                In regards to the trim, there are a few very minor things I would do differently base on the hoof conformation, but those differences in approach are beyond the scope of an Internet forum and would require an actual hands-on demonstration.

                                In addition, if the images you presented were not taken immediately following the trim, it may very well be the case that your farrier is already doing exactly what I would do - I say this because the feet I work on with this kind of shape seem to revert to the boxy, squared in the pillars shape, in between appointments.


                                • Original Poster

                                  These photos were taken 5 days after a trim. I am in the midwest and it's been mainly a dry winter, so not a lot of wet days, though there have been some. A lot less snow - so again, less melting causing mud.
                                  EqTrainer, why do you suggest eliminating BOSS and Nutrena? I know not all Nutrena feeds are the best, but the one we use has 14% protein and extra trace minerals and full spectrum vitamins.
                                  Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                                  • #18
                                    Its not about Nutrena products per say, but I will say they are low on my list of concentrates I would consider using. Having said that, I am sure lots of horses thrive on them. According to your horses feet, tho, maybe he doesnt. I would focus on a high forage diet that is supplemented with good quality proteins and minerals/vitamins. If he were in my barn, all things being equal, he would get all the grass hay he would eat, tri-amino and a mineral supplement to start and I would see how he did on that. If he needed more calories to maintain weight or energy I would add alfalfa hay if he tolerates it well and perhaps a ration balancer or maybe just a fat supplement. A complete feed is the last thing I go to and then it needs to be low NSC and have a fixed formula.
                                    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                    • #19
                                      Depending on the perspective of the photo, even an awesome trim can look bad and a bad one can look relatively good.

                                      I wouldn't feel comfortable making any kind of major judgments based on these photos alone.

                                      That said...regarding toe cracks in general. If I were in your shoes, I'd consider pursuing treatment with white lightening or clean trax. I would also consider pulling the toe back and beveling, even floating the crack area to relieve pressure so it's not constantly getting pulled apart. That can also help tighten everything up to prevent more crud from getting up in there.

                                      I'm sure your farrier is great. And if he's a teacher by nature, asking him questions shouldn't be offensive at all. I would perhaps approach it with "I'm concerned about the persistent toe crack. I did a little research on my own and read about things like white lightening, pulling back the toe, maybe even doing radiographs. What do you think? I just want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to prevent future issues."
                                      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                      Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                                      • #20
                                        I've been through what Tom describes above (resection, etc - many old threads!) and the causes were many and diverse. It took several years to get the whole mess fixed and I will forever be indebted to the two great farriers and our vet who did the work. To the OP - I understand that you want to preserve the good relationship you have with your farrier, because you're going to need him if this does all go south and you end up doing a resection. Can you start with getting radiographs "just for baseline" - that may open up the discussion. From there, you can decide if you want to take your horse and the radiographs for a consult at the vet school or your referral clinic of choice for another set of eyes. This is a rotten time to think about hauling a horse anyplace you don't absolutely have to go, but I spent a very snowy winter hauling mine to the vet school every 3 weeks from September to March for the Awesome Referral Farrier to work on his resection... If you get things started now and find yourself hauling out to get the work done, at least spring will be on the way...