Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Enchanted Forest

I haven't talked much about Levi yet.  He came to this farm about two years ago in very poor condition.  That has changed and he is in excellent shape now.

Levi has a sweet and mischievous nature and would be happy to go looking for trouble if he thought he could get away with it.  He'll test the boundaries just because he thinks he should, but he gives up happily enough because his heart isn't really in it.  He and his person have worked out a fine friendship and have a genuine connection.

This is what his feet looked like on 8/28/16 when I first looked at them....

These shoes had been reset just a couple of weeks before and you can see that they sure weren't doing much for him.   Levi was very sore and tender footed in these shoes and they were doing more harm than good.

Unfortunately, I did not get any more pictures at the time, but Levi's feet are, sadly, very typical of what I see around here.  The foot is badly under-run, he has central sulcus thrush, the walls are long with very poor connection and his soles are paper thin.

If I had remembered to take pictures of those soles, you would have seen that the bottom of his foot was nearly convex rather than concave and the frog was prolapsed beyond the bottom of the sole.  I know that if we had had x-rays taken, they would have shown a sole with only 3-4 mm of depth rather than the 15-20 he should have.

This is very common in this area because the ground is perpetually wet and soft.  The soil is highly acidic and very deficient in both copper and zinc, which are needed to grow good feet.  Feet like this are a by-product of our environment and the extent of the associated problems depends on the genetics of the individual horse.  I have seen much worse than Levi, but there is a great deal of room for improvement.

As a side note, I think I have posted this article before, but it is worth revisiting if you live on soggy ground:  http://www.thehorse.com/articles/15097/managing-wet-feet

My goals with Levi are to treat the thrush, bring the heels back and shorten the toes.  This should allow him to grow in healthier, well connected walls, which will also increase the depth of his soles.

This is what his foot looked like on Friday after I had pulled his first set of Easyshoes....

Believe it or not, this is improvement. When we started, Levi's collateral groove at the back of his foot was less than a 1/4 inch deep and was a negative number at the front of the frog.  Here, he has about 1/2 an inch in the back and 1/8 at the front.  Dismal, but still an improvement.

I was worried about Levi when I did his feet the first time because his feet were so flat, I was afraid that even the Easyshoes would put too much pressure on his thin soles.  Thankfully, the Easyshoes made him immediately more comfortable instead and he is striding out well in them.

As you can see in the above photo, he also has very thin hoof walls.  I find it a bit tricky to clinch the nails without ripping them right through the walls.

I have been using copper-clad nails, which just came on the market a few months ago.  I really like the copper because nail holes are generally a great breeding ground for bacteria and the copper prevents that.  The copper nails are a little harder to use though as they are a bit less malleable.  So far, I think the trade off is worth it and my clinches will get prettier with more practice (and thicker hoof walls).  The shoes stay on - knock-on-wood.

I could have made the feet look prettier by rasping off more of the excess toe, but that would be cosmetic and do nothing other than thin the walls even more.  I have set the shoe back far enough that the break-over is where it would be if this were a healthy foot.  Doing that will help him actually grow a healthy foot.  I prefer to leave the feet a bit ugly, but functional rather than pretty and sore.  Levi doesn't mind and his opinion is the only one I really worry about.

I got an email from Levi's person telling me they went out driving down the gravel roads of the state land with his new shoes.  It is the first time they have been able to do that this season because this is the first time his feet were not sore on the tough gravel of the Enchanted Forest.

That is what I like to hear.


I have had a couple of requests for an update on Ben's foot and I am working on that.  I will try to have it ready in the next few days.


  1. I am just horrified when I see hooves like poor Levi's. You said the shoes had been recently re-set. Makes you wonder what was going through the head of the "farrier." Bless you, on the behalf of these animals.

  2. Poor Levi, I can see the improvement in them. Good work!

  3. It is always such fun to read your description of an animal's (in this case, Levi's) personality! "He'll test the boundaries just because he thinks he should, but he gives up happily enough because his heart isn't really in it." :) Love it.
    You must feel good about saving Levi's hooves, but I wonder what your back has to say about this hard work. Can farrier work be done in a back-friendly position at all? My back hurts just thinking about it! (Of course, I'm likely not half as strong as you but twice as old...;))