When it comes to rehabilitating hooves, there’s a little unsung hero. It doesn’t get the kind of attention nutrition does. Maybe because it’s not as complicated or confusing as nutrition sometimes is. Nutrition needs frequent and repeated discussions.
Maybe because once you’ve done it, you sort of forget about it. ‘Out of sight – out of mind’, whereas with nutrition, you feed your horse every day, so you think about it every day.
The trim gets a lot of attention too, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here either. Hoof boots are a hot topic for ‘rehabbing’ feet, but they’re secondary to the thing that gets forgotten about and under valued all the time.
It’s Not Hoof Boots
Let’s just clear up what boots are doing before we move on to discuss what really does the work and gets the results…
Boots make a horse more comfortable by blocking things in the outside environment from putting too much pressure on the hoof. They mean you can ride a horse out on a hack, who might otherwise be tender footed. They also protect from wear, if you cover more miles than your growth rate can keep up with.
Boots alone don’t do anything to improve your horses hooves. They do, make it possible for you to exercise your horse more, and assuming that exercise is within the range of capability for your horses hoof and correct nutrition is reaching the feet, that will improve your horses hoof. But it’s not the boots themselves doing the work.
In fact, if the boots are enabling you to do more work than your horses feet are capable of, then the improvements of the hoof capsule will be slow to non-existent. In fact, sadly, it’s possible to do more harm by overworking the foot. Not every problem is fixed by more movement. It all depends where you’re starting from.
Let me be really clear – I’m not saying boots are a bad thing, I’m not saying they’re not useful, I can think of occasions where they’ve been essential – possibly even life saving (when used in conjunction with pads). I’m defining what is ACTUALLY doing the work – what are the things that are getting you the results you want. Because when you’re clear on what’s working, its clear how to improve or adjust things as necessary
So… Finally…. What is it that works?
I already gave you a hint above, so you may have guessed. This isn’t going to be the most exciting reveal the world has ever seen. Unsung heros are generally unsung because the story is a bit dull… (Have I just implied this post is dull? – oops – stick with me people! The results you can get are definitely exciting!)
Specifically therapeutic pads.
For me, the more important thing that boots do – is give you a simple way of using pads. Back in the day, we’d have to try and duct tape pads on. It’s fiddly, it’s frustrating, and most people after 1 or 2 attempts would decide that over £100 for a pair of boots was a bargin! (now you can get them cheaper too)
You stick that boring bit of foam in the bottom of your boots and forget they’re there. What you notice is how much the movement and the boots have helped your horses hooves – but it’s the pads (if you have the right ones) that are what’s making all the difference
There’s a number of different kinds of pads, so how do you know which are the right ones? Read on my friend and I’ll tell you all about it…
Years ago, boot companies didn’t make pads to go in their boots but a lot of people were putting pads into the boots, so the boot companies looked into it and developed their own pads.
While I’m not calling those pads useless, (they make a great cut out template so you know how to shape and cut out a different (more effective) pad) I rarely find that the pads provided by the boot companies provide a more effective way of achieving the results we want – ie improving the hooves.
Boot companies talk a lot about making hooves more comfortable, and certainly it’s important to me that horses are more comfortable. But it’s also important to me that the hooves and overall health of the horse is improving. Comfort doesn’t always provide improvement.
Ever tried to improve your health and fitness? If you found it comfortable you were almost certainly doing it wrong! If you want to make a change you must move out of your comfort zone. You must run further or faster, lift more weight, stretch further, change your diet – maybe even retrain your taste palette.
Improvement of any kind requires work and change, and it’s usually uncomfortable. If it were comfortable – you’d already be there in the first place – we like to go where it’s comfortable.
Now, again, let me be really clear… I’m not saying that it’s ok to leave a horse lame, just because you’re trying to improve things. It’s very important for your horse to be comfortable. Pain and stress (both physical and mental) can increase inflammation in the body and inhibit healing. Comfort is important.
I’d also like to point out I’m not talking about only 1 brand of hoof boot pad which happens to use the word ‘comfort’ in it’s name. All pads provided by all hoof boot companies claim increased comfort as a selling point. It’s a great selling point. We like to make our horses comfortable. Comfort sells!
I’m foolishly trying to sell you on the idea of a bit of hard work… well – technically I’m selling you on the idea of improving your horses hooves and explaining that it’s going to require some work.
We need a pad that’s going to work the hoof – while minimising any strain or damage. Not one that’s going to just make the horse comfortable. Obviously, if your horse is on box rest for a hoof problem, then it’s possible that just standing up is working the foot. What constitutes work depends very much on where you’re starting from.
My favorite pads are a closed cell foam pad (sounds fancy huh?!). What this means is that the pad will adjust to the contours of your horses hoof capsule and provide a completely even pressure over all the structures. This is a good thing.
Pressure stimulates growth, balanced pressure stimulates balanced growth, incorrect pressure stimulates incorrect growth, correct pressure stimulates correct growth (do you see a pattern forming here… You get out what you put in). So, assuming you have a pad of the right density, you’re going to be getting correct pressure buy getting even pressure.
Well ok – there’s times when an extreme pathology might mean you don’t want completely even pressure. You might want no pressure at all in a certain place – in which case these pads are even cooler! You can cut out a hole in the pad where you don’t want any pressure on the foot, giving you even pressure everywhere you want it and none where you don’t.
Trust me – when you need this – these pads aren’t dull anymore, they’re the coolest thing you’ve ever seen!
Not only do these pads stimulate pressure, but they can also absorb too much concussion. Now – generally speaking, with a healthy hoof, you may not want to absorb concussion, as a healthy bare foot utilises concussion. The concussion (of a bare hoof – not so much of a shod hoof) stimulates the soft structures to grow strong – that’s good.
So why would you want to absorb concussion? Well – I said a healthy hoof utilises concussion, keyword HEALTHY! If your digital cushion, lateral cartilages or inner wall are weak then the mechanisms that deal with concussion aren’t up to the work. Yes they need stimulating – but you need to be careful not to over stimulate.
If you have a toe first landing, then not only are all of the mechanisms that deal with concussion not being engaged, but by landing on the boney part of the foot rather than the soft part, concussions is being vastly amplified. (and lets not forget the strain on the shoulder – which maybe I should go into another time)
Sounds like something that applies pressure while reducing concussion might be a good idea hey?
It’s been found that blood flow to the foot is greatly improved when the hoof is taking the weight on the whole underside of the foot.
While I don’t agree that this is a good reason to over trim the hoof wall, I do think it’s a great reason to put a pad that conforms to the underside of the hoof into a hoof boot. Getting pressure on the frog, bars, sole and walls, thus stimulating all the internal structures has got to be a good thing (excluding extreme pathology of course).
These pads can provide all the conditioning you need. Where you might need sand, but you can’t either because you don’t have it available or because of a deep central sulcus, these pads will do the same job (give or take a bit of exfoliation).
If you want to stimulate a thicker sole so your horse’s hooves become rock crunching, these pads will get you there, without the need to go over a single stone. In fact I rarely recommend stones to condition feet. Not because they can’t do the job, but because you need just the right stoney surface and it’s rarely available.
Pads are easily available though. They’re a portable conditioning surface that protects and stimulates your horses feet. Seriously – how can that be dull!!! Well ok – maybe I need to get out a bit more. All this lying down has changed my perspective on what’s interesting, so you tell me… Is that cool or what?!?!?!
Now – you’re going to want a link to find out where to get these amazing beasts from right? It’d be mean of me, to tell you all this cool stuff and not how to get them, so click take a look at Equine Podiatry Supplies That’s where I get them from.
Look out for my download on how to cut and fit the pads to boots, and how to select the best boots to work with the pads. It’ll be up in a few days.
Did you know how cool they are, or think them dull and ‘just another product sale’?
Do you think pads could help your horse?
Tell me what you think…