Barefoot Foundered Hoof Trim (Treatment)

The black perforated line show a critical stress. Above the blue arrow show the affects of the trim in June (Picture taken August 30th). Note the increase of the growth in the toe. The yellow arrow shows the beginning of fatigue to the hoof.

The same hoof above after trimming. No filing of the hoof wall from the front.

Side view of the same hoof before trimming.

Same hoof after trimming.

Bottom view of the same hoof before trimming. Foot obviously off balance, commonly seen in foundered horses.

Bottom of the same hoof after trimming. Note the fairly solid toe, hardly any seedy toe.

Left front hoof of the same pony.

Left front from the bottom. Some seedy toe still remains.

Not suitable for all types of foundered hoof, especially not in older cases and reoccurrences. Most useful in newly foundered hoof.     

Case: This pony is twenty some years old and suffers from chronic foundered hoof. The condition was managed successfully for several years without any medication, only with suitable trimming. The horse is no longer used for any work. It so happened, that this horse was somewhat forgotten and left without a trim for more than six months. At the end of June this year I was called to take care of this pony as his foundered hoofs have flared up and he was very sore; he was also eating too much grass and gained more weight.  I have implemented the following procedure, which I often do with newly foundered horses, because in many such cases the bare foot trim (treatment) without shoes produced the best results. In this case however, it is about chronic foundered hoof, which is somewhat different from the newly foundered hoof, and sometimes it is not always the correct thing to do, especially not when it comes to more contracted hoof with deeper cup, in which case shoeing is the proper procedure as in the alternative shoeing of foundered hoof no. 2. (Coming Soon)

     It is always best if the trimming of this type of foundered hoof is done at least once per six weeks, in some cases even more often. In this case, however, I was called back almost three month later. Despite such long period in-between the trims, this horse remained sound and the condition of the hoof got only a little better. Besides the trimming of the hoof, there was adjustment done to the diet of the pony that was taken off the grass and put on hay and water diet. In the cases of newly foundered horses, I have implemented the same procedure as in this case, but the horses were kept on grass with a muzzle to reduce the grass intake. Walking on the grass is very helpful to the full recovery of newly foundered horses. Also in this case the founder recurrence was not so acute, hence there was no medication used since the trim alone got the horse sound within three days. He has not been lame since June this year.

      As mentioned above, this type of procedure is not suitable for all types of foundered hoofs; In this case, the foot was wide, flat and without any cup. The whole idea of this trim is to reset the hoof growth as well as to prevent further rotation of the coffin bone. The resetting of the hoof growth is done by rolling the toe, while setting the hoof down on the sole will prevent further rotation of the coffin bone. Of course if the sole is too thin the horse must remain on a grass. As you can see on the photos, this pony is standing on his soles and on gravel (small rocks) and is completely comfortable, because the soles have grown very thick since the last trim, due to the rolled toe and because of the sole resting on the ground. (See Hoof Nature)

     Note a very important fact. I am not removing any hoof wall from the front, as it is customary. The reason is simple. The foundered rings in the hoof are actually holding the foot together, hence every time the hoof is under stress, we get a stress ring, which is natures remedy for strengthening the weakened hoof. Once when we rasp (remove) the “unsightly” upward turned toe wall the hoof structure is drastically weaken and the hoof begins to collapse even more by spreading apart, since there is nothing in the front to prevent it. In other words, the laminae in the front of the hoof are dead and the only thing holding it together is the wall. When the toe wall is removed the sidewalls begin to collapse under the weight, by spreading apart, which often leads to further damage, even to the so-called "sinking" of the hoof in wider footed horses. Therefore it is imperative that we leave the unsightly “Charlie Chaplin” looking like feet and concentrate on the new hoof growth. Once when we've accomplished the resetting of the hoof growth and we get the toe growing parallel and at least in the same rate as the heel, the unsightly toe will often come off (break off) in time by itself. (See Alignment of the hoof and toe parallels)

     Many folks are concerned with abscesses in the hoof but I’ve never seen an abscess caused by this type of trim and treatment. On occasion there may be some bruises found in later growth from underneath the coffin bone, but they actually stimulate the growth in the sole, which then in return helps the hoof growth reset. The corrective trimming or shoeing in foundered hoofs is mainly in resetting the hoof growth. Once that is accomplished the coffin bone will adjust to the healthy walls.

     This pony is an old fellow and he is doing just fine, he is sound and on no medication. The bill for this successful treatment was $25.00. There was no veterinarian called to the “rescue”, nor there is need for any x-rays, since the condition of the coffin bone can be assessed just from the hoof growth and the horse is no longer used for any work. Well, on occasion he gives a pony party for kids, or the children of the owner ride him around a bit, mainly on the grass.

     I have implemented this treatment in other cases. In one case a very obese pony suffered from an acute founder while he was team penning. The horse simply stopped and could not move. I was called the next day, did the same type of trim. The emergency treatment was implemented, the horse was put on Bute for several days, was moved from a rich grass pasture to a poorer one. Horse was sound within couple of weeks and year later there were no obvious sign in the hoof that the horse even foundered. The bill was $25.00, not counting the Bute.

     I’ve seen in some cases people spending several hundreds of dollars, farriers using all sorts of “out of space” shoes, while the horses are still a mess a few years later. In farriery it is not about new things and technology, but it is about things that we have never learned, because they got forgotten.

     In chronic founder one must be aware of the fact, that every time the feet flair up they get damage more and more and the horse will get past possible recovery, because of the scar tissue that will prevent a full regeneration of the laminae. In other words the hoof partially dies in a particular spot and the new laminae is too weak to support the hoof. Therefore, if your horse foundered once before, please make sure to prevent reoccurrence.

    Please read related article on “Foundered Hoof Trim and Shoeing – General Concept (Coming Soon)

Hind foot of the same pony. Though there is obvious wall separation at the toe, there is hardly any structural damage to the hoof. The foot will fully recover. This drawing shows the fatigue on the foundered hoof when the front (dished-flared out) part (white) of the hoof is filed off. The heel will tend to grow even faster, since it is under increased stress to the sides (spreading) to prevent total collapse (ripping from the laminae).

A typical filing of the toe wall in foundered hoof. This will not help anything, whether the hoof is shod or not. The photo shows immense growth at the heel. The toe and heel ratio is in critical 1.5 to 1 in parallels.

All my comments are merely my opinions and beliefs gained from 40 years of professional life with horses. All drugs should be used only by the consent of a veterinarian and according to his instructions. A person who is with the horse everyday, should know him better than anyone else.