Barefoot hoof-care methods to improve palmer heel angle
The benefits of shoeing versus barefoot hoof-care often trigger lively debate. This research found the palmer section of the hoof benefits from intervals of bare foot care, however it requires a transition period and depends on the horse being able to perform as required without shoes.
Experience vet and farriery practitioner, S.E. Grady, details his method for barefoot trimming (shaping) as followed; leave the horny sole intact, the hoof wall should be 3-5mm longer for protection and level the heels and frog to the same plane to ‘load share’. This trimming style is supported with a transition period; 7-10 days walk out and if the horse becomes comfortable, include turn out, then after 60-90 days re-introduce exercise. Some horses may not be amenable to barefoot depending on the health/strength of hoof capsule, work load or surface worked on.
This study documented 20 horses with underrun heels all of which saw significant improvement of their heel base angle. The importance of an improved palmer heel angle is significant as it reduces the negative forces on the navicular bone. Attention must be paid to the hoof trimming and the transitioning period to give the horse increased chance of adapting to barefoot.
Expert opinion by Lauren Carey-Love
Often farriery tends to add more shoeing and product to solve hoof conformation problems, however this study highlights that ‘less can mean more’. Each horse should be assessed individually for its suitability, but improving the palmer heel angle with barefoot care is very worthy to consider.
> From: O'Grady, S.E., 2016. Equine Vet Educ., 28(6), pp.321-326. All rights reserved to EVJ Ltd. Click here for the online summary