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Hi all,

I haven’t posted on here in a while as I have been very preoccupied with my new baby!

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This is Dexter, he is a 4 year old TB, trialled once on the track and came last, wasn’t good enough for polo either 🤣 Completely fine with me as he is my dressage/show prospect and thankfully not eventer.

I have had him about 2 months now and 4 weeks ago I officially committed to taking him barefoot. He was a full set of natural balance shoes for god knows how long but safe to say I got them off him first chance I could. He is doing extremely well considering he probably hasn’t been barefoot since he was a yearling. He is doing well in turnout and seems to be adjusting well but as expected he is very tender and sensitive. He has blown out a big crack on his right front where the nail holes are growing out and seemed to be getting more and more sensitive on gravel/sand/hard ground over the past 4 weeks.

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These first weeks have been a “throw it at a wall and see what sticks” experiment and it is pretty clear to me he’s going to need some foot protection when he’s out with me at this point in time and quite possibly some protection in turnout as well.

What I want to know is what everyone’s favourite form of protection for the general barefoot rehab process?

My barefoot trimmer guy is going to fit him for scoot boots this week and I have read scoot boots are safe for turnout, however they need to be taken off every few hours to let the hoof breathe. I can’t do this as I don’t live on the property where he is kept and I don’t want to put all that responsibility on my BO. If he was on my property I would just turn him out in boots and do the process no questions asked but it’s simply not in my range at the moment.

Would I be best to leave him completely bare in turnout and just boot him when I take him out? The trimmer has suggested the possibility of tips and I would also like to know general thoughts on those in terms of rehab.

Thanks in advance
 

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I use Scoot Boots for my gelding. The way they’re constructed, there’s a lot of air flow so I’m not sure where this “take them off to let the hoof breathe bit comes in. My gelding doesn’t wear them 24/7, I just put the boots on when I tack him up and take them off to put him back in his paddock.
 

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I used hoof boots (Cavello).

Also, some unsolicited advice you may or may not know:

The biggest change I saw towards a strong barefoot horse (on a horse that previously struggled a lot with barefoot) was when the nutrition was finally balanced. My horse FINALLY started growing hoof strong enough and the hoof-whiteline connection was fantastic meaning we were finally able to get more concavity than ever before. This was about 2.5 years in, so it was definitely the full diet change. We had short-term successes prior to diet change, but never long-term. After changing the diet, we have had 0 issues in the hooves for several years. I'm not talking supplements here, but a hay analysis for minerals/vitamins etc (via state/provincial vet, yourself taking samples and sending it off or a feed store). Once you have results, you can start balancing. Certain companies like Horsetech will formulate a custom full spectrum vit/mineral powder or pellet or you can go another route by picking and choosing what you add, but I'd enlist the help of a nutritionist (unaffiliated) to help you with that. I also checked into soil analysis reports in my area because they were availble online, which helped me determine that high iron and low vitamin E were issues. I know some people on here have also done soil analysis to get a better representation of their horse's baseline diet.

There are some products out there that may or may not help. I've used things like venice turpentine or hoof armour in the past, particularly going into the winter when the ground was getting quite hard.They help create a 'layer' on the sole just to help with sensitivity a bit. Not very comparable to boots though, in my opinion.
 

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There are lots of new options for protecting the hoof these days, if you have a hoof care practitioner that can apply them. Since you can't take boots off once a day (I shoot for 3-4 hours when one of mine is turned out in boots), hoof casting might be a good option for you. Antimicrobial/antifungal materials are applied to the hoof and then a casting material, like that for broken bones, is applied to the hoof below the hair line. I don't know how casting works out for riding or how long they stay on, but they are definitely popular for rehabbing hooves.
 

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Depending on how sensitive he is.......what I would do is use something like Durasole to toughen up the soles of the feet.....2-3 coats really does wonders, and leave him barefoot in turnout. Then use boots for riding. I've had good luck with that and our ground is hard (ie. turnout is really a hard clay dry-lot). But if he's sore in turnout, I would definetly do something to protect his feet. But he might be just fine barefoot with Durasole in turnout and booted to ride. I would ask your farrier/trimmer.
 

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There are other options of boots that are usually better than riding boots like Scoots, for full time use of seriously lame horses - actual rehab boots for eg. Any boot should be taken off for at least a short period every day, to be cleaned & dried & same for the feet.

But do you really need to have him booted in the paddock? Is it all really rough ground, or he is that lame? If he's so sore he can't be kept in a 'normal' paddock barefoot, then he's in a seriously bad way. If so, I'd get the vet to do xrays, along with other measures. But chances are(hopefully) his feet are just weak - & not a good pic to tell, but they look imbalanced & possibly mildly laminitic, so those factors need addressing.

Trouble(especially) with shoeing youngsters especially, before their feet have fully developed is, you may always have some contraction, because that's how his feet have been 'locked in' while growing. Some damage to lateral cartilages & other soft tissue may also be permanent. But the good thing is, he's only 4yo, still immature, developing, healing quicker than an adult, and also horses don't tend to start growing a really robust caudal foot until around that age, so, so long as there is no other damage not known about, there's a very good chance that with good care, he can develop truly strong, healthy hooves.
 

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I have a horse that has been wearing Scoot Boots 24/7 for 2 1/2 years. Fit is very important for this, particularly in the area where the straps go across the bulb.

For wet weather, I pack his collateral groves with lchthammol for proactive thrush prevention.

I also use closed cell neoprene pads in the shoe.

It looks like the hoof rings in the picture are wider toward the heels than in the front which is a clear sign of past laminitis. That would mean at least a somewhat compromised sole depth resulting in needed protection.

The fact that your trimmer is recommending protection and Scoot Boots seems to indicate he is fully aware of the horse may be a laminitis prone horse. So in addition to protection, you may want to bring yourself up to date on feeding a laminitis prone horse. That's every bit as important an protection and maybe more so.

Ask your trimmer if he thinks x-rays would be of any value to him in trimming at this point.

Edit: Note, my horse is not that active at this point. If your horse gets wild and crazy bucking and running at turn out, the Scoots won't stay on unless they are too tight for 24/7 use. They do need to be a little looser than would be used for a trail ride of a few hours.

Edit again: The tightness can be adjusted somewhat by the thickness of the pads used. A finger should be able to be run under the bulb loops. Not so for an active trail ride.

This is all based on my one horse experience.
 

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I would seriously doubt a four year old TB has tender feet from laminitis. More likely the poor hoof form from wearing shoes and poor TB breeding has given him thin and sensitive soles. If he seems sore and has been taken out on gravel and those wood chips in the photos, I'd suspect he has some minor bruising going on that he needs to recover from. But he should be able to be turned out without boots on if he can be on sand, dirt or grass, without an issue. I'd avoid those wood chips because in my experience they can be hard on soles.

I would not try to "transition" him to being ridden on gravel or hard surfaces barefoot. Most likely as a TB he will not be able to achieve that without getting things like abscesses from bruising. It is a very achievable goal to have him be barefoot in turnout, and to wear boots when ridden or worked on rougher surfaces.

My TB has benefited from having a hoof supplement in addition to good nutrition, and his hooves have improved amazingly over the past several years. But he still can't go barefoot on gravel.

My TB did not fit well into Scoot boots, and I would suggest that Renegades might stay on better. They also are a great boot and easy to put on.
 

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This is what appeared to me to be divergent growth rings, which if it is is again a sure sign of past laminitis. Hard to be certain without the hoof being cleaned up a bit.

Also, I have a full set of Renegade boots and they are a great boot but they will cause rub sore spots with extended turnout.
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I have a horse that has been wearing Scoot Boots 24/7 for 2 1/2 years.
If a horse is that bad & past rehabbing, so permanent palliative care is necessary, then shoes, such as Eponas or Easyshoes are generally a better option than boots IME.

It looks like the hoof rings in the picture are wider toward the heels than in the front which is a clear sign of past laminitis.
It looked to me that the rings are perhaps narrower at the quarters.
This is common for shod horses, as farriers trim the base of the foot flat to fit shoes, so the quarters are overlong & so under more stress. Essentially, when 'growth rings' are uneven, it's due to hoof imbalance, not necessarily laminitis with rotation.

But regardless of 'divergence', the prominent rings at the top of the feet are an indication of recent laminar stress, which while many still don't recognise as such, is indeed under the umbrella of 'laminitis'. That is why I specified 'low grade' or 'mild'(whatever I called it - 'sub clinical' is another labled for same) laminitis. It may not be to the degree to create significant hoof distortion, lameness, bounding pulse etc - signs of obvious 'acute' or chronic laminitis with rotation, but that IME is purely a matter of degrees, and anything which creates stress/inflammation to the laminae, particularly enough to 'Interrupt' the growth to create those ridges, is 'laminitis' to me. Well worth learning the signs of 'mild' laminitis(& other 'ill health') & how to manage to avoid/minimise, because then we could all but eliminate 'real' clinical cases.

I would seriously doubt a four year old TB has tender feet from laminitis.
Sadly, I wouldn't, being the horse is OT, so with his 'high octane'(& often low quantity forage, infrequent large meals...) diet, probable perpetual shoeing & management, it is VERY common for racehorses to be laminitic. But again, it's generally 'subclinical' & not recognised until it reaches a point...

At least, while steel rims, particularly on immature horses isn't great imo, racehorses ime are generally well shod, so distortion tends to be minimised(aside from that quarter stress described). Also when considering that racehorses don't tend to display obvious clinical signs of laminitis/founder, remember that steel peripheral loading rims are generally a very good palliative - reducing feeling/pain, so the horse may still run well. Many racehorses(including Australia's most famous Pharlap who stood in the national museum till recent years) have absolutely attrocious, obviously foundered, and yet they still somehow run & win!

OP, re-looking at that second pic, reminded me I was going to comment on the oily look of the hooves - 'Conditioners' do not help hoof health/strength but can hinder it, so I'd definitely not be putting topical goops on them.
 

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Another issue that doesn't get talked about much, but I think it probably a significant factor in why OTTBs have notoriously bad hooves, is dietary. Race horses are routinely put on feeds with high iron content, with the belief that more iron = more red blood cells = more oxygen in the bloodstream = improved performance. But horses don't metabolize iron like we do, and unless a horse is actually anemic (rare), their natural amount of hemoglobin is just fine. And feeding more iron to them won't add any more. But what it does do is significantly throw off their levels of zinc and copper, because the iron interferes with the absorption of those minerals. And copper and zinc are critical for hoof health. Which is why it's especially important to really look at the diets of OTTBs where their feet are concerned, and get them on a healthier path.
 

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...Sadly, I wouldn't, being the horse is OT, so with his 'high octane'(& often low quantity forage, infrequent large meals...) diet, probable perpetual shoeing & management, it is VERY common for racehorses to be laminitic. But again, it's generally 'subclinical' & not recognised until it reaches a point...
Agree. I misspoke, because I was not actually thinking or meaning laminitis per se, but rather insulin resistance. A young TB is unlikely to need a special diet relating to insulin resistance. Rather, they probably have issues with laminitis relating to acidic gut related to high grain and low forage diets, along with poor hoof trimming and form with shoes, as you mentioned.

I do believe that any horse will benefit from having a grain-free, all forage diet. But as far as the treatment of an insulin resistant horse, that is not going to be necessary for a young TB. There should be no problem with allowing the horse to be on a grass pasture, and it wouldn't be necessary to have the hay tested for low NSC or soaked, for example. With this age and breed, insulin resistance would not be something to look for the way you might with a pony, mustang or other "easy keeper" breed.
 

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Another issue that doesn't get talked about much, but I think it probably a significant factor in why OTTBs have notoriously bad hooves, is dietary. Race horses are routinely put on feeds with high iron content, with the belief that more iron = more red blood cells = more oxygen in the bloodstream = improved performance.
Thanks for that! I do indeed appreciate the HUGE factor of diet & nutrition in hoof health, and as said, I'm very aware of racehorses having a diet that's NOT good for hooves, and knowing that high iron is a prob. But somehow it didn't occur to me about all the 'red cell support' that performance horses get as well...
 

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If a horse is that bad & past rehabbing, so permanent palliative care is necessary, then shoes, such as Eponas or Easyshoes are generally a better option than boots IME.
I disagree. I have used plastic shoes in the past and may again someday, but only for a fully healthy foot.

Plastic shoes are either open in the sole area not affording protection to the sole, or are closed not allowing frequent inspection and treatment, especially during wet weather.

Boots can be removed frequently for inspection and treatment. An oversize allows for a 1/2 inch or more of sole padding, which mine does have and which provides an enormous amount of added comfort.
 
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