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UT Equine Podiatry Conference


2014/04/01







The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) held its first annual Equine Podiatry Conference on March 8, 2014, with the purpose of bringing farriers and veterinarians together on horse hoof issues. Attendees could earn 8 hours of Continuing Education credits.

Keynote speakers were Chris Gregory, CJF, FWCF, a professional horse shoer since 1987, and Raul J. Bras, DVM, CJF, who is both a veterinarian at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital and a certified farrier. The first speaker was Chris Gregory on Therapeutic Shoeing: Application and Techniques. The second lecture was Common Causes of Lameness and Therapeutic Approaches by Dr. Rauk Bras, DVM. Roy Johnson from Nutrena gave the luncheon lecture on nutrition for hoof quality.

Dr. Bras explained the structure and functions of the hoof: shock absorption, support, propulsion, proprioception (the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement). He emphasized the importance of balance: harmony between parts; efficient use; storage and return of energy; proportions; symmetry; and ways that diet changes the hoof. Farriers, veterinarians and horse owners are constantly involved in managing the cycle of balance between: imbalance, lameness, and hoof capsule distortion. He described some common hoof infections, ranging from the usual abscess to more complicated infections involving vital structures, such as the coffin bone (osteomyelitis), and/or synovial structures (coffin joint, navicular bursa) caused by puncture wounds.

To determine the causes of lameness, several factors must be taken into consideration: hoof capsule distortion, conformation, signs of injury, wear and tear. The question to be answered is: Which came first: injury or lameness?
Bras emphasized two things: when shoeing a horse, take careful consideration of the conformation of the horse. The purpose of the shoe is to support the structures. You can’t change a horse’s conformation. So, there’s a delicate balance between using shoeing that may alter conformation and may end up causing more damage or lameness. Take a good look at radiographs, ultrasounds, and MRI that shows the blood flow and pressure within the foot. Second: The best shoe cannot do the job unless you have a good trim. It’s all about the trim, not the shoe.

Bras used the low heeled foot to illustrate the process of correcting a hoof problem. What is the cause? Look at the X-ray for crushed heel, a low under run heel, or even an exterior look at a collapsed heel. Look at the forces of the soft tissue structures and the navicular bone. Make sure not to compromise the blood circulation! How can we correct this issue? Wedge up the foot or keep it flat? Keep it flat is usually the correct answer. This may just be a temporary fix and not necessarily a long term fix, especially if it’s between shows.  Always stay ahead and keep to schedule when fixing an issue.          

Another example Bras discussed was managing the club foot. To best manage it, first understand the anatomical structures that contribute to the problem: the coffin bone, the deep digital flexor tendon. Lowering the heels from the frog apex toward the rear of the foot and enhancing breakover by rolling the toe to relieve tension may not fix the problem, but can manage it. You can also use a wedge and put the roll further back from the toe. Other examples he discussed included heel pain and navicular syndrome, osteoarthritis, osteosclerosis, cystic, tendinitis, ligamentary, and coffin joint lameness.

The luncheon lecture by Nutrena expert Roy Johnson focused on nutrition and the nutrients that drive different functions. Always look at the horse’s hay or forage first, and then use particular grain feeds to supplement what the hay quality does not provide. Overall balance of nutrition is the goal.

Body condition, muscle mass, hair coat, and hoof quality are key indicators of whether or not a horse is getting good nutrition. The goal of feeding a quality feed is improvement in all these areas within 60 days.

What effects hoof growth? Keratin in the hoof is largely made of protein. Increase the quality of protein for improved hoof function. Meeting the protein requirements does not mean just supplying a certain amount of crude protein; it means ensuring that your horse gets the ten essential amino acids.

In addition to protein, vitamins, both fat and water soluble, are important to the diet. Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, & K. Third, are the essential minerals.

Improving your horse’s nutrition means first feeding a balanced diet. If the diet is deficient or marginal, improve your feeding program to provide appropriate nutrient sources Recognize that many factors impact hoof quality. Nutrition and supplement will not fix all issues! In summary: always look at hay or roughage first, and then use particular grains to supplement what the hay quality cannot provide.

Triple Crown Nutrition provided a Horse Feeding and Product Guide, which included nutrition guidelines for life stages, nutrition guidelines for clinical disorders, and horse feeding references. The last page is an Equine Body Condition Score Chart.

After lunch, there were labs in which Dr. Bras and Mr. Gregory demonstrated how veterinarians and farriers work together to solve the particular issues a horse might have. Working on a demonstration horse, Mr. Gregory hand forged a shoe to fit the horse, while Dr. Bras trimmed the hoof. Both worked very well together, as they consulted with each other about the best options for this particular horse.

Vendors displayed all kinds of hoof care and shoeing products. Sponsors of the event were Nutrena and Triple Crown feeds, Delta, Soft Ride, NC Tool Co., Stockhoff’s, 3M, Kodiak and Georgia Farriers Supply, Vettec Hoof Care, Tennessee Farriers Supply, and Baggett Hoof Knives. Chris Gregory had copies of his book available, Gregory’s Textbook of Farriery.

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