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Ruckus: 17 Hand TB, 14 years old, eventing and school horse, never been shoeless, history of on going lameness problems.

He had been on and off lame for about 1 year prior and had not had proper hoof care. Shoes were removed by the former farrier in hopes to 'go natural' but then put back on after lameness and abscessing occurred.

When I first removed Ruckus' shoes, we concentrated on the severe infection of the frog, central sulcus and white line as they were extremely undermined. His heels were very contracted and high resulting in a lack of stimulus in the back two thirds of his feet. There was evidence of bruising (corns) at the angle of the bar and his white line was hollowed out. He had a lot of hoof, but it was very unhealthy.

After soaking Ruckus in cleantrax in all 4 feet, he abscessed in 3 out of 4 feet, purging a lot of infection that had built up in his system. This may be why he was 'on and off' lame for a year, he had minor abscessing that never quite resolved itself. Our local vet had been on our team since day one and with his help, we have achieved so much.

Ruckus had a subsolar abscess in his left hind that resurfaced about 2 months later. He seemed to not be able to fight his infections off due to the wet weather and the mucky paddock. Ruckus' environment has been the one challenge that if changed could have sped up the process immensely. But he is confined to a run in with no turn out except when his owner is there. The run in gets very muddy and mixes with manure adding to the infection in his feet.

Since Ruckus was to remain in this area, the owner tried to change the environment by pouring 4 yards of 3/8 inch peagravel in the paddocks to fill in the mud, at a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Ruckus had feet that were well on their way to health at this point, so he was able to stand on this surface, in fact he loved it, walking on it and standing on it immediately. His hooves just sank in the gravel. If it weren't for the peagravel, Ruckus may not have made such a drastic transition as it kept the manure and mud at bay and it naturally helped to exfoliate a lot of his excess sole, the result was amazing concavity and cleaner hooves as the gravel helped to clean the hoof naturally. The vet put him on antibiotics and his infections immediately cleared up, he definitely had a metabolic issue that was showing up in his feet, the question is which came first, the infection in his feet or in his system?

It is December 2006 and Ruckus is almost home free, the only thing holding him back is his environment, wet and mucky. But even with this environment his feet seem to be healthy enough to naturally fight off infection, and his white line disease, thrush and possibly yeast infections are not coming back! On cold dry days he is very happy and walk trots and canters, he is sure footed, but when his paddock is wet and mucky he is unable to walk on gravel comfortably without his hoof boots. This just goes to show, a horse's feet will mimic the environment that they are in. If the ground is wet, the soles and frog become wet and soft, but if the environment is dry and hard or just dry, the feet will be much more resilient over uneven terrain as the sole and frog become harder. The goal eventually is to move Rucus to a different environment, we hope to do this in the Spring of 2007.

The owner, vet and myself were extremely involved and committed in this case. I would not have pursued this if the owner was not 150% committed which he was and still is. The only reason Ruckus has not been moved is because the location where he is is the closest to the owner's house.

Ruckus is now running around when he is turned out and happy to play, buck and jump since his feet are healing.

The moral of this case study is that it takes time to rehab a horse with very bad feet. It is so rewarding to take the time it takes to rehab the feet back to health. Environment plays a key role in the success or failure of transitioning a horse to barefoot especially in New England. One must be realistic about what a horse can and cannot do barefoot, boots may very well be necessary or just not riding your horse until the feet get stronger.

December 2005 Left Front Untrimmed - Pulled Shoes


November 2006 - Left Front untrimmed

December 2006

December 2005 Right Front

November 2006 Right Front untrimmed

Right Front Dec 2006

The most dramatic change here is the expansion of the back of the foot and frog from getting rid of the infection and lowering the heels. Since Rucus does not get natural wear of his hooves from daily turn out, his bars and walls grow excessivley and need to be trimmed every 3 to 4 weeks. The fact that his hooves are growing this fast is a sign of health, but trimming more frequently is now necessary. Also note the concavity at the apex of the frog and sole area compared to the December 2005 pictures, a huge improvement.

2/10/2007 Update on Ruckus
I feel it is important to continue to update Ruckus' status on this site. I feel it plays a very important part in educating the public of what a horse and owner are up against in order to keep a horse sound and functioning. Ruckus' environment has not changed, he still lives in his small run in, with no turn out. Because he lives in such a limited environment, the owner must be very diligent with keeping up with any infection that may occur in his frogs and central sulcus. Ruckus' feet were as healthy as I was able to get them as of February 2007. It was clear that he either had to be moved or continue to have substandard feet. So after consulting with the local farrier that agreed going shoeless was the only way to nurse Ruckus' feet back to health, we also agreed it was now time to put shoes back on in order to start an exercise program. This is so exciting for me personally as it opened a door to work with a very competent farrier and we both see eye to eye in what is best for this horse and owner. We are excited to be able to work on more cases together, working as a team to get horses sound again.

Ruckus has moved to a farm where he has turn out every day and can run and play and interact with other horses. He is still shod, but hasn't taken a lame step according to his owner. Ruckus is sound and his owner is diligent with his hoof care. Shoes or no shoes this is a success story.