Articles & Information
FROM THE HOOFCARE & LAMENESS ARCHIVES
Hoof Repair Update
This article appeared in Hoofcare & Lameness in 1994.
Hoof wall repair works. There's no doubt about that. But what it works on is the hoof wall. If the causative imbalance or injury is not in the wall itself, a hoof repair job will only patch the symptom, the point where the foot collapsed under strain.
At the AFA Convention, Dr. Hood discussed all the individual parts of the hoof, but stressed that the strength of the foot, as a whole, is "greater than the sum of its parts....but the parts must work together as an integrated single unit. The foot will only be as strong as its weakest component.
Strength comes from:
1) the material properties of each component;
2) the architecture of the foot; and
3) the interaction between the parts."
He went on to compare the parts: the hoof wall bends and absorbs energy; the lamina stretch and compress; the digital cushion is displaceable; bones, tendons, and ligaments will bend somewhat, but not compress. The lamina are susceptible to damage because they are between the semi-rigid wall and the rigid bone. Injuries and deformations of the lamina need long term rest and therapy.
In racing and in some high-end sports, the horse's ability to compete in a certain event or to stay in training may influence the decision whether or not to repair or reinforce a foot. If a horse is a professional athlete, it must not lose condition, so the foot must be patched. We all have seen these horses' feet, and we know how high-maintenance they can be. The average horse deserves a combination of the best technology available to alleviate pain and promote healing, but it also deserves some time off and a thorough evaluation of conformation, training, and equipment to see if the problem is related to performance stress. If so, that should be corrected.
Ric Redden cautions when not to use hoof repair composites:
1) on water-soaked feet;
2) on greasy feet with builtup oils;
3) on full thickness toe cracks and moist quarter cracks.
Every product on the market is different, but if a product is widely used and fails in one person's hands, the problem is more likely environmental or technical rather than the product itself. Check with other farriers or veterinarians who use a product, and with the supplier who sold it to you. Have others returned the product as defective or were they successful? Record lot numbers, and remember whether you used it on a particularly hot or cold day. Don't rely on chemical products to have a long shelf life, either on your dealer's shelves or in your hot truck. Don't keep your chemical products near a propane forge, even on a swing out arm; residual heat may affect the properties of the compound. At the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium in February, one speaker suggested moving a horse to be repaired out of a wet environment the night before you are to do the job, to make sure that the foot will be dry enough to accept the compound, If you don't have success with a product, notify the manufacturer. In most cases, they will be happy to evaluate the product with you and, if you are willing to try again, may even supply you with a replacement.
Farrier Hans Albrecht from southern California summed it up this way: "If you patch at the wrong time, or you don't get the crack clean enough, you're going to be back there soon....and on the horse's terms. The crack has to dry out. Sometimes it may mean you have to wait up to a full week before you put the patch on. You don't want to trap any moisture under there. Only patch a crack if it's necessary. See if you can leave it open and get the owner to medicate the foot with something like a betadyne solution instead.
"A quarter crack is a stress fracture of the hoof wall and it is telling you that the horse has been overworked and needs a rest. But trainers know that these products are available and that they can, if they're used properly, keep a racehorse working. I'd only repair a wall injury if the wall is in such disrepair that it is not weightbearing or if the horse is standing on its sole. Then build the wall up, by all means, so the horse has something to stand on until the foot regrows."
In other uses, hoof repair compounds are suggested as adjuncts to the normal gluing process, particularly on medial or lateral extension shoes, as recommended by Simon Curtis in his papers on shoeing foals. Ric Redden also suggests using epoxy as a secondary filler in the cuff of his Dalric shoes when used on club feet. The epoxy can be screwed or nailed. Redden warned that repeated use of hoof repair compounds in wet weather can cause weakening of the horn to the point where it will crumble when the composite is removed. He suggests concentrating on drying out the feet before removing the shoe. He uses a solution of Keratex hardener, alcohol, and seven percent iodine painted on the sole and over the composite to drive out moisture.
This article originally appeared in Hoofcare & Lameness: The Journal of Equine Foot Science and is available for your personal use only. Re-publication is prohibited without the express written permission of Hoofcare & Lameness.
Detailed information on this and many other hoofcare topics can be found in Hoofcare & Lameness publisher Fran Jurga's award-winning guide to hoofcare, "Understanding the Equine Foot".
Hoofcare & Lameness