Foot problems, especially for jumpers, become more noticeable as the winter equestrian season winds down in Florida, according to well-respected veterinarian and farrier Dr. Steve O’Grady of Palm Beach Equine Clinic.
Dr. O’Grady has been treating horses for 45 years in Virginia and Florida. He also travels extensively all over the world, teaching and training other vets and farriers on farriery problems and solutions. It’s obvious to Dr. O’Grady why foot problems are more common later in the season.
“When horses arrive in Wellington in December, (foot care) starts with bar shoes, pads, pour-ins, etc. as a form of prevention for the busy three months. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to start the season by doing a conservative trim (leave horn on the bottom of the foot) and make sure the proper size shoe is selected. The various farrier products may actually add pressure to the structures in the beginning of the season ” says Dr. O’Grady. “When it comes around to March, the structures of the foot have been compromised by the intensity of the competition, the protective farrier products have already been used and there’s nothing more to absorb the shock and energy at the end of the season.”
Dr. O’Grady adds that it is okay to use different medications and anti-inflammatories as long as the proper dosages and rules are followed as prescribed. But to properly fix foot problems, he has one sure solution.
“Time is the best cure,” Dr. O’Grady says. “The feet are the slowest structures on the horse to recover. There isn’t a magical fix.”
However, Dr. O’Grady has an idea that might help if you cannot give your horse sufficient rest despite the numerous classes and repetitive nature of the show schedule.
As the season wears on, whether it’s WEF or HITS, Dr. O’Grady believes that decreasing the amount of warm up, schooling and lunging makes a world of difference in protecting the hooves.
“But if the feet are sore, the feet are sore,” adds Dr. O’Grady. “There’s no quick fix. It’s all about prevention.”
Sore feet can cause numerous problems elsewhere, according to Dr. Bob Brusie, head surgeon at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.
“The horses with sore feet tend to land funny, which can cause strained suspension ligaments or tendons,” says Dr. Brusie. “There also could be sore heels. Sore feet tend to make them short-strided and that could lead to a sore back and/or a sore neck.”
Dr. Brusie says one way to notice a horse with sore feet, especially among jumpers, is their reluctance to jump the fences.
“That can be hard on the riders, too,” adds Dr. Brusie.
The foot is the closest to the environment and if you have a sore-footed horse, it could lead to lameness and poor performance, according to Dr. Brusie. Another possibility that could lead to sore feet is being too wet.
“Horses that are to show or play (polo) sometimes get two or three baths a day,” explains Dr. Brusie. Coupled with rings that are sprayed with water to help the footing can lead to problems, he said.
Both Dr. O’Grady and Dr. Brusie believe that taking proper care of your horse’s feet early helps the horses in the long run by eliminating other problems.