The SOUND System

horse soundness

I originally wrote this as a joke. I was supposed to be writing something completely different and not even horse related for a course I was doing. I was suffering a bit of writers block and thought this might blow the cobwebs away!

After laughing about how cheesey and silly it was for a few days, I decided that I actually meant every word of it, so I decided to keep it and share it with the world… you lucky things!

Horse Soundness S

Firstly we need to see exactly what’s going on with your horse. How does he stand (that’s the static part) how has his muscle structure developed and how does he move (that’s the dynamic part). But then let’s go deeper than that. It’s not just about finding a tight muscle or a restricted joint. It’s about finding out exactly why there’s a problem.

How’s the nervous system functioning? The nervous system affects and controls everything. If the movement isn’t right, what has happened to make the nervous system change the movement, and can we address that cause? If there’s over developed or under developed muscles – why?

Then what’s happening with the lymphatic system, and how are the internal organs functioning? I’m not talking about organ failure here (although obviously – that’s definitely going to have an effect on a horse!) but I’m talking about organ function. Are the liver, the gut, the kidneys, the pancreas etc functioning as well as they could be? Have they been working too hard for some reason? That can cause tension, which will affect posture, which will affect movement, which will affect the muscular system, which will affect how your horse performs, and of course by that point how the feet grow.

It’s all linked. When I’m trying to unravel a problem, I follow it back as far as I can. The body works as a complete system. If one thing is out of balance, then every other system compensates, which is how we all survive rather than die from the smallest problem. When a system compensates for something it becomes out of balance itself.

You could say that when one system becomes out of balance then every system becomes out of balance and that’s what causes symptoms (and symptoms are those things that make life suck). Is the cause of long toes a bad trim or the other end of the chain of events from the kidneys struggling a bit? (To be fair it could be either, but a bad trim can be fixed in minutes by applying a good trim. I’ve never (yet) seen a good trim balance kidney function though!)

horse soundness O

It’s important to have a balanced foot. You probably know that! It’s not always possible to achieve perfect balance in a foot for all sorts of reasons, but doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with, will optimise performance. That will help to stimulate the correct growth to improve and strengthen the health and function of the foot.

It’s important to remember that the hoof isn’t an inert structure on the bottom of the leg, so true balance isn’t going to be achieved by just getting the angles of the hoof in relation to the ground correct, or even the angles of the bones in relation to the hoof capsule. The hoof is constantly growing (hopefully). That means it’s constantly changing. It’s a living growing dynamic structure and should be treated as such. To get balance in that system means you must achieve balance in all systems.

When it comes to trimming a foot, all anyone can do is remove hoof horn in some way. There’s not much magic in the act of trimming a hoof, it’s what you don’t trim, what you leave on the hoof that’s important – that’s the bit the horse uses! By using boots, pads, shoes, wraps etc you can add things after you’ve applied a trim to help the horse’s performance, but you need to be sure that what you’re adding is helping you get where you want to go (literally and figuratively). Sometimes short term solutions are exactly what you need (and I’m all for using them in certain situations), but being aware of the longer term effects is also really important.

Getting all the systems of the horse back in balance is going to be the ultimate goal, and yes sometimes you might temporarily sacrifice one system while fixing another, but only if the sacrifice is worth the result – and that’s often a personal decision, and the more information you have at your finger tips, the easier it is to make.

Horse Soundness u

Well ok there’s a bit of artistic licensing there, but the message is the important bit. You are the one who sees your horses every day. You know your horse best. You’re the one who is ultimately going to have to apply all the necessary techniques and manage the environment your horse is in. You’re the one who makes the decisions based on the advice of your team of professionals. You’re the one who benefits from the results and goes out and enjoys the horse, and of course you worry when there are problems. You’re the one who pays the bills! You’re kinda important to this process, essential in fact.

For that reason I try to provide my clients with as much education, information and support as needed. That doesn’t make problems disappear (if only!) but it does help to relieve some of the stress and help you to feel more confident about rehabilitation (if that’s needed) or simply give you understanding of the benefits or pitfalls of what you’re doing. There’s good and bad sides to everything of course – I might have said this before, but it’s all about balance!! 🙂

Horse Soundness N

The whole body is constantly regenerating. In the hooves we call it growth; if something is injured we call it healing. The raw materials the body uses to create this regeneration is provided by what we put in to it, through the diet (both food and drink), and breathing. Now of course nothing is that simple. Nutrition isn’t only about what is put in. It’s about how the body processes those raw materials. Is the food being digested properly, and if it’s not… then why not?

It might be that a nutrient is in a form that isn’t easily absorbed by the gut, or maybe the gut transit is too fast, or too slow. Maybe the nutrient that was present in the ingredients of the feed was damaged by the processing, packing or amount of time before ingestion. Maybe there’s too much of a specific nutrient and it’s inhibiting the uptake of another essential mineral.

The biochemical individuality of each horse means that their requirements may not fit neatly into the ‘average’ recommended daily allowance ranges. As an average is the mid point (or thereabouts depending on what mathematical formula was chosen) it actually stands to reason that roughly 49% of horses would need more than average and 49% would need less than average. The chance of one particular feed being ‘the one’ that suits all horses on every yard in the country is fairly remote.

My point is this, there’s a margin for error when it comes to the nutritional needs of any living creature. It’s not an exact science, it’s not a one size fits all solution. Finding what a horse needs shouldn’t be trusted to a fancy marketing department. Getting that nutritional balance means considering the individuality of the horse, the yard, the owner (ie when/if you can feed him) and the function of the digestive system (and all the other systems come to think of it!).

Horse Soundness D

Well there are a lot of things to consider when you’re aiming to get your horse and hooves as strong healthy and functional as possible. Having detailed records removes the burden of having to remember everything. This is why I keep detailed records of every visit, and take regular photos of your horse. Being able to see and recall exactly what was going on when things were good can help a lot when trying to unravel a problem.

You will get a written report at every visit plus a progress report every 6 months. While the paperwork doesn’t seem like the most exciting part of the process, it is so valuable should a problem occur, and sometimes it just makes you feel good when you can see how much your horse has improved.