The horse in question, an 18 yo Appaloosa was retired from showing because of the non-specific diagnosis of caudal heel pain syndrome. Xrays confirmed the presence of ‘changes’ that were attributed to his discomfort. He was shod according to proper conventional veterinary standards for navicular, which did help to make him comfortable, but he still seemed stiff, definitely not agile, and, at the bottom of the pecking order would allow himself to be cornered and bullied rather than try and run away.
In examining his feet, there was nothing obvious or terrible about them that would be making him sore but the owner decided, with much trepidation, to give barefoot a try. As it turned out there was quite a bit of fine tuning to do on his feet and with each trim his gait and comfort level improved. In particular his toes were able to be shortened much more than they could be in wedge shoes even though short toes is the standard shoeing protocol for ‘easing breakover’.
Right Front Leg Lateral View
a. With shoes b. Shoes Just Removed c. First Trim
In the shoes with wedge pads, the toe length looks acceptable, but without it, the excess length is more apparent. While a wedge does improve breakover, it comes at the cost of shifting the weight of the foot and leg pathologically onto the toe. With one trim, the toe length is improved and the bulge in the hairline is relaxed and straighter.
d. Growing out holes e. 4 mos. later f. 7 mos. later
As the trim progresses, the hairline bulge continues to improve, the toe continues to come back, the heel stands up a little, and the foot comes ‘under the leg’ in balance. In the last photo, the hairline angle approaches the ideal as toe height improves, and the toe length is nice and short. The horse is standing comfortably with the cannon bone nicely vertical, with all his weight visibly placed onto that leg and into the heels.
Note the difference between figs. c and f. In the later photo, the heel has been brought back more underneath the boney column, providing a better base of support which is helpful in a navicular diagnosis (as in all cases since the balance is better). The toe is shorter in lenght but has more depth from coronary band to ground, which improves comfort. In general the whole shape of the foot is much improved, without having made any drastic changes.