Category Archives: Equine Podiatry

Dare To Be Bare. Natural Hoof Care

SimplyHorses Podiatry Clinic  Sole_before-and-after-trim

As you know we are all very keen on allowing our horses hoofs to become the very best they can possibly be, with regards to genetics, local environment etc. A core part of this is Natural Hoof Care and this article featured on Simply Healthy Hooves is a great read and up to date summary of the state of the Barefoot horse.

It also tackles my favourite question why do we shoe our dressage horses working on a surface in an equine discipline that is supposed to illustrate all the natural athleticism and grace of our horses!

Read the article linked CLICK HERE is a wonderful summary.

Always remember “NO FOOT NO HORSE…”


Equine Barefoot Basics Guidelines

See this post on FB  click the link below note the image is before the shoes were removed and the correct balance attained, but it shows the basics very well.


Hi my mantra for hoof trimming regarding the absolute basics to start from 🙂

Ideally a 3-8 degree palmar P3 angle: This is the angle of the bottom of the coffin bone in relation to the ground accurate x rays are essential to get this correct.

50/50 base of support from toe to heel around the center of rotation of the hoof capsule and in some cases ideal is 60% behind and 40% in front!

Minimizing flare and distortion in the hoof capsule but do not weaken a very thin wall.

Hoof-pastern axis in alignment.




Simply Healthy Hooves: Natural Hoof Care

The Bare Facts

On the 8th April Simply Healthy Hooves and Finchale View RS organised an interesting afternoon course for our clients and anyone interested in Natural Hoof Care,  together with farrier Jeff Mordey at the Finchale View Riding School in Leamside, Durham.

The afternoon started with some practical lectures from Paul Proctor and Jeff, focusing on the anatomy of the hoof, explaining the benefits of barefoot trimming and giving a step by step approach for an easy transition to get your horse barefoot in a healthy way.

victor hoof 1

Barefoot Hoof TRANSITION

After a short tea break it was time for our clients to get more hands-on. Thomas and Cougar were available as our volunteering horses, so everybody could see the anatomy of the hoof in real life and learn how easy the day to day care of a barefoot horse can be.

By the end of the afternoon the feet of Thomas and Cougar were very shiny and well polished because everybody had a go with the hoof care following instructions from Paul!

Jeff gave some great demonstrations of barefoot trimming, showing what the foot should look like for the horse to move as naturally as possible.

There were also different kinds of boots on display, so everyone could get a feel for what’s available nowadays. In addition, Paul used some specimen hooves to show the cross section of the foot and carried out some x-rays on Thomas and Cougar so we could see the alignment of the bones inside their hooves.

horse hoof transition-ridden

It was great to see everybody so excited about learning more about the subject and Paul, Jeff and the Simply Horses team had their hands full with answering all the questions.

In conclusion it was a very interesting afternoon, and everybody went home with a little more knowledge than they arrived with and lots of things to think about.

Mariet Klomp ( Simply Horses Vet Clinic)

The EasyShoe a Way To Shoe The Barefoot Horse

On the 19th February Simply Horses Vet clinic will be hosting the first live demonstration in the UK of the brand new revolutionary Easy Shoe from easy care.
A group of 20 local farriers will be having a practical demonstration on how to nail and glue these innovative shoes. At long last we have a shoe that is flexible and good for the hoof, for those horses we cannot boot or are unable to go totally barefoot for whatever reason.
We will be doing an online webinar / video after the event if anyone is interested.
For more information contact the clinic on easyshoe @
A new dawn in shoeing horses, at last a flexible shoe that allows the hoof to move, especially the heels so essential for good hoof function.

Introductory Video


Simply horses find out about farriery in Italy

How the Italians do it!

As an Italian vet working in the UK there are many similarities with how farriery works.  In Italy a farrier is called a Maniscalco (which is derived from the words ‘mare’ as in horse and ‘shall’ meaning duty/responsibility).  Incidentially, the English word ‘marshal’ derives from the German words ‘marah’ (horse) and schalh (servant) – meaning who is responsible for taking care of horses.

In Italy farriers can train at local level or train via military farrier colleges which are now open to the public rather than just military.  It takes 2-3 years of both theory and practical work (apprenticeship) before an Italian farrier is qualified to European standards.    However, there are other shorter courses for farriers in Italy but these do not give qualifications for working outside Italy.  Unfortunately, there are also people who call themselves farriers, who have learnt the ‘skills’ from their fathers, ie family businesses carried down.  Whilst they may have experience they have no recognised qualification.


Recently, in Italy barefoot farriery has become popular resulting in the craft of farriery gaining new impetus.  Obviously, barefoot farriery requires learning new techniques and farriers have had to adapt and learn these new techniques.



As in the UK Italian farriers work closely with owners (who know the type of work the horse is required to do) and vets (who, for example, will ensure the appropriate measures are undertaken when a horse has joint problems, etc).


At equestrian sporting events in Italy a farrier would be present, along with vets and first aid personnel for people.

Simply Horses Laminitis research update

Vets have announced plans to conduct a clinical trial evaluating an experimental drug that has shown promise in treating horses stricken with the debilitating hoof disease laminitis.

They have treated four horses suffering from laminitis with the investigational anti-inflammatory drug so far. They said that one horse experienced remission that has lasted for more than a year, and three others have shown some improvement. A paper on the first laminitis case has been accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed Journal of Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia.

Alonso Guedes, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVA, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), School of Veterinary Medicine, plans to begin the clinical trial to assess the drug’s safety and establish a tolerable dose in the spring. Further clinical trials would be needed to establish the drug’s effectiveness as a laminitis treatment.

The experimental compound, known as t-TUCB, belongs to a group of anti-inflammatory compounds called sEH (soluble epoxide hydrolases) inhibitors. It stems from a discovery made more than 40 years ago by UC Davis entomology professor Bruce Hammock, PhD, while doing basic insect biology research. He and colleagues have identified a group of anti-inflammatory compounds, including the sEH inhibitors, that have proven to be effective in relieving inflammatory discomfort and pain related to nervous system disorders in mice and rats. Their work has been published in scientific journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Guedes noted that the safe management of laminitis-related pain is one of the biggest challenges for equine veterinarians. Often, euthanasia is the only humane alternative for alleviating pain and suffering in horses afflicted with the condition. Consequently, the survival rate for laminitis is estimated to be only 25%. Very few surviving horses return to their previous levels of activity, and laminitis often reappears.

Funding was provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the UC Davis Center for Equine Health.

Equine Atypical Myopathy

Equine Atypical Myopathy

Equine atypical myopathy (or Atypical Myoglobinuria) is an emerging disease in the UK and Europe that causes muscle damage. The cause of this disease is currently unknown, but there is speculation that it is linked to a toxin producing bacteria called Clostridium sordelii.
According to data from the Equine Atypical Myopathy Alert Group from Spring 2012, there were 23 new cases reported by 2nd May 2012. 18 of these were in France, 4 were in Great Britain and 1 was in New Zealand.

Risk Factors:
Although the exact cause is unknown, there have been several risk factors identified, that make a horse more susceptible to the disease. Some of these risk factors are listed below:
• Young horses, typically less than 3 years old
• Horses that are in poor body condition
• Unvaccinated and un-wormed horses
• Seasons – most cases are seen in the Spring and Autumn, following periods of heavy rain, warmth and humidity
• Low levels of Vitamin E and Selenium in a horse (important anti-oxidants) may increase the risk
• Dead leaves within the pasture, or a watercourse running through the pasture
• Previous history of aytypical myopathy on the pasture

Clinical Signs:
Most cases occur rapidly, with severe, generalised muscle weakness. Horses can be found lying on their side in the field, or found dead. The mild initial clinical signs listed below are not often seen:
• Lethargy
• Decreased appetite
• Lameness, especially of hindquarters
• Muscle tremors
• Signs of colic
• Dark coloured urine
• Dark red (congested) or purple (cyanotic) coloured gums
• Low temperature (hypothermia)

What to do if you suspect a case:
Equine Atypical myopathy has a high mortality rate, but the chances of recovery are increased with early intervention and treatment.
• Call the surgery to request a visit
• Minimal movement of the horse, as any movement will further aggravate the muscle damage.

There is no specific treatment available for Atypical Myopathy and current treatment is aimed at the symptoms and potential cause.
• Pain killers
• Fluids – can be given via a drip if needed
• Antibiotics – for potential Clostridium sordelli infection
• Supplement vitamin E/selenium

• Avoid grazing on affected pastures during Spring and Autumn, especially young horses
• Keep up to date with vaccinations and worming
• Assure your horse is in a good body condition (but not too fat)
• Remove excessive amounts of dead leaves from the pasture

Further information:
More information can be found at:
• – where alerts from the Atypical Myopathy Alert Group (AMAG) are also posted.

Simply horses here to help with sweet itch

Dr Doug Wilson is a Lecturer in Virology at the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences. His main area of research, which has been funded by a research grant from The Horse Trust, is the immunology of horses with a special interest in the immunopathology of Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (Sweet Itch).

Midges are to blame – Sweet itch is most often an allergic reaction of horses to the bites of midges, which occur in almost every country in the world where horses are kept. Midges are small, only a couple of millimetres in length and like many insects that feed on blood, only the females do so as they need the high protein meal to enable them to lay their eggs.
Although the disease has been known for centuries, the first scientific description of the link with midge bites was made in Australia in the 1950s by a vet called Riek. Riek first noticed that the disease occurred only in areas where midges were abundant, then showed that when an extract of midges was injected into the skin of the affected horses, a small swelling appeared within a few minutes.
This type of “acute” reaction is typically seen in certain types of immune “hypersensitivity” or allergy and so Reik concluded that sweet itch was an allergy to midge bites.
Why do midges spit? – I was out in the field checking our ponies. It was a calm sunny evening and as I watched I could see large numbers of midges, which are most active around dawn and dusk or on overcast days when there is less risk of them drying out in the hot sun. After alighting they crawl down the hair shafts to the skin surface. Their mouthparts are too short to probe for a blood vessel like their larger cousins the mosquitoes, so they have to chew their way through the tough outer layers of skin. To assist their efforts they secrete saliva containing a mixture of enzymes that digest and soften the skin tissue as well as “vasodilators” to encourage extra blood to flow to the site of the bite and several factors that will prevent the blood clotting. A small pool of blood forms just under the skin surface and is then sucked up by the midges.
Once full they make their way back to the ends of the hairs from where, laden with blood and weighing twice as much as when they arrived, they launch themselves into the air. The whole process takes about 15-20 minutes and over the course of an evening a horse may be bitten by hundreds or even thousands of midges, each one injecting a small amount of saliva containing foreign proteins into the horse.
The response of the immune system to midge saliva – When an animal is injected with something foreign like midge saliva, its immune system responds by making antibodies that can bind on to the foreign proteins. The action of antibodies is often compared to that of a key for a lock, in that one end is like the key’s handle, while the other end has a unique shape that fits the lock or in the case of antibodies allows them to bind their target.
Antibodies are made by specialised cells called B-cells. Each individual B-cell is programmed to make a unique antibody. An animal like a horse (or human) has millions of B-cells which between them can make millions of different antibodies. But one B-cell on its own will not make very much antibody, so when a B-cell encounters a foreign substance that binds its own unique antibody it is stimulated to grow and divide so that in a few days there are thousands of them and lots of antibodies can be made.
This is how your horses vaccination works; your horse is injected with a small amount of the influenza virus and those B-cells which make antibodies that can bind to the virus increase in number. Then when a real flu virus turns up there are lots of B-cells primed and ready to immediately make antibodies that bind onto the virus and “neutralise it”, preventing the infection spreading, without your horse having to go to the trouble of getting ill and waiting several days for its immune system to catch up.
So, if the immune system of horses with sweet itch is reacting to the saliva of midges, the horses should have antibodies that will bind specifically to the proteins in midge saliva. The first stage in our research was to identify which midge proteins are important.
There was no problem getting some midges – all that was needed was to catch them in a suction trap as they landed on the horse to feed. The first approach we used to look for the antibodies that bind to midge saliva proteins, was a technique called immuno-histochemistry. First the midges are sliced into very thin sections then placed on a glass slide. The slides are exposed to serum from horses so that any antibodies in the serum will bind to their target. We then detect the bound horse antibody using a label that produces a red colour.
However, we found that all British horses had antibodies that bound midge saliva; perhaps this is not surprising as all horses living in Britain will be bitten by midges. Fortunately we were able to get some serum from horses living in Iceland, one of the few places in the world where there are no midges. The serum from Icelandic horses that had never encountered a midge did not stain the midge saliva glands, confirming that their serum contained no antibodies to midge saliva.
A special kind of antibody – But if all British horses have antibodies to midges, why do only some develop sweet itch? The answer lies in understanding more about the immune system and about antibodies. Think again of the antibody being like a key, with one end specially shaped to bind a foreign substance and a handle at the other end.
The B-cell can attach a different handle to its antibody for different purposes, for example, one type of antibody handle is best for binding to an influenza virus and preventing it from infecting its host. A different type of antibody handle is needed to deal with a bacteria like the one that causes strangles, in this case the antibodies bind to the bacteria’s surface and their handle enables white blood cells to catch hold of the bacteria then ingest and destroy them.
The kind of antibody that is important in allergies like sweet itch is called Immunoglobulin E or IgE for short. Its role is in immune responses to parasites such as worms. Adult worms of course are very common in the horse’s digestive systems but many of the larval stages of worms invade the tissues of the horse and some types of worm actually live just under the skin.
To help protect against worms the immune system has to use one of its most powerful weapons, known as the “mast cell”. These mast cells coat themselves in IgE antibodies and lie in wait just under the skin or in the lining of the intestine. When the IgE binds its target, the mast cell releases a cocktail of chemicals that cause a severe inflammatory reaction and attract other immune cells which can injure or kill the parasite.
Unfortunately mast cells, like other weapons of mass destruction, can cause a lot of collateral damage. Allergies occur when the immune system makes a mistake and mounts an anti parasite response to the wrong thing. For example, in people this could be a food like peanuts, or in hay fever it is often pollen, and in some cases people even develop an allergy to horse hair. But in horses themselves the commonest allergy is to midge saliva.
When we looked for IgE antibodies that bound to midge saliva glands we only found them in the serum taken from horses with sweet itch, confirming that this disease is an allergic response to midge bites.
What is it in midge saliva that the horse’s immune system reacts to?-The next task in our research, which was funded by The Horse Trust, was to identify all the different proteins in midge saliva. One way of doing this is to isolate the relevant genes that contain the instructions for making the proteins in midge saliva. In animals, every cell contains DNA that carries the code for making an entire animal, but only those genes that are needed by a particular cell are switched on.
From midge saliva glands, we isolated the switched-on genes which code for the saliva proteins and put them into a special type of bacteria in the laboratory. When grown overnight on a dish of agar gel each individual bacteria forms a colony that will contain only one extra gene from midge saliva. We can then pick each colony of bacteria, isolate the midge gene and read its coded message. By reading lots of coded messages we can work out which ones are most common in midge saliva and are most likely to be the genes of the proteins that cause sweet itch.
The second approach is to look at the proteins themselves. Using a combination of methods, proteins can be separated in a polyacrilamide gel according to their size and acidity. The individual proteins form spots and each spot is then punched out of the gel and digested into fragments. The sizes of the fragments are then measured by a mass spectrometer. To identify the proteins a computer program is used that compares the pattern of the fragment sizes with those that we would expect to find based on the genetic codes. After putting all this information together we can work out what the commonest proteins in midge saliva are. We can also investigate which of the spots bind IgE antibodies in the serum of allergic horses. All horses with sweet itch have IgE antibodies that bind midge saliva proteins but individual horses will recognise a different pattern of spots.
Once the genes or the relevant proteins have been isolated we can put them into cultures of insect cells which will make the protein in an identical way to a midge saliva gland. Each culture can be over a litre in size and makes only one midge protein so we can produce a pure protein equivalent to the contents of several million midges’ saliva glands.
What are we planning to do with all that protein from midge saliva?- We can in theory use it to re-programme the immune system of an allergic horse to act like that of healthy horses. First we need to better understand why the immune systems of only some horses react with an allergic response. Although Icelandic horses do not get sweet itch in Iceland where there are no midges, when brought to mainland Europe, more than one in four Icelandic horses may eventually develop the condition.
So are Icelandic horses as a breed genetically more likely to get sweet itch? Scientists and vets from Iceland and European countries have looked at this in detail and the answer is no. Although there are genes in some horses that make them more likely to get sweet itch, these are not more common in Icelandic horses compared to other breeds, and Icelandic horses born on mainland Europe do not get sweet itch any more often than other horse breeds.
Other studies on the development of the foal’s immune system have shown that they do not make IgE antibodies until they are about six months old. We think that when foals are exposed to midges before this age their immune system usually becomes programmed not to make IgE antibodies to midge bites. But Icelandic horses first exposed to midge bites as adults are very susceptible to developing sweet itch because as foals their immune system was not programmed to ignore midge bites.
A case of mistaken identity – Remember how the B-cell attaches a different handle to its antibodies – how does it know what kind of handle it needs to use? Well, the B-cell is told what kind of handle to use by chemical messages sent by another group of immune cells called T-cells. So how do the T-cells know what chemical messages to send? The T-cells are told what to do by yet another type of cell called a dendritic cell which detects foreign substances and can tell if they are from bacteria, from viruses or are of parasite origin. This seems to be the root of the problem – the dendritic cells recognise bacteria because they are made of different materials, and when cells are infected by viruses they send out distress calls that alert the dendritic cells to the virus’s presence. But what about parasites?
A migrating parasite has to break down the tissue. To do this it secretes enzymes similar to those the midge uses to break down the skin, and like midges, the migrating parasites also release factors that can interfere with blood clotting. The horse’s immune system “detects” these effects and interprets them as an invading parasite when in fact it is only a midge bite. So it looks like sweet itch is a case of mistaken identity leading to the wrong messages being sent down the chain of command to the B-cell which responds by making IgE antibodies which trigger an allergic reaction.
Scientists at the Veterinary School in Berne analysed the chemical signals made by the immune system of horses with sweet itch, and showed a clear difference in the messages made by the T-cells from healthy horses responding to midge saliva and the T-cells from horses with sweet itch.
Can we re-program the immune system of horses with sweet itch to be like that of healthy horses? – The term immunotherapy is used to describe treatments that can be used to re-program the immune system of people (or animals) with allergies; usually this involves repeatedly exposing the immune system to small amounts of the allergen. Originally this was done by daily injections but it is unlikely that this method would be suitable for use in horses. There are several newer ways that re-programming could be attempted but it will take some time to carefully work out how this can be safely done. For example, would mixing the midge proteins with some parts of bacteria fool the immune system’s chain of command into giving orders that divert the B-cells from making IgE? Or could feeding midge protein convince the immune systems that this is really a harmless food? Should all foals be inoculated with midge proteins at an early age?
We don’t yet know. It has taken almost 10 years to get this far but we are making progress. In research, there are always new surprises that await, but one thing is certain in science – it always take longer that you think. Yet if everyone works together, one day we will indeed be able to “do something about sweet itch” and develop an effective cure.

Spring grass in relation to laminitis and colic.

Spring turnout laminitis and colic risks

The majority of laminitic horses start when the horses are turned out to grass in the spring. The weather becomes warmer and horses are allowed out 24/7. Although this seems like the kindest thing for a horse it can cause laminitis or colic leaving you with a very lame or ill horse.

The horse is usually in the stable for the majority of the winter then suddenly turned out onto the spring grass. This means that the horse’s digestive system is not acclimatised to the grass. Therefore the horse needs to be slowly introduced to the grass but some horses will not be able to handle being turned out for many hours especially if they are prone to colic or laminitis. The fructans in the grass are a type of sugar that occur from photosynthesis and is used to aid plant growth. The fructans are stored in a blade of grass and particularly like the cooler weather such as in the spring. Below are a few points to help keep your horse healthy:

  • Gradually increase the time the horse is turned out by about 15 minutes daily
  • Avoid the afternoons where the sun has been on the grass as the fructans are at the highest levels
  • Rotate the grazing as the fructans are higher on mature or overgrazed grass
  • Watch your horses weight otherwise they can suddenly balloon when turned out to pasture
  • If your horse is fat or prone to laminitis make sure they are in a small paddock or have a muzzle on
  • Feeding little and often is best for the horse as it keeps the hindgut moving therefore reducing the chance of colic
  • Keep your horse exercised as this burns off some calories and helps to keep weight down

What are the clinical signs for the start of laminitis?

Laminitis is inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the foot. Overweight ponies and horses kept on grass are in the highest risk category. Usually it is the forefeet that show signs of laminitis but it can be the hind feet as well. The horse will react by rocking back on their feet to take the pressure off their toes. The feet will have heat in them and the pulses in the foot will be pounding.

What are the signs of colic?

Horses get colic through either just bad luck or because of change in diet or routine. Hence suddenly turning a horse out to grass can bring on signs. Symtoms will depend greatly on the severity and type of the colic; these may include some or all of the following:

• Changes in eating habits, including a loss of appetite
• Continuously getting down to roll and then getting back up again
• Pawing the ground
• Pacing the stable
• Limited or no passage of faeces
• Straining to excrete faeces
• Turning round and looking at their flanks
• Kicking at their abdomen
• Anxious and shivering
• Sweating
• Abnormal temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate
• Excessive urination

All cases of laminitis and colic should be treated as serious and the quicker the vet gets to the horse the more likely it will be a positive outcome.

Mud fever reminder

We have hit a colder period in the weather which means the ground is nice and dry but as soon as the freeze disappears we will be back to muddy fields for our horses. Make sure that during this period you are still keeping on top of your horses mud fever. Mud fever is usually seen in the lower limbs around the pastern areas but can be found higher up the horses legs and even on the horses belly. Just remember to keep an eye out for the crusty scabs that may appear. If you think you want to try a new treatment why not contact Fabtek Solutions.