Horse & Hound - - Letters -

Sir — I’ve just read the ve­teri­nary fea­ture about hoof cracks (1 Fe­bru­ary), in which the vet states that “be­ing un­shod dou­bles the chances of a horse de­vel­op­ing a foot ab­scess”. Where did he get this in­for­ma­tion from?

I was told by my vet that the only way to keep my horse sound was with re­me­dial shoe­ing, but she’s been bare­foot for four years now and is sound. I can hack her, and she jumps and com­petes in dres­sage.

Fiona Moyes

Poyn­ton, Cheshire

Vet Richard Stephen­son replies:

“In a sur­vey of 150 cases of con­firmed foot ab­scesses, 59% (88/150) oc­curred in un­shod feet. The per­cent­age of un­shod horses in a con­trol pop­u­la­tion of nor­mal horses in the same geo­graph­i­cal area was 27%. This was sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant — un­shod horses were over­rep­re­sented in the group with ab­scesses by a twofold fac­tor.

“In­ter­est­ingly, ab­scess lo­ca­tion is also very dif­fer­ent be­tween shod and un­shod horse pop­u­la­tions. In the un­shod horses, 69% of cases were re­ported to be in the toe re­gion, com­pared to 45% in the shod group. The ab­scess was in the heel re­gion in 14.7% of un­shod horses com­pared to 30.6% of shod horses.

“There­fore, as a mat­ter of

fact, un­shod horses are more sus­cep­ti­ble to foot ab­scess for­ma­tion. Although shoes de­crease over­all in­ci­dence, when ab­scesses do oc­cur in a shod horse, they are more likely to be in the heel re­gion. These re­sults are not sur­pris­ing, since a shoe cov­ers and pro­tects the weak­est part of the sole — the “white line”— help­ing to pre­vent pen­e­tra­tion by for­eign ma­te­rial.

“It is good news to hear that Fiona’s horse is do­ing well bare­foot and there may be many ben­e­fits of leav­ing horses un­shod. But one must al­ways be care­ful not to ex­trap­o­late an in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ence to the en­tire equine pop­u­la­tion. (Ref: UK Vet, 28 Sept 2013)”

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