WHAT’S THE CRACK?
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.
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)”