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When Horses get ‘Footy’

The horse’s hooves need to be both robust and at the same time sensitive to pressure so they can safely negotiate various terrain.

The increased sensitivity (‘footiness’: as if walking on hot bricks) that we are referring to here is where the hoof becomes more sensitive than what is normal for that horse. This frequently correlates with changes in their pasture grass with the season and the weather.

Many people are unaware that such sensitivity is actually sub-clinical laminitis (this means it is brewing just under the surface and is only another burst of rainfall away from a full-blown laminitis episode, especially if the horse already has EMS (like KT in the photo).

‘Footiness’ which is due to sub-clinical laminitis, will be accompanied by a detectable digital pulse - always check for this. This happens in both front feet – sometimes all four feet.

NOTE: Horses with thin soles will be sensitive ALL the time, ‘footiness’ tends to come and go..

When horses become ‘footy’, often the first recommendation is to put shoes on to make the horse ‘sound’. However this strategy not only makes NO sense but is ethically questionable. (This isn’t an ‘anti-shoeing’ post, it is an anti-'shoeing for the wrong reasons' post).

The management/forage of most domestic horses where they live 24/7 on green grass is very conducive to recurrent ‘footiness’. The alarming thing is, that it is so common, many people think it is normal.

These same horses often flinch and become ‘difficult’ to shoe because the percussion can be painful when it vibrates through to the over sensitive structures. Grass Affected horses in general will be inclined to be 'snatchy' with their feet and reluctant to hold them up, especially hind-limbs, for the farrier.

As with all the issues on the Grass Affected spectrum, it is management problem NOT a horse problem.

Episodes of ‘footiness’ may show as hoof rings but these are not necessarily a sign of laminitis. Hoof rings are caused by changes in the diet (usually their grass).

Most horses out on pasture all year, will show rings that coincide with the change from winter to spring grass and from dry summer grass to autumn grass. There is a difference between these rings and the ones that are associated with recurrent ‘footiness’/laminitis which will tend to diverge at the heel.

If your horse tends to get 'footy' then be proactive rather than letting it happen. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to ensuring your horse doesn't get laminitis!

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