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Concussion and the Hoof

Carrying on with Dr. Thomas Teskey’s – Breaking Traditions: A Veterinary Medical and Ethical Perspective On the Modern Day Usage of Steel Horseshoes, he discusses concussion and the use of pads with steel shoes…

So, let’s reduce concussion to keep our horses from this damage…?

Pads fitted to the hoof between sole and steel shoe do not appreciably increase the shock-absorbing function of the hoof, as the hoof is still being clamped together,disallowing hoof mechanism. In actuality, the damage continues to occur, and even a slight increase of pressure on the soles of the hoof through pad material forces the sole up against the immobilized, unyielding solar corium within the hoof, causing bruising and reducing blood flow in these areas. The sole often responds with a “dysplastic” kind of growth. This is an abnormal growth pattern that is thicker but not as strong or durable as normal sole that forms when a horse is allowed natural hoof form in a more natural environment. Farriers often misinterpret this abnormal growth as “healing” and a good thickening of sole, when in fact it signals the early stages of hoof deterioration.

We get used to seeing abnormalities, not wanting to believe there is damage.

This faulty growth does not impress or alarm most farriers because they are accustomed to seeing abnormal and deformed shod hooves and improperly trimmed bare hooves. They work with them every day, and though there are likely many farriers, veterinarians and other professionals that are aware of the differences, many more are unaware of what these changes signify. Thus, when a farrier claims that “none of my clients’ shod horses have any problems”, they are actually telling the truth. However, once educated in proper hoof form and function, every farrier I’ve ever enlightened has looked back and been able to point out exactly where many of the deformities exist in a shod hoof.

The use of pads also increases the presence of moisture next to the horse’s soles, providing a breeding ground for hoof-rotting bacteria and fungi that soften the soles into a cheesy consistency devoid of durability. Pads also prevent normal respiration and perspiration that occurs in bare frogs and soles, impairing the horse’s ability to regulate his body temperature and excrete waste proteins through exfoliation.

What amount of concussion is just right…?

There is an important and misunderstood role that concussion plays in providing life-giving stimulation to the foot. The natural hoof has concussion-absorbing properties appropriate for each horse on its home terrain…it’s that simple. When we apply artificial materials and/or conditions to horse’s hooves, such as steel shoes, pads, plastic “repairs”, soft footing in riding arenas, and bedding in stalls, our interference reduces concussion to a level below what is appropriate, preventing the vital stimulation needed for the production of durable hoof tissues, healthy cartilage and ligaments and strong bones. Without concussive stimulation to the hoof, the horse’s hooves and legs grow weaker and weaker. When owners attempt to “protect” their horse’s hooves with artificial appliances and inappropriate conditions, they are actually promoting weak and faulty growth and nurturing conditions for disease.

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