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Digital Cushion
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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu Apr 22nd, 2010 11:50 am
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Thank you Adam & Dorothy for the measurements.

Adam - what was your assessment of texture for Tindur and how old is he?  Will be very interested to know if you see any difference in his movement with back boots, hope he is OK re current problem.

Dorothy - looks like Dr Deb's prediction about smaller horses/ponies having relatively deeper DCs could be right, your 3 have good depth relative to their height and weight.

AdamTill
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 Posted: Mon Apr 26th, 2010 04:06 am
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Tin's 6, going on 7 in a few months. I'd say the consistency of his digital cushions is on the slightly squishy side of firm, but they seem to work fine. Same front and hinds. Lateral cartilages are good and firm - can't shear the heel bulbs at all by hand.

kindredspirit
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 Posted: Tue Apr 27th, 2010 01:12 am
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AdamTill wrote:  - can't shear the heel bulbs at all by hand.

What do you mean here Adam?  Thanks Kathy

Yvonne Miller
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 Posted: Thu Apr 29th, 2010 03:57 am
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Very interesting discussion. I have been going around looking closely at digital cushions since reading this thread. When you are measuring, where are you putting the calipers on the frog. I can see that you have it in the cleft of the frog, but what difference does it make if the horse has just shed his frog, or has a very full frog, like the wild horse, should this be included in the measurement of the digital cushion. Yvonne Miller

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu Apr 29th, 2010 09:18 am
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Hello Yvonne - When doing the DC measurements I did not put the lower prong of the calipers right down into the cleft/central sulcus of the frog as this is too variable - some horses have no cleft, some have great depth, so for the sake of maintaining a modicum of consistency between horses, or changes on the same horse from foot to foot or changes over time, I used an imaginary line that traversed the back of the frog from the most caudal part of the two heel buttresses.  On some horses, like the chestnut in the photos, this meant the lower prong of the calipers was not actually touching anything.  Not very accurate, but the best I could think of at the time!

As mentioned previously, I think the real value is in comparisons - between back and front feet on the same horse, and between horses to calculate approximate DC depths per 1000lbs of bodyweight to assess relationship between depth and longterm soundness of the horse.

Best wishes - Pauline


Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:00 am
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Hello Everyone

It’s more than 2 years since this discussion appeared to have been abandoned; this is because I needed to sidetrack in a direction I had not expected. I’ve been collecting data and documenting experiences with many horses ever since and am now able to show that, for some horses, adjusting diet has produced positive changes to the internal structures of the hoof.

Those changes include digital cushion (DC) depth & texture, sole thickness,
positioning of the pedal bone relative to the hoof capsule, and even some bone regeneration.

Summarized below, in separate posts, are the histories of two specific horses over some 10 years. Each has presented huge, quite different challenges but they are representative of many other horses where there is not such extensive documentation. One of the horses has genetically very strong feet, the other does not. One has significant bone loss, the other has excellent strong bone. One grazed high-oxalate pasture for a long time, the other did not. Their stories are not what would be expected. Both are now entirely free from any problems in feet or body and have no need for shoes or boots on any terrain. Both live out 24/7 on lush pasture, with no need for hay.

Thank you to everyone who sent me DC measurements for their horses. As predicted by Dr Deb, smaller horses do generally have more depth of DC than larger, heavier horses, and usually a more elastic DC texture also. For instance, a comparison of 12 small ponies (mostly Shetlands) with 12 draft horses (mostly Clydesdales):

Ponies:
Av. height 9 h
Av. weight 205kg
Av. DC depth 31mm

Drafts:
Av. height 17 h
Av. weight 755kg
Av. DC depth 71mm

The ponies averaged 15mm of DC depth per 100kg of bodyweight. The drafts averaged 9.5mm of DC depth per 100kg of bodyweight.

As will become apparent, DC depth can be used to track changes in the way a horse uses his feet and his body, and also as a guide for how the horse has been using his body previously. This can be a useful tool for therapists, farriers and horse-owners when attempting to find the primary cause of problems that have not required a veterinary diagnosis.

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:06 am
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HOPPER’S STORY

Hopper is a WB gelding born 1999, acquired as a 4-yr old by his current owner. He is the bay horse whose photo appears earlier in this thread. He has excellent quality hoof horn, has never needed shoes, and has never had any hoof deformities such as flares, contracted or underrun heels. He is an easy-keeper and his diet has always been low NSC pasture with a quality V&M supplement. In other words, the best care any knowledgeable owner can give.

Hopper has been mostly unrideable until March of last year. Very light exercise, even lunging, would often result in episodes of tying-up or extreme muscle soreness and stiffness next day. He was also overtly aggressive to both horses and humans, and prone to out-of-the-blue spooking even when not around people. Despite his externally excellent feet and good conformation, he always moved with a short, choppy stride and was reluctant to canter. His hind DCs were 20mm thinner than the fores – a larger than average difference.

The two photos below show what happened within 4 months when a large amount of magnesium was added to his daily diet. There was no change to basic diet or exercise other than removal of some high-potassium herbs that had acted as toxins, exacerbating his chronic body bracing. Note the change in profile of his withers and back, the slope of his croup and angulation of the hind limbs – and the obviously relaxed, calm demeanor. The visible change in body posture occurred because magnesium had allowed his musculature to relax to normal length (calcium triggers muscle contraction, magnesium relaxes muscle). But he still had the short, choppy stride.



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Last edited on Mon May 28th, 2012 05:07 am by Pauline Moore

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:11 am
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HOPPER'S STORY (continued)

Everyone was shocked when radiographs revealed Hopper had significant bone loss inside such externally strong front feet, so it was automatically assumed this must be the reason for the short stride. Below are photos of his feet taken on the same day as the radiographs in June 2010. Note the curved line of the mid-ventral surface of P3 on the lateral view, and the toe deficit and remodelling of the left wing of P3 on the AP view.

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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:12 am
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HOPPER'S STORY (continued)

It was found during the first 9 months of 2010 that adding supplemental calcium to Hopper’s diet resulted in a return of his severe body bracing and cranky temperament. When calcium was deleted, he again lost his body bracing and became peacefully quiet and sweet tempered. But he still had the short, choppy stride.
In March 2011 it was found that Hopper was drinking rainwater with a natural pH of 5.5 (most town water supplies test as 7.0 or above). Sodium bicarbonate was added to his drinking water to bring the pH up to around 7.2 and 30g added to his daily feed. Hopper lost his short, choppy stride within 3 days. For the first time in more than 7 years he was able to move his limbs consistently through the full range of motion predicted by his conformation.

There has also been no recurrence of any of the former muscle stiffness or tying-up episodes, even with strenuous exercise, as indicated in the photos below taken 3 months after commencing bicarb. Hopper has also stopped windsucking.

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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:14 am
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HOPPER'S STORY (continued)

The changes in the way Hopper uses his body have been reflected in the digital cushions of all 4 feet. All 4 sets of heels have widened, and the digital cushions of his back feet have increased in depth by around 13mm, as shown on the photos below, which were taken 2 yrs apart.

Repeat radiographs in March 2012 show there has been no further bone loss and some bone regeneration.

Hopper, at 13, is finally the sound, calm, problem-free horse he should have been as a 3-yr old.

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Last edited on Mon May 28th, 2012 05:35 am by Pauline Moore

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:17 am
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RORY’S STORY

Rory is a TB gelding born 1990, acquired by me as a 6-yr old. By age 11 his fragile hoof horn and contracted heels could no longer hold a shoe, so I was forced to try boots instead as he was extremely tender on bare, soft earth without any protection. He abscessed in 3 feet within days of the shoes being removed, sole bruising following the shape of the pedal bone clearly showing on all 4 feet.

After a few months he was comfortable for ridden work on grass or sand but needed boots for hard or stony ground. Over the next few years he had multiple mild laminitis episodes, and was found to have Cushings by age 17. Although his hoof structure had improved as the heels decontracted, the soles were still thin and flat, and there was the tell-tale soft swelling around the coronet indicating the bone was sited low within the capsule.

Rory is hard to keep weight on, and his quiet nature easily disrupted by even small amounts of sugar or starches, so feeding him has been quite a challenge. He grazed high-oxalate setaria pasture for over 8 years with little or no supplemental calcium and increasingly large amounts of magnesium.

Improvements to his digital cushion depth occurred after chromium was added to his diet and are clear in the photos of about 2 years ago, (shown earlier in this thread). This has enabled him to move with a confident heel-first landing at all paces on hard ground, when appropriate.

After the postponement of this discussion, further dramatic improvements to his overall hoof structure occurred within weeks after I changed from magnesium oxide to magnesium chloride in September 2010. The coronet swelling disappeared and the soles of all his feet formed a smooth, strong dome shape as he shed all built-up callousing.

The photo below was taken in October 2010, after 3 weeks of heavy rain at the beginning of Queensland’s wettest summer on record. I had never before seen the spotted pigmentation on his soles as this had previously been hidden under layers of deep protective callousing. That pigmentation has remained visible ever since; he no longer has any need for excessive callousing.

There is also no longer any deterioration in his feet through spring and summer, regardless of weather conditions. Another change was in trimming intervals. Prior to using magnesium chloride, Rory could not go more than 2 weeks between trims in summer, 4 in winter. He now easily lasts 4 weeks in summer, 6 weeks or more in winter.

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Last edited on Mon May 28th, 2012 05:18 am by Pauline Moore

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:21 am
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RORY'S STORY (continued)

Rory, at nearly 22, is now completely sound on all surfaces without shoes or boots. His feet are structurally strong, both internally and externally, as shown in the photos and radiographs below. The soles, frogs and bars of his feet have not been touched by a hoof knife in years, the domed shape has formed naturally and is self-maintaining.

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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:22 am
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RORY'S STORY (continued)

Despite grazing oxalate grasses for a long period, with no high-calcium feeds, little if any supplemental calcium and large quantities of magnesium, Rory has excellent bone for his age and history. A recent traumatic injury which came close to ripping off the lateral hoof capsule did not fracture bone, as would have been expected.

This winter photo from a year ago shows him in good weight, trotting on a hard surface, happy to heel-strike, with a soft, brace-free body. It is now not so difficult to keep weight on him through the colder months.

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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 05:24 am
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CONCLUSIONS

For both Hopper and Rory, the resolution of their decade-long soundness issues has been achieved solely through diet. Neither horse has ever been restricted in their 24-hr grazing of lush pasture, so much grass there is no need to provide hay. In addition to pasture, both horses are fed a plain, basic diet of oaten chaff and coconut meal (copra) that effectively masks the bitter flavours of magnesium and chromium. Neither horse is given a commercial or custom-made all purpose vitamin/mineral mix. Both horses receive daily supplemental magnesium chloride, chromium, unrefined seasalt and a prophylactic toxin binder. Both horses drink rainwater that has been adjusted with sodium bicarbonate to a neutral pH. Easy-keeper Hopper does not get too fat; hard-keeper Rory maintains weight more easily.

The surprise with Hopper has been to discover that his life-long short, choppy stride had nothing to do with his feet. Even the significant pedal bone demineralization was not the cause of his short step. Hopper’s short stride was the product of his chronic and severe body-bracing due to magnesium deficiency/calcium excess, and inability to neutralize the acidity of his drinking water.

The surprise with Rory is that if ever there was a horse who should have bone loss, it is he. Yet, annual radiographs prove that his bone continues to be mineral-dense and very strong. This is despite his history of susceptibility to laminitis, his Cushings disease, his age, and having grazed high-oxalate setaria for many years with very little supplemental calcium.

Both horses have defied conventional nutritional thoughts concerning the need to feed calcium:magnesium in a 2:1 ratio. Both horses are consistently maintaining their soundness and overall mind/body health with a low calcium/high magnesium diet. Both horses show visible improvements in DC depth, sole depth, and overall hoof function.

I have learned to not make assumptions about the function of the equine foot from its external appearance, and that poor movement or even a toe-strike is not necessarily originating in the feet. The whole body of the horse has to be assessed, preferably with radiographs to reveal what is happening inside the feet.

For the sake of brevity, I have had to leave out a vast amount of detail but I’m hoping this will give a brief glimpse of what is possible when the horse has access to the nutrients he needs.

Questions are welcome.

Best wishes
Pauline

(this is the last in a set of 9 posts today)

Last edited on Mon May 28th, 2012 05:26 am by Pauline Moore

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012 06:35 am
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Pauline, this-all is simply marvelous....you shared a lot of this with us during the clinic in Canberra a couple of months ago, and I am very grateful that you have now also posted it here. Every way we can find to remove irritants and other 'blockages' to the horse's complete inner equanimity is of value. Thank you again for this excellent contribution & all the research that lies behind it. -- Dr. Deb


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