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As the elderly horse population grows, the horse community is trying to adopt conscientious methods to help make them more comfortable, and farriers are not exempt.
Most geriatric horses are confronted with some sort of pain or stiffness as they age. For some it may just be a nagging presence, while for others it can make life quite uncomfortable. For the farrier, working on these pained patients can present a number of different obstacles.
Dr. Tracy Turner, a veterinarian at Anoka Equine in Elk River, Minn., says the main issue he sees in a horse’s hoof as it ages is the flattening of the sole. Turner, a specialist in podiatry, says they are not sure exactly why the sole flattens, but radiographs that measure the curvature of the coffin bone show that it does become flatter. He says it’s probably the simple fact that all the years of concussion and movement have done some remodeling to the foot.
“Whenever the coffin bone resettles, it doesn’t put calcification back on,” he says. “It just loses bone. So probably what we’re seeing is the general loss of bone over time making it flat.”
The result is a hoof that is more flat and that loses the ability to absorb concussion as efficiently.
“Now, instead of being like an arch that’s helping support everything … it loses a lot of that,” he adds. It’s just like you and I when we get a little older. You don’t bounce anymore…