This is Jamison, born in 2000. He’s an Irish Sport Horse who is being used as a jumping horse. My client purchased this horse in December 2017. She stated that he has a “specialty shoer”, is in clogs, and is being treated for “heel” related issues. My next question was; “Why did you purchase this horse?” I reviewed the x-rays and the “pre-purchase” exam report from the veterinarian. I stated to my client that I do not recommend that this horse be used as a jumping horse. The following article I will explain why.
I contacted the “specialty” farrier who is Gene Ovnicek, the creator and founder of the ELPO and the “Natural Balance” movement! The objective of contacting Gene was to discuss the shoeing treatment for the horse. The clog is being used to transition the hoof to the balanced position, to promote a heel-first landing; thus, more fully engage the digital cushion, and to improve circulation of the lower limb. He stated that he had shod the horse one time.
I’ve included a copy of the pre-purchase exam report. Notice that the veterinarian is unsure of why and how clogs are used. Also note that the veterinarian did not consult with Gene as to his shoeing treatment plan. Furthermore, the x-ray for the right front hoof shows that the coffin joint (Distal Interphalangeal Joint (DIP)) is misaligned. In other words, the short pastern (P2) bone is not in alignment with the receiver side of the coffin bone. Compare this x-ray with the balanced hoof x-ray and you’ll notice that the P2 is crushing the top part of the coffin bone. Note the gaps between P2, coffin bone (P3), and the navicular bone. The ligaments that hold this joint together are in extreme stress due impart to the “weak” digital cushion support thus, spraining the ligaments that hold the joint together.
When I started to work with this horse I hoof tested and found NO pain reaction through the sole, bars, and frog. This did not make sense to me. The age of the horse, the misaligned DIP Joint, and the number of years that this horse has spent in out-of-balance shoes and trim should have revealed substantial pain. The following photos document the first shoeing. Shortly after the shoeing, the horse started to restore function to his hoof and is showing signs of pain and lameness.
I feel that this horse may have been drugged prior to purchase. If he was not drugged, another explanation as to why he had no response to hoof testing initially but now does, is now that his hooves are in a balanced trim and shoeing, he is more fully using his hoof. The injuries to the ligament and cartilage are more pronounced now that he has improved circulation and proprioceptor response. I feel that when a horse spends the majority of his life out-of-balance, the circulation to the hoof is compromised and the nerve endings and proprioceptors die off and/or go-to-sleep. Now that he has improved circulation and support to the bone structure, those nerve endings are waking up and he is starting the healing process. With improve circulation, the damaged nerve endings and ligaments are also awakening and letting the horse know that he should be in pain. With continued treatment (balanced shoeing), he should start to improve unless an MRI reveals more permanent damage to the soft tissue.
Jamison is continuing to improve; however, he does experience periods of pain through out the shoeing cycle. We are presently shoeing him at a four-week cycle. The Colorado veterinarian is treating the symptoms. Hopefully over the next 12-months or so, the pain should diminish. Without an MRI, we’ll never know how damaged the soft tissue is.
Take a look at the right front x-ray. Note that at sole plane and the top plane of the clog the trim is out-of-balance. However, when you look at the bearing surface of the clog with the ground, the ground force is acting at the center of the coffin joint. Thus, the clog placement is in the balanced position. This is being used as a transitional phase for the shoeing. At this time, due to the thickness of the retain toe material, we have to “trick” the hoof into thinking that it doesn’t need the toe material. As we achieve a more pronounced heal first landing, the toe material will loosen up and crumble out. See attached photos. These photos show the depth of sole material that was removed.