In the last decade, thousands of veterinarians, farriers and horse owners have come to realize that better nutrition, trimming, correct movement, environment, and improved protective devices can cause dramatic and positive changes to the equine foot--not only externally, as previously recognized, but internally as well.
“The internal foot can become larger, stronger and better,” says Joe Camp from The Soul of a Horse . “These changes give significant resistance to hoof problems and can provide cure to pre-existing problems as well. Many of us take this concept of internal hoof development for granted--we present it as fact, because we have seen the changes with our own eyes. All the proof we need is in our own back yard.”
“But we are still a minority,” Camp continues. “Most equine veterinarians, farriers and horse owners are either unaware, or are actually combative toward any notion that the internal foot can be ‘grown’ or developed into something better because no scientific research has tracked this development in live horses. But that is about to change.”
Debra R. Taylor DVM, DACVIM, and John Schumacher, DVM, DACVIM (Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine) have taken on a monumental project. They plan to use MRI and CT imaging to track the foot development of live adult horses over time. Additionally, the horses used in the project will be divided into groups that will live very different lifestyles. Does exercise in padded hoof boots and barefoot turnout on variable terrain develop a larger, stronger digital cushion and lateral cartilage? Or can a horse grow his best possible foot while living in a stall with some turnout available? Which lifestyle is safer for the horse? These questions will be answered by a peer-reviewed, controlled study.
Renowned hoof specialist Pete Ramey who has worked with Dr. Taylor for several years says, “These studies will happen now, IF they can get the necessary funding and support for the project. Most scientific studies can be done in a relatively short time. A small grant and a few months of hard work yield a new published paper--new information--proof or disproof of a hypothesis. A study like this, however, will take at least two years.”
The only way to produce a solid controlled study is to have all of the horses in each control group living in the same exact environment and under the same care--at the same facility. This means the horses must be purchased for the study. They must all be cared for and exercised the exact same way. Full veterinary evaluation, the MRIs and CTs, and interpretation of the results must be done for each horse before, during, and after the study period. This will all be very expensive--this is why we have so little research on the effects of anything over time. As important as these studies would obviously be, they are horrifically cumbersome and impractical to perform.
“This project needs private financial backing--a lot of it--or it can't be completed,” Camp said. “ I beg anyone who cares about the health and happiness of horses to donate . Even the smallest amount can help.”