It's amazing how the horse's heart functions as the primary regulator of such a vast network of vessels. Your horse's livelihood depends upon the efficiency of this intricate design.
With advancements in diagnostic technology such as ultrasound scanning, thermograph imaging and scintigraphy, scientists have been able to pinpoint three primary vascular networks, which are often referred to as 'plexus.'
These plexuses are located:
1. The coronary, located at the top of the hoof where the horn tissue of the capsule joins with the hairline/skin, similar to the dermal/epidermal junction of our fingernail. The function of the coronary band is to nourish the horn tissues of the hoof and facilitate its growth.
2. The laminae are primarily responsible for maintaining an interlocking connection between the coffin bone (P3) and the hoof capsule. This connection is often described as a "Velcro-like" mechanism.
3. The sole consists of a sensitive and an insensitive portion. Its primary function is to protect the bottom of the coffin bone.
What this reveals is that the underlying tissues, located beneath the "crusty" exterior of your horse's hooves, are highly concentrated with blood vessels. These vessels are dependent upon the heart to maintain an appropriate level of blood circulation. This entire system tends to be one that can be just as delicate as it is intricate. With the slightest decrease in blood circulation to your horse?s lower extremities, a catastrophic chain of events may lead to the destruction of the connective tissue within his hooves. Lameness is often not just a hoof problem; it tends to either begin due to a lack of blood circulation to the sensitive tissue (i.e., laminitis) or result in a lack of blood circulation (i.e., contracted heels from poorly fitted shoes).
If your horse has ever been diagnosed with laminitis, your veterinarian probably did more than just treat his feet. Follow-up care instructions are usually extended beyond his hooves. A change in your horse's lifestyle will be crucial for his recovery. How he is worked and how often, along with what and how often he eats, becomes your major concern.
Recovering From Laminitis
Begin with restoring blood circulation to the infected area: Decrease inflammation around the coronary band to increase blood flow to the circumflex artery (coronary band), the terminal arc (solar surface region) and the artery of the frog or the paracunal artery.
It is crucial that both your farrier and veterinarian have a proven track record with laminitic issues. If not, they should be willing to recognize when your horse is in need of additional help from a specialist.
For information on continuing education in the profession of farriery, visit www.butlerprofessionalfarrierschool.com
If therapeutic/corrective shoeing is recommended, the goal should be to maximize, not compromise, the blood circulation to the hoof. Using special shoes, such as "rail" or "heart bar" can be as complex as performing surgery. Do not take those recommendations lightly. Second opinions from other farriers and veterinarians with proven track records will lead you in the direction of the best decisions.
An Ounce of Prevention ...
In normal situations, your horse is equipped with this "heart to hoof" relationship to function as nature intends. As self-appointed custodians of our horses, try to provide appropriate conditions so that nature can "take its course." We must also remember that this process is not void of some necessary checks and balances. A check for a properly rationed and balanced diet, a regularly balanced workload, and routinely trimming the hoof into a balance that will accommodate his conformation, will result in the best chance your horse will have to stay healthy. My hope is that our horses will live long by our love, and prosper greatly by our care.
Bryan S. Farcus, MA, CJF has been combining the skills of horseshoeing, teaching, and riding for 15 years. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier through the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association (BWFA) and also holds a certification in Equine Massage Therapy. For the past 12 years, Bryan was the director/instructor of a Farrier Studies program at a private equestrian college. Bryan's other accomplishments include both a Master of Arts degree with a specialization in equine education and also a Bachelor of Science degree in the area of business. He is the creator of a select line of "Farrier-FriendlyTM" products and currently authors a series of "Farrier-FriendlyTM" articles that appear in horse magazines throughout the US. Bryan can be reached at FARRIER-FRIENDLYTM Services, Athens OH, www.farrierfriendly.com or firstname.lastname@example.org .
References & Recommended Reading
1. The Principles of Horseshoeing (P3), Dr. Doug Butler and Jacob Butler
2. Illustrated Atlas of Clinical Equine Anatomy and Common Disorders of the Horses, Dr. Ronald Riegel and Susan Hakola
3. Understanding the Equine Foot, Fran Jurga
This content is not meant to teach or DIAGNOSE; please seek the ADVICE of a veterinarian or other professional.