Tomas Teskey is a veterinarian from Arizona who lectured in a workshop for the very first time in Italy last October. This workshop has been organized in Cesenatico (Emilia Romagna) by Franco Belmonte, an equine podiatry and nutrition expert http://www.bitlessandbarefoot-studio.org/tomas-teskey-cesenatico-31ottobre-1-novembre/.
I had the honor of attending this workshop dealing with the following topics:
- Management of the equine routine
- professional ethics and what’s new about horse podiatry
- personal experience of a vet who abandoned horse shoes which are no longer necessary thanks to new materials and technologies
- Trimming techniques and how to rehab horse hoof
- Dissection of the equine distal limb and foot and biomechanics
- Dentistry and relationship between teeth and body balance
It is clear that big topics have been discussed and it is going to take me hours to go deep inside them.
I would like just sharing my impressions and what I found really interesting. It is not unusual for a vet forgetting the ethological and physiological needs of the horse and informing the owners about the advantage of respecting them. It is not all about psychological stress inherent the captivity, but mostly the need for movement.
Movement is the key for its mental and phisycal health. Observing the dissection of the equine hoof and distal limb I’ve been fascinated by all the structures in there that are made for movement.
Let’s think about the lateral cartilage of the distal phalanx, the digital cuscion, and the other soft tissues surrounding the coffin bone which can change their shape at every step and are fundamental for the elasticity of the foot and the absorption of the shock through the transfer of blood via its venous.
Then we have the dermal and epidermal laminae connecting the hoof to the coffin bone composing a delicate apparatus providing the dynamic balance of the capsule. Every part has its own function and fully expresses its property by movement.
We can understand how dangerous it is to limit or interfere with the elasticity of the hoof without geopardizing this amazing machine. It is vet’s and trimmer’s duty avoiding this, doing their best to preserve the foot perfect function.
Sometimes the foot needs specific devices to fuction better, to support the hoof on hard ground, but they should be harmless. For example it is common to prescribe a closed or heart shaped shoes for horses with laminitis.
The goal is to protect the heels from the overload caused by the laminitic horse who always tends to shift the weight on the rear part of the foot (because the lamellae are inflammed and painful).
With this kind of shoes this defensive posture of the horse is obstacled or worse, the dermal-epidermal junction is compromised untill the rotation of the third phalanx. In this case there can be a first improvement of the lameness but it’s only a transitory phase that lasts only few days.
I am not trying to blame tre traditional remedies or the usual corrective methods, but I would like to invite people to start seeing the equine hoof from an onother point of view, considering new strategies as we have new tools and materials and maybe evaluating an ironfree foot… Now, let’s try to watch a walking horse: according to my vet school studies, the horse usually hits the ground with the tip of the foot and this happens normally when it has shoes; but in a barefoot horse you can see the opposite, the heels are the first part hitting the ground.
In this way the tension on the digital flexors tendons is less. An other interesting part of Teskey’s lecture was the relationship between nutrition, teeth, balance and movement. In wild life the horse spends most of its time grazing, moving from a pasture to another chosing the grass it likes.
In captivity it is fed by large quantities in few meals. Besides the ethological aspect, dental consumption and digestion are involved. It is common to find horses with big hooks on molar teeth but also with an abnormal incisors growth with a bad teeth occlusion. We are almost used to see elderly horses with a “parrot mouth” but it is due to an uneven occlusion because of the posterior hooks.
This situation is obvious when we check the longitudinal glide of the dental arches by the mobilization of the jaw and we see the two arches sliding one on the other. The normal distance reached between the superior and inferior incisors is 2 mm; if this distance is wider or smaller than this or they move asimmetrically, it means that we probably have lots of molar hooks that have caused an abnormal incisors growth.
It is reasonable to check out and float also the incisors otherwise we cannot restore the good alignment. It is just the normal movement of picking up the grass while the horse is grazing, that ensure a normal incisors consumption. The “slow feeder” devices got very popular for this reason.
There are lots of different kinds of slow feeders but they are all composed by a net with holes of 2-3 cm, allowing the horse to get only small quantities of hay at time. This is good even for its digestion. Rember that the equine does not have tha gallbladder to store the gall and its stomach is made to eat a little and frequently.
Here you have an other reason to feed him with more hay and slower. In addiction is good to put the waterbucket far from the hay, pushing it to move more. Furthermore I would like to underline how a good dental health is important for movement.
There is a specific branch of chiropractic which studies the stomatognatic system and the relation between the TMJ or Temporomandibular joint and cervical vertebrae and its impact on the rest of the spinal column.
This joint is richer of proprioceptors than other joints and it is frequent in human medicine to have sciatica or spinal problems associated with dentistry issues. There are also horses with an evident connection between dental problems and feet problems.
This happens because the horse cannot keep a good balance or posture with an altered proprioception.
Do not forget that most of the time the horse has been ridden with a bite which interacts with the horse’s mouth and connect it with the rider’s hands; thus is fundamental to take care of its mouth to have good performances and do not hurt it. Finally, the key to have an healthy horse is to have (random order):
- good food
- a good chiropractor
- a good podiatrist or trimmer