Monday, October 1, 2012

GRAPHIC: Dissection of hoof with impacted bars

I did not do this dissection, I found them posted on one of the list serves I follow. I wanted to show you these because it's one of the best dissections I've seen that show impacted bars in a horse hoof.

For any of you that may think I go on like a broken record about trimming the bars, or for any Ramey/ less-is-more followers who happen to stumble across this blog, this hoof shows what could happen when the bars are left to grow unchecked.

The side view and x-ray for reference. This is obviously a founder, I would say a completely avoidable one if only the bars had been trimmed.

Everything under the pink area (digital cushion, corium, later cartilages, deep digital flexor tendon) is bar. Look at how they've squeezed the soft tissues into an incredibly small, tight space. How could the hoof possibly function normally when it's been squeezed like that? Can you also see how bars that have impacted like these will damage the DDFT where it travels around the navicular bone and connects to the coffin bone?

Yet another view showing just how tall the bars have gotten. That's almost 2 inches of bar!

I think this one is interesting. Even though the walls are probably only a half inch too long (keeping in mind the dead material over the sole), the bars are at least an inch-and-a-half too long! Somebody was obviously trimming the peripheral walls down on this horse but they probably didn't touch the bars for years, if ever- and the horse suffered for it.

Here's a refresher: The bars are part of the hoof wall. Just like the rest of the wall they are composed of an outer wall, an inner wall, and laminae. Since they are part of the wall they grow at the exact same rate as the rest of the wall and should be trimmed in like fashion. Horses don't grow bar over sole and around the frog because "the hoof needs it," that's a garbage statement. If they are not trimmed they have to go somewhere, so they either grow up into the hoof like on this horse (hello navicular and founder) or out over the sole (which will create underrun hooves in no time). If you do trim the bar and it pops back out, that again isn't proof that the "hoof needs it" because cell division doesn't work that way, what that proves is that the bar inside the hoof finally had some room to move out.

Someday I'll let this subject go, but as long as there are people parroting misinformation about the bars I can't. So long as there are hooves like this out there I can't. This horse could have been saved if only someone had trimmed those bars.

40 comments:

  1. Holy holy. Man. I can never get used to hoof dissection photos, no matter how many preserved specimens I have dissected.

    How long do you suppose the bars would be on a healthy dissected foot with the frog removed?

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    1. I tried to warn you ;)

      I also tried to find a dissection from similar angles showing healthy bars but couldn't find any. If I had to guesstimate I'd say 3/4 to 1 inch?

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  2. Having been a Biology major, I love these pictures. Mom always hated when I came home talking about dissections.
    Pictures help so much sometimes.

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    1. Exactly, showing beats explaining every time.

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  3. I have been trimming Val's bars myself halfway between my farrier's visits. When I asked my farrier, he told me something about not trimming them much since Val doesn't have a ton of sole. That sounded wrong to me, but I didn't have enough info to disagree with him.

    I'm guessing Val's bars grow up into his foot because there isn't usually lots to trim. Thanks for this post. I feel like I have a better handle on why to trim them. Now I need to order a lh knife too - it's hard to use the rh one backwards. :D

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    1. I agree, that doesn't make sense. Bar is bar and sole is sole, leaving bar isn't going to make him grow more sole.

      Feel his lateral cartilages, if they feel high and hard you'll know he's got some more bar that needs to come out. Ideally they shouldn't come up much higher than the hairline.

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  4. Where's the 'love' button?

    Great post!! And as gruesome as the dissections are (all I can think of is 'that poor, poor horse'), they are soooo important so people can actually SEE what happens.

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    1. Especially when it comes to impacted bars. There are a lot of people out there who say the bars don't push up inside the hoof- nothing like an actual hoof to prove that they absolutely do.

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  5. A picture is worth a thousand words and those pictures were a great representation of what you have been saying regarding impacted bars.

    "Since they are part of the wall they grow at the exact same rate as the rest of the wall and should be trimmed in like fashion."

    That statement and the pictures validate trimming bars, in my mind.

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  6. Great post. I also wonder what else is missing though. Was that dissected hoof in shoes? The reason I ask this question is the fact that bars are there for a reason, right? So if we always remove, or take away too much, that can lead to a sore horse. The opposite is true as well with never taking away, OR if not hand trimming, then providing the horse with enough work, or footing to wear it away to wear it wants to be. I go back and forth. I have in my horse, done my own tests of paring away bar that grew over thin sole. It gave him relief but in the end it wasn't helping him move more sound. So, by not touching it as much with the hoof cast on, he's moving more sound....very strange. I don't think there are cut and dry answers/statements for all horses. I literally ITCH to remove/pare/carve out Laz's bars, but I'm holding back to see with our new working/riding if they wear away on their own and if he's more sound. SO far, so good.....I'm always testing. ;)

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    1. Yes, the bars are there for a reason, just like the rest of the wall is. But just like the rest of the wall it can overgrow and that causes problems. If I were to trim this horse before it died and take those bars WAY down, it would have been sore. But there's good sore and there's bad sore- like physical therapy there's a reason why it hurts. Jammed up bars like this not only crush the soft tissues, they also press into the nerve endings which can create numbness. When you remove the pressure from the nerve endings the horse can feel the damage in their feet again. Does that mean we shouldn't do it? Most of the time no, because leaving it there isn't helping, taking it out and allowing the hoof to heal will help. Yes, the horse will be sore but in the end the horse will be better off.

      In regards to Laz and your new trimmer I'm still waiting to see where he's going. I have a theory (that I'm going to keep to myself for now) about why Laz is going better in the cast, the proof of the method will be if he's sound without it.

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    2. Just revisited this....so what is your theory about the cast providing comfort? Was it due to acting like a shoe and lifting him off his impacted bars? :)

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  7. Those are excellent pictures for people like me who have a hard time imagining what the bars look like inside. A wonderful post. If horses are out on rocks a lot, will they naturally trim the bars themselves? My horses hooves are tough as nails right now because of all the dry weather.

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    1. If the outer walls are self trimming from exercising on abrasive surfaces like rocks then it's usually safe to assume the bars are too. But I'd still take a look at them every so often.

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  8. After reading your post, I decided I had better double check my gelding that is prone to high heels. LOL

    I took a little more off and made darned sure to trim his bars down. ;-) I'm sure he's not impacted...but you did remind me that I need to be paying a little extra attention to him. Thx!

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    1. Yay, you are welcome :)

      I trim a shetland pony who had impacted bars, every time I went out it looked like her heels had grown like crazy but her toes were worn down to the sole. Finally got those bars out (takes a long time with light, little ponies) and now she wears her hooves normally. Not saying that's what's going on with your guy, just saying it happens.

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    2. Nawwww...This guy just has 'mule' feet and is pigeon-toed to boot. He's one we raised, so know he has been this way his whole life. My brother went over everyone's particulars when I took over trimming a few years ago and this horse, he told me to make double sure to keep after his heels and bars. Can't keep him from toeing in, but keeping his heels down and level alleviates the majority of it.

      He's an excellent barefoot candidate. I've never had to shoe him because he has such concave feet. Would hate to have to bother shoeing him anyway...he needs his heels and bars touched up every couple of weeks to keep him really right. I just forget to do it that often anymore because he isn't being ridden.

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  9. I am so thankful for this post! I read it the day you posted it, never having understood impacted bars, and today I went out to the barn, two weeks into having shoes removed, and found that sections of bar on one hoof were flaking off (not sure that actual term for this. Before your article, I think I would have panicked but I realize the hoof is doing what it needs to do. This is the same leg that she has been lame on and off on for two years, leaving me clueless as to the cause. Now I am really wondering if it has been the hoof all along. Her bars actually go nearly past her frogs and from what I am reading this is not correct. Thank you again!
    Sasha

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    1. Sounds from your description that she does have an excess of bar. I'm glad she's finally able to start getting that out!

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  10. Thanks for the post and the pictures. It does help someone like myself understand things a little better. I'm still not going to do my own trimming but it's always good to be better educated.

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    1. I have very little expectation that people will read this and start trimming their own. What I would like to happen is that they'll start paying more attention and questioning their hoof care provider. If they don't trim the bars, ask them why.

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  11. Nice article, thanks for the information.

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  12. FASCINATING! You KEEP preaching... we are listening!

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  13. This is wonderful... I'm gonna email a link to this post to one of my clients (I'm an equine massage therapist) I think this might be the problem his horse is having, and the owner knows very little about the anatomy of his horse's feet, so I'd like him to see what I'm talking about before he goes and has a conversation with his farrier about it.

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    1. Whew, good luck with that. If he's going to try a conversation with the farrier that got his horse in this mess it's going to be a VERY hard sell.

      Tall heels with super deep collateral grooves are a pretty good indication of impacted bars. Another good indication is when the lateral cartilages have been pushed way up high and are rock hard. I've got a post about the lateral cartilages here: http://quartersforme.blogspot.com/2012/06/seeing-lateral-cartilages.html.

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  14. Hi smazourek,

    First of all, congrats with your pregnancy!!

    Second: Congrats with this article, this is the one the world has been waiting for :)
    Bars are so misunderstood! Our good teacher Pete Ramey hasn't helped with his comments that the bars will take care of themselves...

    I have a website in dutch (paardenhoeveninfo.blogspot.com) and give workshops about hoof health in the Netherlands and was wondering if I could use these photos. Because the footing is so soft in the low lands there are a lot of bars that are completey grown over. These photos give great insight.

    Did you know the bars are like the anchors of the hoofmechanism? Good bars help the hoof to flex back in the original size after expanding.

    They also explain what we've been emailing about before. Once you start chipping away at bars they seems to keep on popping up for some time. No wonder if you look at the inside of the hoof!!

    Why oh why do even traditional farriers that love cutting stuff not take the bars down????

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    1. I'm going to have to see if I can get you blog translated now :)

      These aren't my photos, I got them off a listserve I'm on. I appropriated them under Fair Use- I figure they got posted on the internet and I'm not profiting from their use so I popped them up. I can take a look and see if I can find the source photos for you.

      Pete Ramey's hands-off approach to bars is one of my biggest problems with him. Someday he'll realize his error and then he's going to have a lot of explaining to do!

      Yes, I do know about the bars stabilizing function for the back of the hoof. I've even witnessed James Welz going on a bit of a rant about making sure you leave enough bars in the hooves of horses that jump. You don't want the hooves to "explode" in impact because you took too much bar out!

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    2. Pete definitely does not have a hands off approach to bars. He simply does not advocated carving them out of a healthy hoof, or horses that may need them to support the back half of the hoof for any reason. Doesn't mean he wouldn't or doesn't trim bars that are excessively long. If he came across a horse with bars and heels this long they would be addressed down to the healthy level of the sole. You can see by the depth of the collateral grooves that there is a lot of excess material there that needs to be removed.

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  15. Don't you think especially with showjumping the bars should be short? The impact will just hammer the bars into the sole and beyond...

    I've written also an article in english you might be interested in. And I'd be interested in hearing your opinion about it. Do you have email? You can twitter me @hoefinfo

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    1. Of course I think that every horse should get their bars trimmed. But there is a faction of people out there who "take the bars out," that's what James was referring to. The bars keep the hoof from expanding too far, if you take away too much bar you'll weaken them, add a couple thousand pounds of impact from landing a big fence on top of that and the whole back of the hoof might give out. You have to find a happy medium.

      I'd love to read your article, you can email me at radal16 (at) hotmail.com.

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  16. Oh that's awesome. Good to read such informative article and helpful comments about hoof caring. It's also to know some ideas about horse feet anatomy.

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  17. I honestly don't see how adding Pete's name to the article was in any way necessary. It's simply mud slinging and in this case completely irrelevant to an otherwise interesting article. Pete Ramey, or any of the "less is more" camp, does not advocate letting bars grow willy nilly or letting a hoof get competely overgrown in the heel and bar like this cadaver shows. IF Pete had trimmed this horse right before it had died and you critiquing his trim style, that's one thing, but to call him out on a hoof he never touched doesn't make any sense. It's pure speculation on what he would or would not do in this case or any other. I won't speak for him, but as someone who trims using a very similar approach and methods, the bars IN THIS CASE would absolutely be addressed, as there is obviously an excessive amount of material in the heel and bar and they would not be left as is. It's sad that educational material can't be provided without trying to insult others, or assume they would neglect an issue and feel the need to drop their name with no valid reason in relation to the material being discussed.

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    1. The moment you start calling yourself an expert and start selling books and videos you open yourself up to criticism. Regardless of how he may or may not have trimmed that particular horse, he has advocated a hands-off approach to bars in the past and that has led to an awful lot of people not trimming the bars at all in his name - it is THOSE people I am trying to reach.

      You can say, looking at that hoof, that it is obvious that the bars needed to be trimmed. But if that were the case the horse (and countless others like it) wouldn't be dead with its hoof looking like that. So it's not obvious, is it?

      I'm sure that Pete is a nice guy, but I definitely want to advocate that people who want to learn about hooves and trimming learn from as many different people as possible. If you don't agree with me about this or that aspect of hooves, that's fine, if it leads to you* branching out and doing some more research of your own, that's great.

      *In this case you meaning whoever is reading this, not specifically NicoleJ.

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    2. Nothing wrong with constructive critisism but have you actually talked to Pete about his opinions on bars? Can you specifically state a source where he has a hands off approach to bars? I have worked with Pete through clinics and workshops as well as read all his books, watched his videos etc and he is certainly not one to advocate any absolutes, each horse is a new case and is treated individually. He works within the horse's comfort levels and the internal structures of the hoof. Lots of people like to do things in the name of whoever they are learning from or "following" but that doesn't mean they are actually doing what that person would do or that they even interpreted their teachings correctly. That's one of the unfortunate things about people teaching themselves without direct guidance. Misinterpretation and misunderstandings.

      If you are trying to reach people, you will get much farther through simply information and proof of your theories than criticizing other's work, especially with no direct knowledge of the work itself.

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  18. I hope by now the latest research has made it to you. We must all tread softly..

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    1. No need to be so cryptic, what research is this?

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  19. I hope by now the latest research has made it to you. We must all tread softly..

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