Hooves and shoes; slow feeding hay and ulcers

My apologies, as I know I have posted about both of these things, but I’m not able to find those old threads. Go to the BOLD text for my questions if you want to skip the history…

Basics: mare was moved in July to a new barn. She is retired (last ride was in June) and is out 24/7, right now 22 hours on a dry lot with a shed, and 1 to 3 hours grazing, but the grass will go away at some point. Her food needs have increased since the move. Before, she had 6-7 hours of turnout and otherwise was in a stall. She is definitely moving around more now; her dry lot isn’t very big but she doesn’t stay in one spot. She is eating ~25 pounds of first cut mixed grass hay, 2 cups Buckeye Grow N Win balancer, 2 cups Outlast, 2 cups Renew Gold (the latter 3 split into 2 meals) – plus the 1 to 3 hours of grazing. One equioxx, 6000 IU natural vitamin E, 1/2 dose Quiessence, 10000 mg MSM. She is little – 14.3 and 925-950 pounds when in good weight. She dropped ~50 pounds after I moved her and is still gaining it back.

History of … too much. Arthritis, mild EPM, mild heaves, ulcers, possibly IR (but her insulin levels are currently normal, and she has lost weight). Suspensory desmitis in LH corrected with surgery in 2010 but she has a slightly short step on that leg. Pedal osteitis in both fronts, worse in the RF but not terrible. On and off lame in the RF, may have some DDFT damage (long story).

She is 24 but does not look or act it, though she has aged a lot in the past 18 months.

Hooves: her shoes got pulled in January, I used Keratex hoof hardener on them, and got her some Easycare Trail boots for trail riding and hand walking outside. She had one too-short trim in March and was in Easycare Clouds for 3 weeks. Fine (for her) after that… but we have had a very dry summer, and she’s outside all the time and hence stomping at flies more. Plus… my bad, after I moved her, the Keratex kind of went by the wayside. I am applying it 4 times a week now. One good thing: her hooves have expanded since pulling her shoes. She has gone up at least a full shoe size. At the new place I was, until last week, trail walking her 3 times a week, in her boots, for 30 to 45 minutes, which we both enjoy.

But now she’s lame on the RF again, and had hoof Xrays on Friday, which showed thin soles and long toes (new farrier doesn’t have her trim right yet, and I’m somewhat to blame for not warning him that she’s not easy to keep trimmed correctly.) She is temporarily out of boots because her hooves are bigger now so the old boots don’t fit. I bought some one size bigger and will try them on her in the morning.

Shoes: The thin soles have me thinking about putting her back in front shoes, but would like to avoid metal in favor of something a bit softer. Concussion from metal shoes cannot feel good with the amount of arthritis she has. I was thinking Eponas, but forget some other options. Note they MUST be something that can be studded or otherwise treated to improve traction in the winter. We are in New England and get a fair amount of snow and ice, and she will stay outside unless the weather is really, really bad. “Hard” composites like Polyflex do not work for her. Any ideas?

Hay: she is currently getting her hay in 1-inch net Hay Pillows, twice a day at roughly 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. I fear she may be going a long time without hay overnight, as any sort of slow feeder only slows her down so much. She has recently been really, really anxious about her food (to the point that it’s hard to lead her through grass even though she is usually well-mannered…). May have ulcers again, ugh.

The Hay Pillows are taking a beating outside in the stone dust, especially the zippers, and stuck zippers will be even worse to deal with in cold weather, so I am looking for another option – especially if she is in front shoes as she does paw at the hay pillows. Hanging hay nets on the wall of her shed does not work because she hurts her neck yanking on them.

Slow feed ideas: I would like something that can be set on the ground, and maybe have a small hole hay net attached inside, or some kind of small hole net cover (e.g. https://hayburnersequine.com/product/tub-topper-40/.) Options with larger holes, like Porta Grazers, do not slow her down enough.

Or (maybe, if BO is OK with it) what are peoples’ experiences with hanging a hay net in the center of a stall or shed so it just dangles and there is nothing to yank against?


Just chiming in to say a big 100gal water trough with a full bale slow feed net clipped inside has worked really well for my horse (and he’s shod all around). It gets filled about every other day, and he munches as much as he wants. He likes his grass but the BO says he’s polite about it on his handwalks. It’s under cover but if it had to be out I’d want drainage holes drilled in it. He doesn’t yank on it, and while it’s not flat on the ground, it’s better than hung high on a wall.

Obviously if you need to restrict calories, putting the full 50lb+ bale in there and letting her have at it might not be the best, but you could always double net and see how much you can reasonably let her have.


Thank you… I doubt she will.need calorie restriction much more than she has now, especially with winter coming. She’s already eating a lot of hay for such a little horse. I’d just need to slow her down enough that she’s not going many hours with no hay. I was thinking about a tub feeder as an option.

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I agree with fivestride - large rubber type feeder, can attach hay net over top or fill a hay bag and attach inside of feeder. There are a lot of slow feeder options that are built like that already but more expensive. Just depends on what you want. But yes, I agree, horse should have hay 24:7. I’d treat for hind gut ulcers as well. And I haven’t had luck hanging a hay bag with out something for the horse to push the hay bag against. Once the hay bag gets lighter, it becomes almost impossible for them to get the hay out.

Thin soles - what about a boot with a wedge? The long toe will definitely put stress on the internal hoof structure and long toes/caudal fractures actually tend to compress the digital cushion and create thin soles. Maybe bump up the frequency of trimming and until toes and heels are dealt with, use a pad to increase palmar angle positivity slightly. Some horses regrow hoof in the most impractical ways. I have a gelding that just grows long toes and it causes the hoof to get totally out of balance within 4-5 weeks. Some horses can see a 3 degree palmar change in 5 weeks.

You could do steel shoes and pads but boots would be perfectly fine since she is not in high level work, etc. Steel shoes will also accumulate snow without snow pads. Easy boot trails have studs and can be used with a wedge pad.


This is all good advice.

The BO really wants her in front shoes. Farrier said no to anything but metal, but she would get pads and DIM under the pads, and the shoes would have a beveled toe. To be honest, this is the setup that she was in for the last few years, up until I brought in the “big guns” farrier last year, who was more willing to experiment. I don’t think being in these shoes really hurt her, but I don’t think it was particularly helpful. I am not 100% convinced shoes are necessary, but if she’s wearing boots, that’s just one more thing for the BO to deal with.

BO knew this was a high needs horse when she took us on, but may not have known just how high needs, and it’s creating stress between us. If I could be there every day, I’d deal with the boots, the inhaler, and the rest of it myself, I’d give her less hay at dinner and give a third portion late at night, etc.

I am not quite at the point of considering an automatic hay feeder due to $$$$ but I’m sort of drooling over them right now.

In any case she is in Clouds right now, and much more comfortable. Her toes are long enough that I almost needed to go up 2 sizes instead of just 1.

I may just need a different farrier/trimmer. The current one is well respected, and the hooves of the BO’s horses, who all have front shoes at least, look good to my inexperienced eye. Horses are on a 6-7 week schedule but my mare has always been a 5-weeks horse, which would be another reason to look for someone else.

On the hay thing: if she’s going into shoes, we’ll need another arrangement for hay anyway. I do like the idea of a tub with hay netting over the top. (Am I correct that with a net over the top, as opposed to a filled haynet in a tub, she’d have nothing to pull against? I suspect just putting a whole bale in and seeing how long it takes for the mare to get through it would help. She is eating over half a bale a day now. I would like to give her a chance to self-regulate her hay intake – still using a net to slow her down – and see what that gets us. I don’t really think she’s an easy keeper anymore.

If you’re worried about weight or her not being an easy keeper anymore, then maybe just a bale in a large rubber type feeder without a net would be best. That way she isn’t slowed down, your BO doesn’t have to worry about nets - it’s easier for them, you don’t have to worry about her shoes with the nets, and she has hay 24/7, etc. I’m the type that will over feed hay just so I know for sure they have hay 24/7. One less thing to worry about. But as far as the net in a feeder tub, you could do it various ways - in a hay bag, with a net that attaches over the feeder, etc. and she would be able to eat fine. Just the idea of hanging the hay net in the middle of the stall without anything to push the bag off of is what I think would not be effective.

That said, while barefoot is great in an ideal world, some horses do drastically better in actual shoes. I think the set up you describe with pads and a beveled toe would be great. It will take stress off the structure of the hoof, especially when combatting a long toe. I can see why she is doing well in cloud boots but if your BO is struggling with boots, I’d go with shoes. In my mind, she is not doing a level of activity that will really make any change in shock absorption or concussion to the hoof with shoes be significant enough to deter me from steel shoes. Getting the hoof in proper alignment and with the correct angles would be priority for me. I do agree that if you are combatting imbalance in the hoof that a more timely trim schedule would help. A lot of horses can not go 7 weeks and it also really pushes the longevity of nails holding the shoe on which increases the likelihood of pulled shoes, damaged hoof walls, etc. It does help that it is winter and the hoof is growing slower but truly, a lot of horses can not go that long. I would not go that long trying to correct a hoof as well.


In the past, when shod, this horse has been an every 5 weeks, and every 6 weeks in the winter. She has no problem growing hoof and sole, but isn’t keeping it barefoot.

If the use of boots is causing friction between you and the BO, and if you otherwise like the set-up for your horse, then I think you’re wise to look for other options.

You could put her in shoes with a pad and put Magic Cushion under the pad. That would take care of the concussion (probably), and the Magic Cushion would help to toughen up her soles.

It’s just a thought. But you also definitely want to get the farrier to address the long toes issue since shoes aren’t going to help that.

Good luck!

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I feel for you on the feet issues. It is difficult when your horse needs particular shoeing on a particular schedule that does not match the other horses in the barn. My old horse had issues including a slight club. The barn farrier wasnt helping and it was extremely difficult to get someone who was good and would come for one horse. I treasured that farrier when I found him. That horse wore special shoes through six years of retirement. :roll_eyes:

Current horse had a DDFT injury. His feet looked fabulous on the outside and he had been barefoot his whole life. Since then he is in a two degree wedge pad with frog support. Vet says we could stop the wedge but his feet have held up beautifully and I decided not to mess with success and keep as much strain from the DDFT as I can. Had the vet radiograph last Spring to reinforce the need to shorten the toe to the farrier.

If you can find a farrier the vet can work with I found it helps to have the vet send the radiographs and speak to or text the farrier with a “prescription”.

Agreed… way back when, these same front hooves, especially the RF, were damaged when I had a vet and farrier who did NOT get along. Farrier basically did the opposite of what the vet wanted and I ended up with a very lame horse. Current vet and farrier do work together a lot, and have talked, but I am not sure how much vet got across to farrier that those toes must come back.

If I do end up with another farrier, there are a lot of horse barns in the area, so hopefully getting to my horse would just be a small detour rather than miles out of the farrier’s way.

I like this barn – love the BO especially – but it’s so upsetting when things are not working!

With less grazing and harder to keep weight on, I’d try a full tub feeder to start and see how that goes.

For the feet, I would do steel shoes with Equipak to rebuild the soles, considering PO and other issues in the history. You’d want to take the Equipak out ideally by the time real winter hits with her living out (it’s like skis) although at least you could add traction to the shoes. It could take a few cycles to get the sole depth back. Having more sole will help you address the toes and the angles by giving you more foot to work with. It’s good she usually grows enough foot. Shouldn’t take you too long to get back on track then. In my experience, you don’t get the sole building from a leather pad with packing versus Equipak poured all the way to the ground. With her not having a stall anymore and your ground being unforgiving, I don’t think boots and barefoot will be the best long term solution.

Thank you. Equipak could be helpful but she can’t stand having the space between the pad and her sole solid, hence the use of dental impression material in the past. She is flat
soled, but her soles grow very thick when she’s shod, which is why this response to going barefoot surprised me…

Was barefoot for 9+ years before I bought her, including dressage and horse trials competition, but it just doesn’t look like that will work now.

The hay issue is more concerning, honestly. I shouldn’t have said she’s no longer an easy keeper… if fed free choice loose hay she would be a blimp. A net slows her down. I would like her to have hay available at all times but not make it too easy for her to eat!

My Old Man horse got a night feeding in a net hung “free” where he couldn’t pin it on anything.

He just learned to pin it on his chest or side. But, that said, it did significantly slow him down, more than any other attempt at doing so.

Could you try frog support pads for your mare? They were instrumental in helping my late mare get some better concavity in her foot. They also allow a little more traction in the winter. If you want to attempt to keep her barefoot, I’d switch to keratex on the outside walls, and durasole or straight iodine on the bottoms. Keratex never worked for me on soles.

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I don’t have current photos but this is what her fronts looked like in July… I think right after she was trimmed by current farrier but I honestly don’t remember. Since then, the central sulci have spread open quite a lot. Toe is longer now and heels more underrun.


Bottom views; I’m guessing about which hoof is which.



I’ve used the Eponas in the past for my coffin bone issue horse with a lot of success. We may end up going back to them as we are having off and on success with boots and pads in a similar environment to your horse. I tend to think the metal is worse / harder on them especially if they have any issues arthritis or otherwise. If you do end up in steel shoes, you may want to look at Progressive Equine Services on FB - they have a lot of success rehabbing thin soles and low PA / low heels with steel shoes, 3D pads and DIM. It’s another route I’ve considered for my horse, though she doesn’t love nails so it’s lower on my list. I sympathize with you on the hooves - there are so many different options it can be overwhelming!

For hay, I used a shorter trough (50 gal?) and I’ve used the big troughs and built a net “lid” for it. The trough is big enough to place one 50lb / 2 string small square into and close. The “lid” / net attaches with rubber coated hooks and I drilled drain holes in the bottom. I still have to flip it and clean it out every now and then but it works VERY well for reducing waste and slowing them down some. It’s very easy and quick to fill and if you do a whole bale for one horse you should only need to fill every other day. I’ll try to grab a picture of mine tomorrow.

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Is the hay tested and her diet balanced with an appropriate vitamin/mineral supplement? If you can get her diet dialed in to support optimal hoof growth and find a good trimmer to help get her feet balanced that could go a long way to improving her comfort without having to go back to shoes.

I board so hay testing is impractical. It’s local first cut mostly timothy. Her ration balancer has balanced vitamins/minerals and yes I know about Cu/Zn – the balancer is a little light on this so I am supplementing with Mad barn Cu/Zn.

At this point her soles are really flat on the ground and she’s VERY ouchy. I forgot to mention that one of her anatomic faults is very flat soles – this has been the case since I bought her, and her breeders noted it as one of her faults. Her soles have not been trimmed flat by a farrier… that is just how they are. With a very steep P3 I am sure you can understand how she would be in pain when her soles are too thin.

My horse had flat and thin soles (as per xrays), but after adjusting diet and with help of a good trimmer has developed nice concavity. Just sharing what helped us. There was a lot of trial and error to figure out diet. And also some setbacks with trimmers, but I was quick to move on when I saw things go sideways.

Shoes: big ditto on NOT using metal shoes. I had my foundered horse (RIP Joker) who was also diagnosed with low Ringbone, in a composite shoeing package that was nothing short of a magic bullet for him.

  1. EasyCare’s “EasyShoe Versa”
    1.1. Pliable 3/8” at the rear, plastic full pad attached to the shoe.
    1.2. ShuFil pliable packing, medium strength (green). ShuFil reminds me of silly putty.

You wouldn’t know he had residual issues from founder or that he had low Ringbone. The reduction in concussion was eye popping.