September is here; with it the cooler days, the shorter evenings and a little more time to reflect on recent publications.
Three items particularly caught my eye recently, the first being an article discussing the merits and demerits of booting horses; the second was what is termed these days an ‘advertorial’, part of an apparent series on gastric ulcers, promoting a feeding system. The third item, also an advertorial, was for a joint-care product .

Boots and Protective Bandages

Horse and Hound 14 August 2020

This article, written by Professor Roger Smith FRCVS and Professor Michael Schramme, discusses the pros and cons of boots and bandages for exercising. It starts on a somewhat divisive note, stating ‘…some kind of protection is largely seen as essential…’ but does go on to impart some justifiable –myth-busting– information: namely that bandages afford no support whatsoever to the fetlock in an attempt to prevent over-extension. It is stated that research has shown that a well-layered bandage can be of some help in young foals and very small ponies but has no effect on the adult horse. They go on to debunk the idea of flexor-tendon support explaining that a cloth bandage could never compete with kinetic forces of around a tonne.

They then go on to explain that protection against overreach –where the rear foot collides with the front leg– is also very limited when using bandages. They may afford some protection against a light blow (and will also afford protection of the skin in such a situation; ed.) but the blunt trauma of anything more forceful will only be prevented by rigid boots ‘…which can be life-saving.’

At this point, the authors begin to return to the divisive: ‘Limb coverings may also help with a horse’s proprioception… It is thought that bandages might offer sensory “cues” …which can be helpful – especially when the horse is tired.’ Furthermore, they say that ‘Swelling of the legs is common…because of…the length of the leg…gravity and the slow movement of blood back up the limb. Bandaging legs for work will not help…but applying bandages in the stable can be effective in reducing or preventing puffiness.’

The rest of the article discusses the dangers of restricted circulation and hyperthermia in the bandaged/booted limbs, of skin injury from chafing, ventilation and the weight of boots.

Although the article begins by stating that ‘…some kind of protection is largely seen as essential…’ and talks of overreach as being the only justifiable reason, at no point do the authors explain why a horse overreaches. And how to prevent it.

The horse’s legs act like a pendulum. Their length determines their period –the time needed to swing from rear to front and, theoretically, back to the rear. The period is completely independent of the weight of the end of the pendulum. At a walking pace, the pendulum effect does not really come into play since the leg-action is minimal and remains almost completely under muscular control. However, when the horse trots or gallops, it makes use of the pendulum effect to ‘fling’ the hoofs forward, gaining momentum without using a great expense of energy. This action is involuntary since, at this point, it is the laws of physics and not the horse that dictates.

Although the period remains the same, irrespective of the weight, the amplitude or the distance travelled by the end of the pendulum –the hoof, in this case– is related to the weight and when we add weight to the hoof in the form of horseshoes, hoof boots, or even protective boots, we increase the amplitude and the inherent kinetic energy of the leg. This means that the horse will have to physically decelerate the rear leg to avoid a collision with the front which, itself, is hampered in its acceleration away from the rear by the excess weight of the horseshoe. It is extremely rare that an unshod horse taps regularly the rears against the fronts –obviously there are exceptions and often these horses have been shod at some stage in their lives causing a certain loss of coordination, but the effects are minimal.

One thing is certain, to eliminate such catastrophic trauma, the answer is not boots nor bandages, but to avoid shoeing the horse in the first place. And not having the horse shod prevents all manner of other injuries and traumas…but that is another discussion.

Finally, the last comment regarding the application of bandages in the stable brings us again to the well-being and physical needs of the horse. Clearly, if the horse needs bandages in the stable to prevent puffiness, then we are doing something wrong. If the horse is at liberty, then it will be able to move and puffiness is also avoided — locking it up clearly considerably impairs its ability to move…

iFeed 31 August 2020

This ‘article’ was written by one of’s editorial staff as a so-called product review. It is in fact marked up as sponsored content!

It proposes is a ‘natural’ and regular way of feeding your horse — mechanically… In fact, it is a miniaturised version of a HiT Active stable only with a different name. There is little good that can be said of either the article or the system. The article begins with an editor’s note that We…are horse owners like you…and we want to share our experiences with you. These select products are ones we use and love every day.

The writer then goes on to explain the problems of her morning ritual and how she had to get up at 05:00 to feed and muck out her horses… And obviously, this device has revolutionised her life (well, apart from the mucking out).

It goes by the unfortunate name of iFeed Naturally. There is nothing whatsoever natural about it. All it is, is a labour saving device for the traditional horse owner, eliminating the two- or three-feeds-a-day routine by mechanising the whole process. What it does not do, is feed the horse as the horse is intended to feed. Grain or cereal is not a natural nor a correct feed for the horse. But what is even more surprising is that a ‘veterinary nutritional specialist’ recommends frequent small portions over two or three large portions and yet the author still only gives two rations a day… Apparently the units were not cheap but they do make life easier — if you really want to make life easier, don’t lock up your horses and don’t feed them expensive and inappropriate cereals.

Hyaluronex Joint various dates

So to the last item, a wonder product for protecting those over-stressed joints.
The photograph used in the advert alone says enough about why this is all wrong…

The respective articles can be found here:

Boots and Protective Bandages

iFeed Naturally

Hyaluronex (pdf)

This article first appeared on 4 September 2020 on the Equine Independent website