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March 2017


Shod until age 11, contracted heels, thin flat soles, low palmar & plantar angles, weak caudal foot, laminitis, Cushings, grazed high-oxalate pasture for several years.



Strong, bare, gravelproof feet, good sole depth, excellent bone for age & history, improved digital cushion depth and texture, improved palmar & plantar angles.  No restriction to 24hr grazing on abundant pasture.



Thoroughbred gelding, unraced


Weight: 560kg

Height: 16.1 


Acquired by the current owner at age 6.

Shoes on all four feet.  

Small, boxy feet with some contraction of the heels on the forefeet and clubby left fore.

Ridden regularly in a sand arena and cross-country. Spooky temperament.  

Good body condition all year.

Diet 1996:    lucerne chaff, oaten chaff, pelleted cereal feed, V&M mix, grassy lucerne hay in winter, unlimited pasture (setaria, couch)

2000 - 2002

By age 10 all feet had deteriorated significantly, producing brittle horn that would not properly hold a shoe; the front heels had become more contracted.  Standing on smooth, bare dirt, Rory was sore for the 15 minutes or so waiting-time between removal of one set of shoes and replacement with another - constantly lifting one or other front leg to shift weight to the other side.   Ridden regularly in a sand arena and cross-country.  Quiet temperament.  Under-weight in winter.

Diet 2000:  oaten chaff, copra coconut meal, V&M mix, 10g calcium carbonate,grassy hay in winter, 

unlimited pasture (setaria, couch) 

At age 11 shoes were removed permanently, revealing extensive sole bruising mirroring the lower edge of P3 in all  four feet.   Abscessing occurred in both hind feet and  the left fore within the first week  after shoes were removed; this photo was taken in May 2002 while soaking the feet to draw out abscesses.


Boots were fitted for all feet for a daily hour of hand-walking along tarmac roads.  Two months later he was able to walk under saddle with short segments of trot.   Liberty work in a sand arena (with boots) was also introduced.

Diet 2002:    oaten chaff, copra coconut meal, V&M mix, 10g calcium carbonate, grassy hay in winter, unlimited pasture (setaria, couch)

Rory’s  fore-heels  progressively  decontracted over  the following  year. He was able to work on sand or grass without boots, but was still very tender-footed on gravelly surfaces.   He was  also  short-stepping  on hard,  smooth surfaces,  being keen to move off tarmac road onto grass verge whenever possible.  

Quiet temperament.  Underweight in winter.

Radiographs were taken due to Rory’s continuing foot tenderness.   The images showed thin, flat soles, with a negative plantar angle in the right hind, but no apparent bone loss.

RH May 2003

RF  May 2003

Diet 2003:  oaten chaff, copra 

coconut meal, V&M mix, 

10g calcium carbonate, grassy 

hay in winter, unlimited pasture (setaria, couch)

40g magnesium oxide

(40g brewers yeast from 2004)

There were no further improvements to hoof structure or function over the next two years, during which time Rory suffered a number of mild laminitic episodes. 



Rory was relocated to an elevated region with a drier climate and mixed native/Rhodes grass pasture that was soon eaten down to bare dirt in the severe, ongoing drought conditions.  For close to a year fresh pasture was unavailable, fodder instead being provided by round bales of Rhodes grass hay.   Although housed in a large paddock, daily movement was very limited as none of the horses were in work and there was no incentive to move beyond the hay bale .  

Rory was  brought back into work at age 15, initially  with some quiet rides along country dirt roads. Surprisingly, Rory  had no  difficulty  with the gravel road surfaces  at walk  or trot, not bothering to move off the stones that accumulate in the centre of the roads when given a free choice.   


Although sound, hoof structure was still not good, as can be seen on the photo at right; soles were flat with persistent hoof wall separation and areas of built-up callous.


Rory did not maintain  the same level  of hoof  comfort when  rain and new pasture growth returned, reverting to being tender on stony ground but moving well on grass.  Rory had become superficially sound  during drought conditions as  the dry, hardened  hoof  wall and sole masked the unresolved underlying structural weakness.

Diet 2006:    

oaten chaff, copra, V&M mix , 80g magnesium oxide, brewers yeast

free-choice mineral salt, Rhodes hay, unlimited pasture (native, Rhodes)

Diet 2005:    oaten chaff, copra, V&M mix, 60g magnesium oxide, 40g brewers yeast,  free-choice mineral salt, Rhodes hay

2007 - 2009

By late November 2007 Rory was presumed to have Cushing’s Disease due to absent shedding of the winter coat. Ground chastetree berry (vitex agnus castus) was added to his diet at the rate of 10g twice daily;  rapid shedding of the winter coat began 10 days later.    Blood tests in May 2008 confirmed cortisol, insulin and ACTH were all within normal range. 

Diet 2007:     oaten chaff, copra, V&M mix, 120g magnesium oxide, 40g brewers yeast, free-choice mineral salt, Rhodes hay, unlimited pasture (native, Rhodes)

Late 2008/early 2009 Rory and his companions were again moved to a new location within the same region, being kept in a large paddock with plentiful grass – a mixture of Rhodes, paspalum, couch, clover and natives.  Rory did not cope well at the new location, abscessing in the right hindfoot during the first month.   Rory was not in work for the remainder of that year due to a minor soft tissue injury on the left fore.

 Diet 2008/09:          

oaten chaff, copra, V&M mix, 180g magnesium oxide,  40g brewers yeast, 5g chromium yeast, free-choice mineral salt, unlimited pasture (paspalum, couch, clover, native, Rhodes)


Early in 2010 it was noted that Rory was moving very well, showing an elevated, bouncy, extended trot on hard, compacted ground. Comparative photographs show a distinct increase in the depth and width of the digital cushions on Rory’s front feet had occurred over an 8-month period at the age of 19 (right fore shown below).  Texture had improved from soft to gelpad-like. There was no change to exercise, trim or basic diet over that time; the only change had been adding chromium yeast to the daily feed in March 2009 in an attempt to improve glucose metabolism.

July 2009

March  2010

 to see photographs of digital cushion changes.


 to see radiographs showing Rory’s soles had thickened significantly and developed some concavity.

Rory was now able to move freely with a heel-first landing at an extended trot and canter on hard, compacted ground showing no bracing anywhere in his body.  His ears, jaw and tail are softly loose and his back is raised - all indications that he is completely comfortable everywhere in his body and feet.   The two photos on the right were taken in August 2010.


Diet 2010:    oaten chaff, copra, V&M mix, 240g magnesium oxide, 40g brewers yeast, 5g chromium 

yeast, free-choice mineral salt, toxin binder, unlimited pasture (paspalum, couch, clover, native, Rhodes)


Magnesium oxide was replaced by magnesium  chloride (MgCl2.6H2O) in September 2010, commencing with a small amount, increasing to gut tolerance over a period of several weeks.    The commercial V&M mix and brewers yeast were eliminated, replaced by unrefined sea salt.


Since the introduction of magnesium chloride nearly three years ago in September 2010, there has been no build-up of sole callous even with the return of dry conditions.  The sole pigmentation remains visible.   Neither has there been any deterioration to the structure and function of Rory’s feet through the challenging summer months, regardless of weather conditions; his feet are consistently the same all year round.

Trimming interval has reduced by approximately 2 weeks, so that Rory is now trimmed at around 4 weeks in summer and 6 weeks in winter. For all years prior to the introduction of magnesium chloride, trimming at no more than 2 weeks was essential through summer to prevent hoof wall separation.


The high bio-availability of totally ionised magnesium chloride may be the reason for the dramatic improvements seen when switching from magnesium oxide to magnesium chloride.  A study done by Firoz & Graber indicated magnesium oxide has poor bio-availability, around 4%, when consumed with a meal.     Practical experience with Rory and many other horses suggests that finding is also applicable to equines.


October 2010 saw the commencement of unprecedented rainfall in Qld, which lasted until the end of summer.   The horses’ feet were constantly wet for several months.


Rory had shed all sole callousing on all four feet by the end of October, exposing a distinct concavity, and sole pigmentation that had not previously been seen.  This photo of the right fore was taken in October 2010 after weeks of constant rain.


Radiographs taken in September 2011

showed further improvements to sole depth and concavity.   Despite a diet low in calcium and high in magnesium, and

despite Rory having grazed high-oxalate setaria for 8 years, no evidence of bone loss is evident.


For Rory and his paddock companions, nutrient 'balancing' has no relevance; all their needs are being met by the macro and micro minerals in their feeds and magnesium chloride, unrefined sea salt, chromium, boron and iodine.   

The evidence is in the horse's body and feet - optimal form and optimal function.

 to see comparative radiographs from 2003 to 2011.

Diet 2011 onwards:    oaten chaff, copra, magnesium chloride to gut tolernce, 5g chromium yeast, boron, iodine, 60g unrefined sea salt, free-choice mineral salt, toxin binder, unlimited pasture (paspalum, couch, clover, native, Rhodes), drinking water pH neutralised by sodium bicarbonate.


Of particular interest is the change that has occurred to the palmar and plantar angles within Rory's feet.  Radiographs of the hind feet, taken in October 2012 at age 22, indicate positive changes to the orientation of P3 when compared to radiographs taken in 2003. Plantar angle has increased by 5º in the left hind and 5.5º in the right hind.    It is assumed these changes occurred at about the same time as improvements in digital cushion dimensions and texture during 2009/2010.


Functionally low plantar angle has been found to be a major problem in numerous horses, often being mistaken for continuing tenderness in the front feet.


The chart on the below summarises the internal structural changes to Rory's feet that occurred during the 9 years from 2003 to 2012.


 to see comparative radiographs from 2003 to 2012.


 to go to the Palmar/Plantar Angle Page for a full discussion on this topic.

Rory now keeps his weight more easily through the cold winter months; his coat colour has also improved with no fading of the deep dappled chestnut through summer.


The abundant  pasture on which Rory grazes (hence no need for hay) has been  tested  for  nutrient  content;  it is reported as being low or deficient in most minerals except potassium and magnesium which are high.    


Despite this, Rory's hoof strength and function is dependent on supplementation with magnesium and chromium.   Zinc and copper are very low in Rory's pasture,  yet his coat colour deepened considerably after a couple of months of supplementation with magnesium chloride and  the elimination of the vitamin & mineral  mix that  did contain zinc and copper.

Rory does  not  hesitate to move across  sharp gravel  or  large stones, making  no  attempt  to leave the rough surface in favour of softer ground.


His feet have not been 'conditioned' to be impervious to gravel.  His paddocks are not stony and he works on a hard, flat arena surface that is not gravelly.


This photo of the right fore was taken in July 2013.   This is the foot that was severely injured in 2011.

to read about Rory's hoof injury.


This photo of the left hind was taken in July 2013. 



The  improvements  to the  structure and  function of Rory's feet between 2003 and 2012 have been achieved entirely by diet.   There was no change to trimming technique during that period.    The most  significant changes occurred from 2009 onwards at a time when exercise was limited to permanent pasture turnout as Rory was worked only sporadically. Supplementation with magnesium and chromium, plus reduction of dietary elements such as calcium that can  inhibit magnesium uptake in the horse, has allowed Rory to maintain strong  functional  feet  with no restriction  to 24-hour grazing,  and no exercise beyond free-choice  movement whilst  grazing.  


March 2016 - At  over 25 Rory  is  a healthy,  free-moving horse with strong, bare feet that are comfortable on all terrain.  His feet have been consistently strong and sound for over five years despite opposite extremes of wet and dry weather conditions, lots of grass and very little grass.

February 24, 2017 

A very sad day to say farewell to a friend and teacher of twenty years.  Rory died peacefully of simple old age, remaining strong and healthy right up to his last day.

Any queries that arise after reading everything on this site can be directed to:

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