Wednesday 4 November 2009

Toe first landing - what happens next

Take a look at the video below - excuse the skeleton painted on the horse - it belongs to a friend and we were revising anatomy at the time this was taken :-)

The interesting element is how he lands in front - slightly, but significantly toe-first*. I filmed this horse for the skeleton(!), not because of his feet, but I noticed at the time that his hoof landing was not, for me, correct.

I've said before that all the horses who come here for hoof rehabilitation arrive landing toe first; the other common denominator is that they have all been lame for many weeks or months before they arrive here.

By contrast, every healthy barefoot horse I've ever filmed lands heel first*, as do the rehab horses once they have become sound again. The photo above is of Andy's mare, Bailey, landing beautifully heel first on a stony track.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate from this evidence that its better for horses to land heel first than toe first - and in fact there are lots of biomechanical factors which confirm that horse's muscles, tendons and ligaments are under less strain when they land heel first.

The reason THIS video is interesting is that the horse pictured was "sound" and in work when we filmed him, and should have gone from strength to strength the following year.

In fact, though he competed successfully through the 2009 season, his stride length got shorter and shorter and over the months since this film was taken, his performance has suffered. Some months on, and he has been diagnosed with caudal hoof pain - often called "navicular" by less enlightened vets.

For me, its further confirmation that a toe first landing is a warning sign - something to be acted on sooner rather than later, before it leads to more serious damage.

* Please note that a toe first or heel first landing will often NOT be visible to the naked eye - its only slow motion film footage that shows you what is really happening


Val said...

Very interesting. Thanks for posting.

Unknown said...

Interesting read and very poignant. I noticed my horse, although sound, was landing toe-first and have recently started the transition to barefoot with a UKNHCP professional. My mare has been short striding and landing toe-first ever since I have owned her but I wasn't knowledgeble enough to notice. I just hope that acting now will be soon enough for her. Sam.