Monday, 14 June 2010

The anatomy of a barefoot horse...!

I'm running a course for UKNHCP students this week and as part of that I was updating the course material. I was going through THE anatomy book on the horse's hoof - "The Equine Distal Limb" by Jean-Marie Denoix, for the hoof anoraks amongst you - when I realised there was something odd about some of the photos.

The book is incredibly well illustrated with photos of hooves and limbs at every possible stage of dissection and with reference images from MRI and ultrasound , with every anatomical structure clearly labelled.

The odd thing comes in the initial photos of the hoof, in the basic cross-sections. The hoof is shown half dissected, so that you can see the inner and outer structures, but along with the outer hoof capsule, the shoe has also been carefully cut in half (left on the hoof of course). Even more bizarrely, the shoe is numbered and labelled as another part of the hoof(!).

Initially I thought this was a one-off, then I realised it crops up routinely, and that where the outer hoof wall is shown, there is a shoe attached. The numbering for each illustration states: 1, Distal phalanx, 2, Ungular cartilage, 3, Corium limbi...9, Hoof wall, 10, Sole, 11, Skin, 12, Shoe - and don't forget this isn't a shoeing book, its a reference manual for functional anatomy...

Its as if a medical text book listed the parts of the human body and then went on: gloves, hat, shirt, trousers - but of course that would be unthinkable(!)...

Its a great illustration of something that Sarah and I wrote in Feet First, bemoaning the dearth of research on barefoot - that vets and academics "concentrate on looking at how hooves function with metal shoes, almost as if it would be unthinkable to assess bare hooves".

It also illustrates the massive mental block built into the teaching system which vets, more than most of us, have to overcome.

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