Friday 4 February 2011

Hooves and symmetry

So, here is the promised, more detailed post on hoof balance, symmetry and limb may run to several parts, but let's get started.   It really follows on from a post I put up in September:, which looked at the same horse. 

I also posted yesterday another photo of the same horse's hooves, for consistency.  This is how they look today:  
and below is how they looked the day the horse arrived at Rockley, nearly 2 years ago.  
On the face of it, much nicer when shod - symmetrical, balanced and (given that he was due for shoeing) basically nice feet.   Problem was that he was toe first landing, lame and only able to work on 2 bute per day.  

You have to forgive the photos, because at the time I took them, I was doing routine shots and I had no idea how important they would be - however, when you look at his limb conformation - especially with the benefit of hindsight - things become clearer. 

On day 1, even though he is not standing perfectly square, you can see that his LF overloads laterally.  Its more obvious when we put Wiola's lines on, which demonstrate how the limb loads;  although he isn't standing still, the difference between the LF, which is off laterally, and the LH, which is fairly evenly loaded, is clear.
As this horse grew a more supportive hoof caspule, it included a medial deviation on both front feet, though more pronounced on the left front.  
The reason for this is clearer when we put similar lines on again, showing the load to his new, more supportive feet.  The load is not perfect, and perhaps never will be for this horse, but the medial deviation at least means that load is shared more equally through the hoof capsule. 
Looking at his solar view at day one, in shoes, it doesn't look too bad, though the frog is non-weightbearing and the heel heights are slightly uneven.

Immediately out of shoes, the foot is a bit of a mess with weak hoof wall, a prolapsed frog - its also very flat.   If you look at the orientation of the frog and compare medial and lateral aspects, you can see that the lateral side the (lower side on the photo) is broader. 
By contrast, his later sole shot shows a much more substantial frog which has a key weight-bearing function and that there is no difference in hoof wall height.  Its interesting to also see how much more robust the frog and digital cushion are than when the horse first came out of shoes. 

Putting the same lines on, there is now much greater weight-bearing capability on the medial aspect (which is towards the top of the photos as you look at them). 

Now I would be the first to agree that this is a far from perfect hoof, and it still has, and perhaps will always have, weaknesses - but after all, its the foot of a horse who has had to compromise for many years.  

What's important to realise is that the solar shot shows that the hoof is actually loading more evenly, despite the fact that it looks "unbalanced" from the top.   When the hoof looked more symmetrical from the top, it was actually loading in a less balanced way.


Anonymous said...

It's so important that farriers and trimmers not just "make it look right" - e.g. just make the foot symmetrical when it really shouldn't be for the horse's benefit. I had a mare with two differently sized front feet - probably a developmental/load issue as she was one of those very long-legged small-headed horses who had to graze one front foot forward and one back - and my farrier was good about leaving them that way.

Cristina said...

One question - if you were to trim him to create a 'neater' hoof what would be the consequences.
Would he go lame instantly or would it be more subtle i.e. you may not see a difference immediately but the incorrect loading over a period of time creates stresses that will eventually cause lameness.

Nic Barker said...

Ooh, good question :-) With this particular horse, he is immediately more uncomfortable, particularly on hard/uneven surfaces. In shoes, it might be that it took more time to develop, but he didn't have MRIs so the level of damage wasn't clear.

With thermography, he was showing inflammation in the lateral aspect of the hoof capsule, though.

smazourek said...

So interesting, I just learned a bunch from this post. The pictures with the red lines showing how the limbs load are really helpful.

Question: If you find an asymmetrical frog and heel bulbs should you immediately think that the horse might be better off with a wonky (not so pretty) foot?

Nic Barker said...

Glad it was useful :-) As to your question - it depends on the horse :-) Sounds like a cop-out but actually you always need to be listening to the horse - if they are loading asymmetrically in shoes, yes, there is a good chance they need to try something different!

clairesgarden said...

very interesting!!

cptrayes said...

Thanks again for this fantastic resouce you are building up by doing this blog Nic. Absolutely fascinating. I've seen the same in reverse, with Radar, of a bent horse with a bent foot becoming (through schooling) a straight horse with a straight foot. I wonder how bent his foot, and body, would be today if he had stayed shod? I feel so sorry for the ones in shoes that can't do the adjustments that they want.

I once told a vet about your boys' wonky feet and they said "buthow long will they stay sound?" in a critical fashion. I replied, of course, "I don't know, but they weren't sound at all in shoes, so every day is a bonus, isn't it?" They had to agree, and grinned wryly.


Nic Barker said...

Ah, thanks Caroline :-) As far as soundness goes, isn't it ironic that the horses and the vets want the same thing - an evenly loaded limb (!)...

Fascinating about Radar - and I'd agree, crooked horse definitely can equal crooked feet - so many things can impact - I had a very illuminating conversation with an equine bodyworker yesterday about that - food for another blog, I guess :-)