Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hooves, appearances, loading and landing

Here is a Thursday conundrum for you hoof anoraks. Sarah has posted some fascinating photos in this post on the Phoenix forum about the changes happening in Solar's feet.  As always, there are interesting questions about whether the human view of "correct" foot balance coincides with the horse's view.
With that in mind, I wanted to upload some photos and video for you to ponder. They aren't photos of Solar - in fact they aren't photos of a rehab horse at all - but they are interesting nonetheless.
This is a hoof that would strike many people (including some hoofcare professionals) as being shockingly "unbalanced". The off centre breakover is the first thing most people notice, but if you focus on the hairline rather than the hoof capsule the whole thing should appear more balanced.
Here is the sole shot, for those of you who are pining for it :-) Stonking frog, healthy sole and from this angle too, a much more balanced foot. Underneath is always the first place to start when assessing balance!

But here is the most important thing - how the hoof is landing, how the hoof is loading.
This is why how a hoof looks (particularly from above) is - in my opinion - the last question anyone should focus on if they are concerned with performance.

How the hoof performs is pretty essential, and whether it compensates for any injuries or less-than-perfect conformation. Whether it conforms to a human ideal of symmetry or perfection comes in a lot further down the list.
From this horse's point of view, whether a hoof is a good hoof is pretty simple. He needs a hoof capsule which supports his limb, enables him to land correctly and which can effectively shock absorb and give him feedback when he is travelling at speed over uneven terrain.

If - as in this horse - his joints require the breakover to be off centre in order for the foot to load and land evenly, then the hoof capsule needs to accommodate that to reduce strain on the limb.
If the hoof capsule does all this well, he will be sound, moving efficiently, comfortable and capable of high mileage over all terrain. The last thing he will care about is whether you think its symmetrical!


Freyalyn said...

Now, if only they could tell us these things - wouldn't life be simpler!

Nic Barker said...

LOL! The only way they can tell us is by their movement - but the clues are there if you look for them :-)

Lainey said...

Bailey's breakover in both fronts is off center, yet he moves straight and is sound over everything. But he has wonky feet. I love his wonky feet they keep him sound, he knows his job better than anyone. x

Nic Barker said...

"I love his wonky feet they keep him sound"


Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Wow, so mind boggling. So, yes, he lands so nicely! In the sole shot, the lateral side that shows (to me) a flare; that wouldn't contribute to the hoof wall pulling incorrectly away and making a wider white line separation? Or does that not matter as long as they move soundly like this guy? Or is your point, that hoof grows that way b/c it NEEDS to for his joints to work properly and thus it wouldn't really be pulling the hoof wall away?

Jassy Mackenzie said...

So interesting! My younger TB has very off centre front feet (but straight legs) - I worry about them sometimes but then I stand in front of him when he's trotted out and watch him move... you have never seen a horse move so straight in your life! That makes me feel better (plus the fact he's sound and happy!)

Nic Barker said...

Kristen, I think the fact that the lateral sole is wet doesn't help - in fact there isn't a lateral separation and he has a good white line but I appreciate the photo isn't too clear on that.

Jassy - I think your boy is probably a perfect illustration of what I mean - I suspect that if he had "straight" hooves he would no longer have such straight limbs or such straight movement - hooves are by far the best place to compensate as they are so dynamic.

Val said...

Very thought-provoking.

How could a trimmer help this horse to take off excess hoofwall without disrupting the shape which the horse has grown to optimize his movement? I ask this question not about this horse specifically, but for those of us who do not have management situation to keep the hooves trimmed by the horse alone. Can a strategy be adopted to trim the foot, but keep the balance as determined by the horse? What would that strategy look like in practice, I wonder?