Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Feet, flippers and fallacies

Brace yourselves for some fairly dramatic photos :-)
This is Legend  - comparison photos from when he arrived (10 weeks ago) and today (below). He had been in remedial shoes until 6 weeks before he arrived and his feet had "pancaked" with mechanical laminitis  - most probably according to his vet as a result of the shoeing. 

Legend had a navicular diagnosis but the laminitis, gave him a double-whammy of problems in the back of his foot as well as in his sole and toe. Being out of shoes has already contributed to a better angle of growth for the new hoof capsule - just visible under the feathers - but in the horses here I normally see much faster changes in the first 6 weeks out of shoes.  
Once we were able to add in movement on the tracks the growth rate accelerated  - the new growth is not only a different angle but a different texture, with no ridges or rings. 

Recently (as you can see) we have had to trim his feathers (with owner's permission!) as he was getting very itchy - I need to tidy up the long bits but it does make it much easier to see what is happening with his hooves. 
Here is the RF - again when he arrived and today, after 10 weeks. As you can see, I haven't taken his toes back even though - by doing so - I could make his feet look a lot prettier and improve his breakover slightly. 

The reason I haven't trimmed him is  - I hope - much more obvious in the photos from today.
Bear in mind that this horse has had chronic long term weakness and pain in the back of his foot. He is now landing heel first and building a stronger hoof but can you imagine what would have happened if you had simply backed his toe up? 

These photos should illustrate that removing that toe - tempting though it may be from a cosmetic point of view - would tip all his weight back onto the heels.

That will be fine in a few weeks - in just about the time that he has finished growing in his new hoof capsule - but for now it would be too big a change too fast and it would overload the healing palmar structures and not only damage Legend's tendons and ligaments but hinder his steadily improving soundness. 

There is an old fallacy that the long toe will somehow lever the new growth and damage it - that just doesn't happen, because the new growth is far, far stronger and better connected than the old, stretched hoof wall. In fact the old growth wears away easily and quickly, causing few issues. 
Ironically, of course, in a few weeks time trimming won't be necessary because the new hoof capsule will be in place, with the toe naturally backed up and no need for intervention from a knife or rasp. 

Even better, he will have done this to his own schedule, giving his tendons and ligaments the time they need to adapt to the improved loading of this new hoof. 
With correct movement, but without trimming, these hooves are changing radically and very fast. These last 2 photos give you an idea of how much more substantial the frog and digital cushion are. 

Even so, they aren't yet ready to be overloaded. The frog is still well below the level of the heels and backing up the toe is very likely to make him less sound. He is getting better and more capable every day, so I see no justification in risking this. 

Sadly, I know from experience that even a mild shifting back of his breakover will be too much - if you overload the back of the foot before it can cope the horse responds by shutting down movement and landing toe first - which puts us back to square one and a movement which is stressing and damaging tendons, ligaments and bone of the palmar hoof.

I would like nothing better than to speed up the improvements in these hooves but I've learned the hard way that improvements can rarely be achieved (and rarely if ever accelerated) with a quick trim (or even a slow trim!). 

Even if the Legend's movement isn't optimal at this stage (and how could it be when he still has toes like flippers with the breakover an inch ahead of where it will be shortly) the basics - an engaged palmar hoof which can function as it should - are there and the rest will follow with time and mileage - there are no short cuts. 
I'm adding sole shots because they give an idea of how stretched his whole foot (not just the toe) was. The top photo is on arrival, the lower is today. 

You can see in the lower photo the old, damaged laminae in his white line and the "shadow" just in front of his frog is where his breakover will be - its the line of new growth in the sole. You can see the temptation to just trim off all the old rubbishy toe - but I hope you can now understand why its important to resist temptation!
I hope the photos give a much clearer demonstration than I ever could of why hooves need to change at the horse's pace (which is already pretty spectacular) and not ours.


amandap said...

Just astounding!

M's mum said...

Wow. Not much else I can say... just... wow!!

dreams579 said...

the rate of growth there is amazing! he looks like he'll have grown out a complete new hoof in another couple of months max if he keeps going like that!

Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth said...

Fascinating, and so logical when you spell it out like this.

amandap said...

My laminitic pony grows hoof really, really fast after an acute attack. I believe it's the horse trying desperately to sort itself/hooves out.

The leverage thing is something I have wondered about for a long time. My purely owner thoughts are if you have a good connection growing down it can't have much affect. Getting diet right and comfortable movement at the horses pace is critical for this imo.

Media Wurzel said...

How Fascinating...It looks like he's sorting his own feet out pretty quickly!

cptrayes said...

The leverage is an interesting point, and I think it hinges around not letting a horse with feet like this do too much. This is where a Rckley's track system is just so perfect, it lets the horse do as much as it can, while also preventing too much mad behaviour.

I learnt to my cost when Campero escaped me one day and went for a gallop with feet that looked a little like that, but not so extreme, that you can indeed lever the weaker bottom part of the foot away from the stronger attached piece at the top. Campo got a line of blood along the crease in the hoof wall and was lame for several days because of it.

Graduated work is clearly essential for these horses and it's what you do so brilliantly Nic. Can you franchise Rockley to the West and North - we need at least 2 more of you!

And yes, Legend's feet takes the biscuit for angle change!


Anonymous said...

Wow :D

Nic Barker said...

LOL!! C - yep, I'd agree - galloping on the road is not recommended for these hooves just yet :-) I should have said leverage isn't a problem under normal circumstances :-)

The rate of growth is fast, but while I think Amanda's comment is very valid, I would normally expect to see horses here grow a new hoof capsule within 6 months and Legend is about on track for that.

alimac said...

Wow thank you Nic and Legend for these photos. They don't have show why its best to just leave feet alone to do their own thing. Very powerful message

cptrayes said...

Yes, well you can't qualify everything you write with "as long as your not such a numpty as to let a horse with feet like this go for a good gallop", can you :-)))

Unfortunately I did it by mistake (well, it was let go or be kicked - he was exploding!) but I'll never forget giving advice to someone just deshoeing a navicular horse and getting an email from them a few days later asking me why he was lame, because he'd been fine when they went cross country schooling the day before! There are some right numpty's out there!


Nic Barker said...

You're not kidding, C - have you seen the "dangers of online advice" topic I posted on the Phoenix forum?!

Nic Barker said...

Thanks Alimac :-)

M's mum said...

Nic - what do these look like from the underneath? Does the sole run right forward or is the white line at the toe very very stretched?

Andrea said...

HOLY MOLEY! Those are some BIG changes!!

amandap said...

I would like to once again thank all the owners and especially Legends owner for allowing us all to see the progress and be inspired. x

Nic Barker said...

M's mum - the white line is stretched at the toe, as you'd expect form a laminitic though the whole sole also has some distortion.

Amanda - lovely comment :-)