Friday, 29 November 2013

Debunking the "support" myth (or how to improve a weak palmar hoof)

I was sent an interesting link (thanks Rachel for the heads-up on Facebook!) which ties in very nicely with a post I was already in the throes of writing.

Here's the link, first of all:  http://www.thehorse.com/articles/32942/study-underrun-heels-impair-horses-hoof-loading-ability. Its about a study which was done by the RVC into how collapsed heels affect performance. There are lots of interesting elements, which I'll come back to in later blogs, but while concluding that collapsed heels are a problem, the article concludes:

"Current treatment options for collapsed heels (e.g., gel packs, bar shoes) are often not as successful as farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners would like".
So contrast these feet - the top one shod in wedges and pads. These are traditionally used to "support" the collapsed heel but, as the article comments, sometimes seem to perpetuate the problem.
This is the same foot after a few weeks out of shoes (yes, its Dylan, for those who follow him!).  The foot is still under-run, the heels are still collapsed BUT look at the heels and compare them and have a look at how the hairline is changing. There is actually more bulk in the lower photo and the collapse is less severe. 
Here is another horse who arrived here 2 days out of shoes which - again - had been intended to provide palmar hoof support following DDFT damage. The top photo clearly shows how collapsed both his heels and his digital cushion have become - the hairline is again the place to look and you can see it dips towards the frog. 
This photo, taken 10 weeks later, shows a much stronger and less collapsed heel. The hairline is straightening which means the frog and digital cushion are supporting the palmar hoof from within. 

Building internal strength is so much more effective in my opinion than propping something up from the outside. 
 Here's another horse, this time with a medio-lateral imbalance as well as an under-run heel.
After a few months, much better hoof balance and better development of the heels, digital cushion and frog.
And finally one more - this time in bar shoes which were clearly failing to support the palmar hoof in any way.
But give the horse the chance and she develops palmar hoof support of her own, far more effective and longer -lasting and with the added benefit of a more balanced foot. 

So if you want support for the palmar hoof, try asking the horse, rather than the shoe, to provide it. It will provide better shock absorption, last longer and allow for better hoof function. 

Important note - Heels: I should make it clear that although all these horses had much stronger palmar hooves after a few months working barefoot, that is NOT the same thing as having heel height. 

Here is a horse shod with a bar shoe for "support" and note the long hoof wall (focus on the distance from hairline to the shoe's surface).
In the same foot a few weeks' later the length of the hoof wall is much shorter but the depth of the palmar hoof (heel, digital cushion and frog) is much greater. That's the difference between internal and external support.

If you looked at any of the hooves pictured above from the sole view, they will look like this and there will be little or no heel height above the frog, a shorter length of hoof wall but much greater palmar hoof depth. 

5 comments:

sidoney said...

Your well-explained post with clear visual examples has greatly improved my understanding of what I am seeing and what to look for. Thank you.

parklandnurseries said...

Wow. Thank you very much. I enjoy and learn so much with your posts.

Over the past year, my horse has gained so much strength in his hooves (under run heels). During this time it became very evident how weak his hooves were, and how he weights one much more than the other. Now, 1 year later, he is beginning to comfortably work on hard solid surfaces. :) His arena work is becoming fabulous... now.

Again, I can't express enough how wonderful your blog is.

AmandaB said...

Very much enjoying these posts Nic this is a great learning resource, will look forward to subsequent blogs. Would you be able to explain how to assess concavity and the significance of this in a future one ?

sidoney said...

I had an interesting lesson in the dynamism of the foot yesterday. I held the foot up of one of my horses, my 23yo Arabian, who is not in work. I saw that the frog looked like it was higher than the heels. Not what I was hoping to see. However, when he wandered up onto the concrete pad around the water container and had a drink, I got down low to get a heel view similar to the photos on this page. When I did, I saw that under the load of his weight, the frog did contact the ground, although not by lots. But better than it appeared when I was holding the foot up. I'm guessing that there would be greater contact if there was more pressure as when moving/landing.

RedsMum said...

Red the pinup girl !! No wonder she has a big opinion of herself. Glad to see she's not been forgotten :)