Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The most important part of the hoof

This is a quick post but an essential one because its all about the most important part of the hoof - the back of it. 

This is the part of the hoof on which the horse lands. Its provides crucial shock-absorption and its health is fundamental to soundness and good movement. The back of the foot is where most lameness problems originate simply because its such an important structure and once its compromised the horse is vulnerable to tendon and ligament damage, abscesses and even bone damage. 
So contrast the feet on these 2 horses - clear examples of a healthy versus unhealthy foot. Your eye is drawn to the hairline - diving downwards and indicating the collapsed frog and digital cushion on the horse below but level and strong on the horse in the top picture.
Although both horses are unshod the horse in the lower photo had been shod at an early age and up until a few weeks before this photo was taken. As a result of his weak planar hoof his hoof/pastern axis is poor - after all if the back of your foot is collapsing its hard to stand up straight.
This is always a telling angle for assessing and observing hooves. It tells you almost everything you need to know not only about how healthy or otherwise the back of the foot is but also about the media-lateral balance of the foot. 
The upper photo shows a 2 year old horse who isn't in work but his foot is balanced. He has a sound digital cushion and lands well and this will become even stronger as he matures and comes into work.

The lower photo is a different story - unbalanced, collapsed feet with vanishingly small, contracted frogs and of course a toe first landing and media-lateral imbalance. 

Its my experience that shoes seriously and in some cases irrevocably weaken the back of the foot not only because they remove stimulus from the frog (and hence digital cushion) but also because they restrict the essential expansion and contraction of the hoof.

I have many photos of horses where the back of the foot becomes healthier out of shoes and I'll post a follow-up of today's photos shortly.

However, despite the widely-held myth that shoes "support" hooves I've never seen a series of photos showing a frog and digital cushion becoming healthier in shoes. Maybe they exist but I very much doubt it...

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