Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hooves and bodies

What I see time and time again is that a horse with uncomfortable feet has an uncomfortable body - thats something which will come as no surprise to any horse owner or rider.   Many rehab horses, before they come to us, are receiving regular bodywork from massage therapists, osteopaths or physios and its always interesting and useful to have their reports on the horses.

Very consistently, horses who have ultimately been diagnosed with caudal hoof problems also have back pain, hind leg lameness, shoulder and neck pain.   The bodyworkers usually do an excellent job of improving the horse and alleviating the problem but of course if the cause of the problem is the hoof pain, it will recur unless and until the hooves are also improved.

Horses are great copers, though, and will usually try to find a way to adapt and keep moving  - hence the toe first landings which I regularly see on rehab horses when they arrive: if you can't use the caudal hoof correctly, you must adapt and use the toe.  In the short term, at least it allows the horse to move, which is a survival essential for a prey animal, even if the long term payback is muscle and tendon damage.

Although its wonderful to witness, and a constant thrill, I've never really been satisfied with horses simply growing healthier hooves - I also want better movement, stronger muscles, more flexibility - in other words for the horse's whole body to be functioning as well as it can.

Healthy hooves are a mirror for overall health - certainly a horse with poor hooves is almost always a horse with biomechanical and nutritional problems.   But sometimes even after hooves have become healthier, horses can be stuck in patterns of poor movement, perhaps because of muscle memory, perhaps due to lack of proprioception or simply because muscles have become weak.  Changing these patterns is the next big step towards a healthier horse - more on that shortly!


Breanna said...

I'm really looking forward to what you have to say about getting them to move properly! I have a mare recovering from "navicular" (I call it "lack of trimming" disease). Her landing is improving, and her foot pain is definitely going away, but she is still consistently landing flat or toe first. It looks to me as if she is not really hurting much any more, but is just used to landing this way and so continues to do it.

Nic Barker said...

Thanks Breanna - I know exactly what you mean - some horses just seem to get stuck, for want of a better word. i will post lots more next week!