Tuesday 7 February 2012

Jumping to conclusions...

"Why you shouldn't try to extrapolate too much from a photo".
I posted last week about a hoof which quite frankly looks very odd.

Most of you regular blog readers, who have seen a succession of hooves (from the totally straightforward to the completely unexpected) in past blog posts were pretty unfazed by this and came up with a variety of interesting and plausible hypotheses for why the hoof might have grown the way it does.

More importantly (which I loved), your first instinct was to listen to the horse and give him credit for not putting effort into growing a bizarre hoof deviation unless he had some need for it.
However the post attracted interest from elsewhere - which is great, although some of those who came to have a look had a rather more - shall we say - unreconstructed view of hoofcare.  For them, the deviation was just something which should come off - and quickly.  Various posters on a couple of different forums (in the UK and US) stated that if it wasn't trimmed to something more akin to normality, the horse would have problems.

I have no issue with these people disagreeing with me, but I do get concerned when they won't listen to the horse.  What these posters tended to do was to comment on the photo and then make big assumptions, usually with little or no evidence.

The initial assumption was that the hooves were simply overgrown and neglected - despite the fact I'd made it clear the horse was in work, despite the dramatic asymmetry of the hoof, and despite the fact that there were no chips in the hoof wall.

One person decided that the horse had muscle wastage in his forearm.  Actually, what I said in the post was that the horse had suffered from wastage of specific shoulder muscles which had now improved.  A competent bodyworker could identify the weaker leg now just by looking at the shoulder, but I am not sure that anyone else would.

Someone else stated that the horse landed laterally.  Au contraire, his landing - with the deviation - is surprisingly balanced, which is what led me to suppose that its required to enhance the stability of that limb.

In fact, its on his other foot (which lacks such a significant deviation) that he lands laterally.  I've put some footage up below, but it just goes to show why photos - though interesting - can only tell you so much - though obviously you guys know that already(!)...

Anyway, I'm delighted that others were interested enough to come and have a look at the blog and really the more discussion the merrier, so I hope the additional info I've put up now will help make things a bit clearer.

I'm not saying a hoof capsule like this is ideal - far from it.

In an ideal world this horse would never have developed a deviation, never had an injury, never have had to go through rehab.

In the real world, this horse had a DDFT injury (to this same foot, well before the shoulder injury) and was given a less than 5% chance by 2 leading vets of ever returning to work - and that was in 2007.  He came here for rehab in 2008 and since then, despite occasional ups and downs, has competed successfully in dressage, show-jumping and XC, has hunted and has been almost continuously in work.
It ain't perfect, but human ideas of hoof balance haven't historically been much help to this horse and I, for one, am not arrogant enough to insist that I know better than he does how his hooves should work.


Deered said...

So maybe some of these people should make their own feet fit an idea shape/angle and see how they go :)

If I was a horse you'd cry at the way my legs and feet are put together... but they work, so why can't people realise that 'averages' are just that - what works, works.

Michelle Jensen said...

This is priceless and very important for all in the horse world to recognise. I too have been very quick to pass judgement on farriers of different imperfect hooves, and of focusing more on the symptom at hand than of the bigger picture. When you first posted this hoof, I was in the middle of pondering on a horse who has a lateral flare on one hind. It hasnt gone away despite my efforts to bring him to balance. I never compromise live sole so have only countertrimmed as much so as the walls dont crack anymore, but the flare is still forming as he grows wall. Lateral heel is way out also and has been since i started him, and im sure xrays would reveal his coffinbone has modelled to this when groing the palmer processes. When i saw your pic and your question of why this hoof looked like this, it dawned on me..

Felt incredibly stupid, the answer to my clienthorse was right infront of me, I have even said it repeditly to the owner when trimming this horse...

He never lifts his hind straight up or out, ever. He has a deviation in his hip(not diagnosed) wich causes this leg to cross over the other when i lift it. He stands very narrow with both hinds, but the other only slightly deviates inward, and thus has a very small tendency to flare out, but very much on the other wich overlaps the center comepletely when i lift his leg out... Ive been thinking alot about this and keeping it in mind in every horse ive trimmed and seen since, and it is as if there has been a fog lifted from my eyes. None of us know everything and i remind myself every time this kind of thing happens that it is just yet another step up the latter to being the best hoofcare provider i can be. How i did not get that before is a mystery to me cus its SO obvious. Funny how your story here came about just as i was in the middle of this.

AMC said...

Out of pure curiosity, what does the bottom of this foot look like? Is the sole of the "outrigger" normal-looking, or does it look like average lamellar wedge?

Thanks for posting this! In class, we talked about how physicians used to use blood-letting as treatment for almost everything. Even when one doctor did the statistics to clearly show it increased mortality, they replied that "personal experience and tradition are more important than numbers". It was years after, when they finally stopped doing it. This is truly a paradigm shift in the world of hoofcare!

Nic Barker said...

Deered - LOL! Don't think I'd pass a conformation critique either :-)

Michelle - what a great comment - thank you! This is really why I love writing this blog so much - its a way of brainstorming with other hoof nerds, sharing our ideas and experiences and making each other think.

I honestly believe that hooves are some of the best things in the world for making us question everything and challenge our own assumptions - must admit sometimes I wish it were easier but I guess we would all get bored ;-)

jenj said...

Once again, another brilliant post. It's so important to understand why a hoof is forming the way it is, instead of just assuming that it's wrong and needs to be shaped to fit some idea of normal.

Can you imagine what it would take to get this horse into shoes? Shudder.

And he looks just brilliant working!

Lauren said...

Well it is all speculation at this point anyway because no solar shots were included :)

What leads me to want to rasp off some of that flare is the evidence that the new growth is coming in properly, and I wouldn't want that to be compromised. My horse tends to flare similarly to this horse, LF medial, which happens to be his lower foot.

It's important to note though that at least where I live, you rarely have a situation where a horse is "self trimming". I see the hoof and my gut reaction is that it's only going to get worse (despite that I live in a rocky desert). But your blog is full of examples of hooves reforming so yes, that would be jumping to conclusions.

I still want to break out my rasp but look forward to more updates on this horse!

Nic Barker said...

That's a very fair comment Lauren - I will add a sole shot to the post as soon as I can, though I don't think it will make your decision-making a whole lot easier :-)

I have put you in a difficult position because its so hard to judge a 3D hoof from a 2D photo, but actually the hoof is smoothly curved all the way from the coronet down. There isn't a classic "new growth angle" such as I routinely see in the rehab horses (have a search on the blog for Ted and you will see photos of what I would call a "proper" angle change).

With such a change, over a period of months the whole hoof conforms to the new angle but this hoof has been like this for nearly 18 months, consistently, with no dietary changes and completely self-trimming.

Hope that helps :-)

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Wow wow wow, this is making me think and that is dangerous ;)
Ok, YES, I would LOVE to see sole shots. I'm so curious as to how his hoof wall looks. I'm assuming, white line is normal/tight, or does that not even matter anymore lol? I don't mean that in a rude way..I'm SO trying to understand many barefoot methods to see what would/could work for my own rehabbing OTTB. Is there ever a concern about that medial side nicking his RF ever, OR this hoof shape causing any twisting in leg to compensate for a larger swing out/paddle to avoid hitting himself? I suppose that can happen with any feet though.

BruceA said...

Where is the solar shot Nic!!

Nic Barker said...

Bruce it is coming ;-) I'm not really being a tease but there has been so much stuff to put on the blog...Aiming to have it up tomorrow ;-)