Monday 29 September 2014

A good weekend!

Massive congratulations to Krista and Buddy, who were out competing this weekend. The reason Bud looks so pleased with himself is because they went "double clear and 2nd over a v tricky and up to height xc"!
Equally massive congratulations to Susan and Abbey who despite having done little jumping qualified for the SJ at Beaver Hall Championship show and came 2nd :-) 

This is an even bigger achievement because Abbey (who was a rehab here 2 years ago) had a setback last year when he moved to a yard with richer grass than he could cope with. It was only a temporary blip and soon resolved, I am glad to say. However when I blogged about it last year it was partly because his vet hadn't understood about the importance of a heel first landing, so it ties in with Friday's post as well! 

Friday 26 September 2014

Heel first landing?

The "Healthy Hooves" video which I posted following the RRR last week has had 7,000 views already and has attracted some fabulous comments worldwide as its spread across the internet.
As always, there is good, bad and indifferent information online  - that's just the nature of the internet and I usually try not to dignify online silliness with a response but when its commentary on my footage and my horses (and I include as "mine" all the rehab horses, whom I am VERY proprietorial over!) then its time to set the record straight :-)

Its also important to me because one of the main reasons for starting this blog in the first place was the amount of myth-information which was out there about hooves and I've always used this blog to challenge incorrect stereotypes ("horses can't work barefoot on the roads", "horses can't jump without studs", "TBs can't go barefoot" etc) by backing them up with solid evidence to the contrary.
So here goes again - this time the one about heel first landings(!). I don't know what it is about hooves which leads many horse owners (and even some professionals) to ignore basic anatomy - which is after all the reason hooves land heel first. Its something I blogged about 18 months ago (there was an erroneous article doing the rounds then as I recall) and of course that post is still true today.
Look at the photo above of a long-established heel first landing on a horse who does miles and miles barefoot - the landing is clear. But does it really matter if people get the wrong idea and think its ok for horses to land flat or toe-first - like the horse below who had palmar hoof pain and DDFT damage?

Yes, I think so, because (as these photos illustrate) how hooves land (dorso-palmar balance as well as medio-lateral balance) is an essential way of assessing not only hoof health but whether the horse's movement is biomechanically efficient or is in fact putting undue stress on tendon and ligaments. Myth-information about landings is therefore something which needs to be corrected, for the good of the horse, hence today's blog.
Read the following comment, for instance, made on Facebook by someone who had watched the film and had - bizarrely - decided that horses didn't land heel first(!):

"look again & again & slow it down even more & you will see that even though the flight projectory [trajectory] on extension shows the heel lower than the toe, in the last split seconds before landing the foot drops down to the ground flat."
For a start, that's plain wrong, as you can see when you watch either the original footage or today's film which is embedded below (a still is above).

However, I appreciate that the Healthy Hooves video showed horses predominantly jumping or in faster gaits so was probably too fast to show landings to the untrained eye (that wasn't its purpose after all!). In addition, many people  - including those of us in the wilds of Devon - have dodgy internet connections which mean its tricky to watch online videos, especially those in HD.

With that in mind, lets go back to hoof and limb basics and show movement really slowly and clearly so that people can watch and see the moment when the foot lands. I've uploaded additional footage from the FS700 even slower (in walk) to focus purely on the foot touching down.
Heel first landing from Nic Barker on Vimeo.
As you can see, the landings are obviously heel first - the heel and back of the frog are the first parts of the foot to meet the ground and the foot then flattens as it enters the stance phase with the toe being the last part to touch down (break-over). These are all effectively healthy feet so anatomically this is a no-brainer (for the detail see the link above!).

That there is still confusion is obvious, because after the earlier comment, the same poster went on to say:

"for the record it is widely becoming accepted now through plenty of slo mo footage for proof (much slower than is shown in this vid) that the foot comes down flat BENEATH the horse."

Naturally they don't post this footage or a link to it(!). There is an element of truth in what they say - in stance the foot is loaded flat beneath the horse. However this is what happens fractions of a second after the hoof lands, when the limb is directly above the hoof and the hoof is fully loaded- not what happens as it touches down which, as we've seen, should be heel first (Buddy is nicely illustrating both phases in the photo below!).
It would be interesting to see the footage they cite but in reality it probably doesn't exist. There is currently only 1 camera which is capable of taking 1080 HD footage "much slower" than the 200 frames per second we recorded with the FS700 for our films. Its called a Phantom Flex, it can record in up to 1,000 frames per second and you can buy it for around $100,000. I would LOVE to get my hands on one so do let me know if you have one I could borrow...
There are lots of cameras which will record high frame rates - some higher than 200fps but - apart from the Flex and the FS700 - its not in HD 1080 so you can't see what is happening accurately. You either lose resolution in the footage or you can use clever software which fills in the blanks by guessing what the filmed subject is doing.
Personally I'll trust our footage and our horses over inventive software any day of the week :-)

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Lucky's 3 week update

Lucky arrived just over 3 weeks ago so its more than time for an update. He had come out of shoes several months before coming here so his feet already looked much healthier and his landing was only intermittently heel first so, as always, we are looking for improvement in the back of the foot. 
 Because his feet were already quite good the changes are a lot more subtle. There is an improvement in the strength of his heels and soles and he is in fact landing consistently heel first now, which is great. 
Again. only subtle changes - a slightly shorter toe and more depth to the digital cushion as you can tell if you compare the hairlines. Both signs of a stronger palmar hoof. 

These shots show more clearly where he is putting the work in and I would expect this to be better still in a few more weeks. 

The same small but important changes  - heels no longer so long or folded over and starting to move back. 

Shorter toe, stronger digital cushion and as a result better hoof pastern axis.

Footage to follow once I get on top of my uploading!

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Wiggy's 8 week update

Like Filly, Wiggy's update should have been up last week so apologies again but I hope the RRR film made it worth waiting for.
As with Filly, I filmed Wiggy last week with the FS700 and his revised landing footage is above. His stride length and landing have both improved which is good to see as he arrived with thin soles as well as a flat landing. 
We might as well start with the business end, and Wiggy's palmar hoof shows some nice changes. A less deviated hoof wall and a digital cushion which is less crushed and is showing better development.  
Its interesting that as a palmar hoof contracts the digital cushion gets shoved into a V shape - as you can see in the top photo  - whereas a healthy digital cushion lies much more horizontally between heel bulbs and hairline.
 These photos show quite clearly what a difference there will be in toe length and hoof capsule angle once the new hoof capsule has grown in. The new growth is in the top third of the foot and will bring the toe back as well as bringing the palmar hoof back, making the heels less under-run.
At the moment it all looks pretty odd as you have the old growth at the bottom but if you look at the hairline, which is less deviated today than on day 1, and project the new growth down it begins to look like a more respectable foot. 
 Again, you need to ignore the long toe which is apparent in the latest photo below. That is old hoof capsule which is being steadily replaced by stronger growth at a better, more supportive angle. You can in fact see that he is already breaking over in line with where the new growth will come in. 
Its nice to see a stronger, more capable frog and the beginnings of a more concave foot as well. 
Finally, here is some comparison footage of him on a circle, for completeness. 

Monday 22 September 2014

Filly's 8 week update

I'm getting back onto the overdue updates on the rehab horses, which were delayed last week as I posted the RRR footage and photos. It didn't mean the rehabs got a break, though, and they were all working well last week which was great to see. 
So here is the official 8 week update on Filly. As you can see, the new hoof growth is well down now, despite her breaks from work a few weeks ago, and she has grown about a third of a hoof capsule in 8 weeks, which a good rate of growth for a horse in only light work. 

The toe will shorten again as the new hoof comes down and she is also showing better development at the back of the foot which is what we wanted to see. 
Straight out of shoes her frogs were ok but her heels were very under-run. 
Today although she has a long way to go before her hoof will be as healthy as it can be her heels and bars are stronger and in a more supportive place.

There is a clear difference between her weak digital cushion in shoes and the stronger palmar hoof she has now. She has been landing well on this foot over the last few weeks and that has really helped strengthen this foot. 

 This is the foot she has had most trouble with so far and as a result its not as much improved as the RF. She is nevertheless growing a new foot at a better angle and is slowly getting a stronger palmar hoof and digital cushion, which you can see if you compare the hairlines in the 3 photos.

Although her frog is much healthier than it was when she first came out of shoes it is still not as well developed as it could be and she will have to land better for a few more weeks before it really starts doing its job. 

A more balanced foot and a healthier digital cushion but still a way to go before its really functioning as well as it can.
Meanwhile, I took the chance to get new landing footage while I still had the Sony FS700 last week so new footage is on the clip below. Don't expect future footage to be such good quality, but it seemed a shame not to film them while I had the chance!

Sunday 21 September 2014

New boy Bogie

New boy Bogie arrived a few days ago but in the rush to get the RRR photos and videos up his photos were pushed down the list - sorry Bogie!
Anyway, here they are now, with apologies. Bogie is continuing the theme as he is another chestnut thoroughbred and he had an MRI in January. This revealed navicular bone damage in both front feet, worse in the left, related ligament and navicular bursa inflammation and damage to the laminar attachment of the pedal bone.
Bogie was shod with heart bar shoes but his lameness didn't improve. He as taken out of shoes in March and although his feet have improved they are still weak so he was referred here to see if we could help him strengthen them. 
They aren't bad feet but he still has quite a weak palmar hoof although he can land heel first on a smooth surface. His soles are also rather weak - he struggles on tougher surfaces so this is another are we'd want to see improve. 
Not a terribly comfortable stance so lets see whether you can make some changes over the next few weeks - fingers crossed, Bogie.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Healthy hooves - the new barefoot film!

While we were at the RRR we had the same awesome camera as last year but - instead of hiring it for a day - we had it for a week.
We were incredibly fortunate with the weather and the sun shone every day which gave us fantastic filming opportunities. "We" in this context is me plus critical filming buddy Steve Leigh who not only is as obsessed with hoof footage as I am but generously came down to Exmoor before the RRR so that we could have a trial run with the camera - couldn't have done it without him! 
Another essential helping hand came from Matt who (on day 1 of the RRR and faced with a panic-stricken Nic and Steve) sorted out our issue with over-exposure (we had never used the camera in such bright conditions before!). Massive thank you Matt - it could have turned out very differently without your help.

Healthy hooves from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

You are more than welcome to share this wherever you like. The aim is to show how well healthy hooves can cope with hard work, tough surfaces and the demands of jumping, schooling and roadwork day in, day out.
When you view this you need to remember that ALL the horses in the video were previously shod and all but 2 have had serious long-term lameness - from DDFT, collateral ligament or navicular injuries - and were given a poor prognosis from their vets for a return to work.  
The fact that we have horses coming to the RRR year after year and getting better each time is due to the incredible dedication of the owners who, together with their horses, work so hard to ensure that they can continue grow the healthiest possible hooves day after day, week after week, year after year.