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 :-)


BruceA said...

Form follows function. How hard is this to understand?

"I can boogie". Really :-)

Nic Barker said...

I know you can Bruce ;-) Hard to believe I had to write the post, but there you go :-)

MrsD said...

Nothing surprises me Nic, some people are just perverse.
I have just been looking at photos of Mongolian tribesmen riding up a scree slope, the ponies are not shod, it is only the fittest that could contemplate such extreme journeys

Unknown said...

Dear Nic
I have just seen a link to your blog on The hoof guided trimming site. I like all what I have seen on your blog so far. You are on to a very good thing for horses.
Thanks Anki Church

Andrea said...

There is a certain organization that is going around saying that horses should land toe first... let's just say it's the same organization that USED to say heel first until their guru decided randomly that it should be otherwise. And of course, people follow him blindly, so there you go..

Nic Barker said...

Thanks Anki and yep, Andrea, they never change their tune or come up with anything original, do they ;-) And heaven forbid anyone would look at the horse to see how it lands...(!) Of course its possible, as someone else suggested, that all their horses are lame and that's why they see poor landings everywhere...