Thursday, 2 October 2014

Science catching up with the feet

I have found a great talk by US vet Dr Debra Taylor and it was too good not to put on the blog. Dr Taylor has been on my radar since I read an article of hers which I also blogged about last year -

This talk was published on but its not clear when the talk was given or who to, though it sounds as if its an audience of vets. Its fairly long - just under an hour - but well worth the time.

I am such a hoof nerd that of course I sat down straight away and listened to the whole thing so here is my guide to the best bits!

3 minutes: Dr Taylor talks about exploring the adaptive capacity of the foot and whether it may be possible to create tissue as a result of physical exercise and rehabilitation.

She touches on the fact that instead of using a shoe to strengthen the structure we can look at enabling the foot to develop itself stronger. Sound familiar?

4 minutes: The fascinating fact that until a few years ago, despite being a vet, she was not able to recognise a healthy vs unhealthy hoof because she was so inured to pathology and dysfunction in feet that she didn't realise how unhealthy they were.

Unfamiliarity with a healthy foot is a massive problem here too, of course; she also discusses in the talk the properties of a healthy hoof and how to assess feet - this is something she teaches to vet students now but think of all the vets and students who have never had the benefit of this...

6-12 minutes: Discussion of the role of the frog and digital cushion in absorbing shock and dissipating the potentially damaging impact of the hoof on the ground (heel first landing anyone?!).

Dr Taylor also describes the appearance, qualities and feel of a healthy vs unhealthy digital cushion - something which again many vets, let alone owners, have never experienced.

A healthy digital cushion is dense and fibrous and is hard to deform with finger pressure. It has to be, of course, given the size and weight of a horse - and there are some sobering examples of the types of injuries and pathology which arise when this isn't present.

She has recently published a study herself indicating that increased volume in the back of the foot leads to increased soundness.
She points out that a healthy palmar hoof is, by and large, what the "barefoot folk" get so excited about and she recognises that what we see in the field with barefoot horses is "running ahead of the science". Of course we need more research but in the meantime what research that IS out there is starting to recognise what we see day in day out with the rehab horses here.
Later on in the talk (30-45 minutes) she gives more details of the research which is ongoing or has already been published. As she notes, although many MRIs are being performed of unhealthy hooves, no-one is doing the same for healthy feet - and that's the data we really need (btw, I will happily make Felix and Charlie available for MRI but so far its not been requested...)

33 minutes: For me, some of the hooves used to illustrate her slides were over-trimmed so it was nice to hear her describe a case study showing a horse whose frog and digital cushion became much more robust over a 3 month period. She made the excellent point that no farrier or trimmer could effectively assess what the hoof needed and that nature did the perfect job of providing the stimulus required to strengthen the hoof and build tissue.

Its a talk that would be great viewing for any vet or farrier but it will also appeal to interested owners, and as a bonus Dr Taylor has a fab southern drawl which is just lovely to listen to :-)


michbree said...

It's well worth a watch!

Bud said...

Very interesting a much watch! Very very scary how little seems to be known about the healthy horses foot in veterinary medicine!!