Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heel First!! Quick Notes

"Understand that all this talk of heel first landings is about the natural alignment of the bones during locomotion; NOT the outer heel we see. If a horse's heels are artificially raised and they (heels) happen to hit the ground first, P3 may STILL be toe first on impact and causing the same unnatural forces" - Pete Ramey

The higher the heel the harder it would be for the horse to land any other way than toe first.

The above quote is a bit of an "ah ha!" moment for me. It is pretty obvious that we are all aiming for heel first landings, but leaving too much height in the heels so they are comfortable to land first may be counter-productive. But then if they have weak heels they need a little extra height for comfort and to encourage proper movement. Oy!

HOWEVER I still lower tall heels, but slowly. At a set-up trim, I will take the heels down much less than I think they need to be if the horse has weak digital cushion, frog & lateral cartilages - but I bring the heels back as far as I can. The second trim I will schedule for 1 or 2 weeks (depending on how bad the foot is) after the set up trim, and if I can't get the heels down to where I want them at that time (according to the horse's soundness) then I will come out again in 1 or 2 weeks. If it were my own horse, I would trim them down a millimeter or two every couple of days over the course of a few weeks.

I found it hard at first to see a heel first landing. When a horse is moving slow enough to see it, it is generally at grazing pace and the horse will not land heel first then anyway! The horse has to be marching along in a fast walk or trot. What I find works is not watching the foot - I watch the horse's knee. If it is straight before the hoof hits the ground, then that is a heel first landing. If you aren't sure if it is straight or if it is borderline, then the horse is landing flat. A knee that straightens after the hoof is on the ground is the toe first landing we want to avoid. If the horse is walking in loose dirt or on an arena surface, a toe first landing will produce a little puff of dust out the front of the toe.



Practice on YouTube watching horse videos to develop your eye, that is what I did! There are heaps of slow motion videos on YouTube, like the one above.

Heel first landings are important because, well, everything. Everything will fall into place if the hoof lands heel first, and everything will fall apart when there is a toe first landing. The heels have specialised structures to take the force of the horse's stride - digital cushion, lateral cartilages, the frog and the function of p3 where it becomes ground parallel when loaded. All these structures work correctly when they land first. They develop and become stronger when used.

How to trim for a heel first landing? You need to be able to recognise that individual horse's optimum heel height, address thrush infections, ensure the bars are not too tall, bring the heels back as far as possible. Easy, huh? :P

Gracie heels before (left) and after trim. Note that the heels are slightly longer due to soft ground at the time. (Heels sink in and frog still gets pressure)

Allie before and after trim. Frog a little thrushy, she wan;t landing heel first properly and the frog started to suffer because of it.

Gracie right front heels. Note the right heel has an old scar that grows down and affect the heel structure.

Bertha - this horse is comfy on her heels and was at 6 weeks at this trim - heels grew long and came forward and uneven. Shorter trim cycle would help prevent this.

Bertha heels pre-trim. Frog passive, too much so. Frog starting to get ratty and flaky, not being exfoliated. Perfect environment for thrush which would just make the back of the foot even less able to take proper heel height.

I know I keep posting this photo, but it is such a good example of poor contracted heels. (Archie)

Same hoof as above, heel view, post trim. Lands heel first in boots or barefoot on soft ground.

Archie left hind pre-trim. This leg is recovering from an injury. Unusual for hinds to be so contracted too.

Remy - another contracted hoof, deep central sulcus. Sky-high heels. These are obviously two different feet - his two fronts I think. The pic on the fight is his clubby foot.

Poor Archie again. Note I have taken the heels down to the level of the frog - this frog needs the stimulation more than the protection, otherwise we will never get out of the contracted-foot circle.

Archie set-up trim. Those bars were huge and had thrush all underneath them. They needed to come out and I had confirmation of it as they didn't pop up as severely again.



Hay Soaking

I asked another hoof blogger - Lucy Priory about soaking hay. Her response was so informative that I asked to cross post it here.

With soaked hay, how long do you soak it for? On warm/hot days here, my hay smells like it is going rancid after about 4 hours soaking.
Lucy Priory said...
Hi Lisa - there is some debate about hay soaking - I think it is important to understand the whys rather than stick to a formula. So..... As you know you need a large volume of water for effective removal of water soluable carb (sugar) - otherwise the water will become saturated with sugar and the process will stop. Yeast will ferment the sugars in the water producing 'hay beer'. This can smell sour. So soaked hay should be well rinsed with more clean water before feeding to remove the beer. Even in hot conditions, with my hay type I soak for 12-24 hours and then rinse. For Grace (my horse) anything less than 12 is risky. Our hay is a rye/timothy mix with the emphasis on the rye, so is extremely unhelpful. Some 'new' hays and those with a lot of 'weed' content don't stand up to soaking so well and go slimey. If I came across a hay like that I would probably avoid using at all. A slimey when soaked weed is not necessarily a low sugar weed, for example plaintain is high sugar as is yarrow. They don't soak well. Note some folks say an hour is enough because it can remove upto 30% of WSC. That is too vague and misleading unless you know what you are removing 30% of and it is 'upto' not 'guaranteed'. Anecdotal evidence suggests for the very sensitive 12 is a good place. It took me weeks and weeks to train Grace to eat soaked hay - we started with 20 minutes and worked up. Now she prefers it and gets terribly excited by the arrival of her wet hay. Even long term sugar addicts can be retrained (except me.....)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Quarter Scoop - Quick Notes

Sometimes you will notice I mention the 'quarter scoop'. This is the scoop you should be trimming into the hoof if it needs it, following the scoop of the live sole (i.e. the scoop of the pedal bone).


The hoof will tell you if it needs a scoop done. If the coronary band has a bulge or is not a straight line (very hard to see on hairy legs!). Also a scoop can be useful to relieve flaring in the quarters.

Very slight quarter scoop.
Scoop to help relieve quarter flare and the coronary band. (Beckham, 2006ish? One of my very old trims)
This horse had foundered. Not the bruising in the toe. Noticeable scooping. (not one of mine, just a googled image)

One of the most famous photos of a feral horse cadaver. It is dried out, but you can see the natural scoop and how it follows the live sole plane.

(Blogger is being a bitch right now and won't let me caption pictures anymore, it keeps deleting the pic!! GRR. So captions under the photos now. Sorry!)


 Quite a severe quarter scoop shown here.

Note the coronary bulge (mostly due to this weird shoe set-up I suspect).


I would use a quarter scoop here to relieve coronary bulge and quarter cracks. (Among other things. Poor hoof!)


I know how much scoop to trim in by following the live sole. When trimming a hoof that doesn't need the quarter scoop you would end up cutting below the level of the live sole. If you tried to turn your rasp to trim the scoop you would find it very hard to trim it in if the hoof doesn't need it!!

Apparently quarter scoops are a little controversial in the online barefoot world (what isn't!!) but I have always scooped the quarters if the hoof tells me it needs it.