Thursday, December 29, 2011

Posture and Conformation

I have been thinking about a horse's posture and how that can have an effect on their feet and vice versa.

If I meet a new client horse (or sometimes when I am revisiting for a maintenance trim) I like to have a look at the horse from afar, take in his general posture and demeanor. Of course, it all depends on how the horse is stood up, but if you watch for a while the horse will return to it's default stance. Better yet, watch the horse in turnout. Watch for trends, which hoof they favour for striking off first, which hind limb they rest more, if they graze with one leg consistently forward.

Shall we look at a few pictures? I am commenting on these pictures as if I had observed this to be the horse's default stance.
A horse with good overall posture. Relaxed top line, neck hanging like a pendulum. Front legs straight (not out in front or underneath). This horse does have a weak stifle and straight hocks, which would lead me to investigate the back end for soreness.
Same horse stood up with poor posture - front legs camped under (maybe getting pressure off the heels - caudal heel pain?). Shoulder and neck tight, tense. Back looks tight, loins look hard and as if they are holding up the horse's hind end. Hind feet camped under, taking pressure off toes?

Allie, looking at me while out grazing. Good overall posture, loins look a little long and weak - keep those hind toes short to avoid soreness in the loin! Left front leg is not weight bearing - compensating for something in the hoof? Or possibly soreness in the shoulder? Horse is tucked up, with sunken flanks and if I didn't know her I would look for a reason for it. BUT this is normal for her. She got it from her sire.
Horse camped WAY under with all four legs. Long toes in front, but he is getting weight off his heels - caudal heel pain? Horse most likely would NOT stride heel first. Shoulder looks tense, but the back does not - it looks fairly relaxed. Where the tension starts again is from the point of the croup back to the top of the dock - you can even see his tense muscles around his hip and flank area. He can't possibly be balanced in the hind end standing like that - partially conformational with his sickle hocks and short pasterns, but it would be very interesting to see what the bottom of his feet looked like!.

This is an extreme case of standing under with the fronts - if you were to drop a line from the fulcrum of his shoulder blade, it would not even contact any part of his limb except maybe the very top muscle, even with his super long toes! Extreme separation, I predict thee.

Gracie out grazing - a less obvious stance but similar to the chestnut above - standing under all but the left front leg. Back and shoulders fairly relaxed, but she has a longish loin - needs hind toes to be kept short. Nice strong short croup though may help give the weaker loin some stability. Right fore leg not weight bearing - probably because she is about to take a step but could also indicate a weakness there. Hind legs standing very awkwardly (see below!).
Ummm... yeah. Mass symmetry issues - I would look for imbalances in the hoof especially the inside left and outside right heels. LUCKY this is not her normal stance!! Looks like the hocks are both pointing to something to the right of the photo.

Again with the hind end tension and weaknesses - long loin, tight croup and weak stifles. He even has what looks to be deteriorated muscles over the hindquarter. Slightly sickle hocked - Keep hinds short to help with heel first landings (not normally a problem in hind hooves!).

This guy looks pretty good in the hind end posture wise (except for how wide apart his legs are) but what strikes me first about him is his foreleg stance - he looks like he is rocking back on his heels. Laminitic or separation issues are a possibility. His shoulders, neck and entire topline from wither to tail look nice and relaxed though.

Get up on a stool and look at the horse's back from this angle - you will be able to see if the muscling is symmetrical, if the spine is straight, if the hips are also symmetrical. This is Allie, and she is fairly symmetrical, with a lovely straight spine.

This is what you are looking at!
I recently went to see a pony to talk to her owner about how her trimming was going. After looking at her feet we stood there chatting and I found myself looking at the pony as a whole. The biggest thing I noticed was her spine alignment - being a pony, this was easy to see. Her spine bulged out to the left quite noticeably. A second look at her feet showed that the cause was possibly a much higher inside heel on her right front hoof. Her shoulder was also very tight and it was almost impossible to get even a finger under the scapula.

Now I have not undergone much training to do with equine conformation, posture or anything of that sort except my own research, an unfinished equine management diploma and my own findings in horses I have worked with. Above are the few things I feel confident noting but I think the most important thing is to listen to the WHOLE horse - not just his feet. Often, what is happening in the feet is just a mirror or echo of what is happening 'upstairs'.

I would love to start a discussion in the comments!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brett - Set Up Trim 1.10.11

Brett is an older (over 20) OTTB gelding. His owner turned to me for trimming because her old farrier was unable to trim the hind feet close to the ground as he is an older man. Poor Brett has arthritis in his hind pasterns and is very very sore if the joint is hyperflexed. His feet are also very flat and have a lot of flare.

His last farrier would only trim him every 8 weeks or so, as he would go foot sore after every trim. He suggested leaving longer walls on for comfort. I started him off on a two week trim cycle until I could get his wall length and heel height were I wanted it, and now he is on a 4 week trim cycle. I didn't want to make any drastic changes right away with this horse because he is so sore, all over. He has been dragging himself along for so long that his entire body moved incorrectly.

We took a short video of Brett prior to my trim. His owner seems to be dragging him along, and then at the end he just stops. His shoulders are tight and tense, he is holding himself together with his back and shoulders. Just a sore horse all over, poor thing.

I only got photos of the left front, but all his feet look the same.

Same as the first photo, but with some lines. Blue line shows where the hoof wall should be. Red line shows how I have relieved the quarters a little (note the bulge in the coronary band is not so pronounced after). 

This one shows heels and wall height. Brought heels almost to the frog.

Side view shows the bevel - more outer hoof wall to take but I wanted to change things slowly for this horse.
These shots probably show how little I actually did during this first trim. It also shows how much separation this poor horse has, in the super stretched laminae line, even in the after shot.

With lines showing hoof balance - His hoof is actually well balanced. Frog is 3 quarters of the hoof, toe isn't too long. Brett's main hoof problem is just the separation. So easy to fix!! Shorter trim cycles.

Video of Brett after trim - owner doesn't have to drag him - the walk is more free and he looks a bit more relaxed.

Brett is already almost 3 months into his hoof rehab. He has his good and bad days, due to his arthritis and body issues. But there is definitely improvement.  Next trim is in just under a month. I will get some updated pictures then. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stuff and Nonsense

Just a quick one - I have created a Facebook page for The Glorious Hoof!

So if you would like to follow me via Facebook, please like the page.