Please remember!

The information presented on this blog represents "learning in progress" on my part, a horse owner, who was not satisfied with professional farriers and took matters in my own hands. As far as I am aware at the time of the post, the information presented is correct, but may change with me understanding more about hooves, in which case I will edit or remove the post. In order to follow my learning and understand everything about Molly's hoof, you need to start reading at the bottom.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

the perfect toe rocker

I just watched this documentary:

It concerns the Marwari horse in Southern India. The Marwari horse is the Indian equivalent to the Arabian. They were bred to live in a desert habitat, traveling for hours and hours through sand dunes. According to the commentator of the documentary, they have very hard hoofs. I also noticed that they have very upright hooves.

This picture gives an impression of the habitat. It is just like my sand dune, at least how it is in the summer!

And this is a picture of how the horses wear their hooves: in a perfect toe rocker!

 The picture is not the best quality, I had to take a picture from the computer screen. But I think one can see that this horse has pretty much no hoof wall support at all, apart from at the heels. It seems it walks entirely on its sole and frog otherwise. Also, the heel angle looks really steep. This must be very upright feet, maybe important for the horses to not flex the deep digital flexor tendon too much in the deep sand.

These horses walk hours and hours through the deep sand and go on races with hooves like this. I have to wonder if that toe dish may actually give them some grip in the sand. It certainly does not seem to be causing them any problems. A hoof formed by traveling for many miles on the sand dune. Amazing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

pigeon-toed - base narrow

Molly's front left hoof, as assessed from the plane that bifurcates the horse's knee indicates that she is pigeon-toed. If you believe t or not this only now becomes obvious where I think the feet become more and more balanced. But I am also scared that I may be doing something wrong, and this is why this sort of leg alignment surfaces. Several pieces of evidence suggest that this is her true leg alignement.

1) Molly no longer has a flare in the lateral quarter/toe
2) her whole hoof capsule is smooth, without ridge
3) she lands flat with such an alignment whereas when the lateral side would be higer, she hits her toe prematurely. 

Actually, base narrow horses are rather common. Gene Ovnicek made a small movie on pigeon-toed (base narrow) horses:

where he points out that most older feral horses he studied in the wild develop pigeon-toed (base narrow) status as they become heavier and need to to support their massive body weight.

I realized that this bison of the Black Hills, South Dakota, roaming freely,  also positions his legs such that he can support his weight best UNDER the body. This suggest to me that base narrow status is rather the norm than the exception for heavy-bodied animals. 

The problem comes in when people try and straighten those horses out that are base narrow. Or do not know how best to support their base narrow conformation with their hooves, when hooves in domesticated setting do not receive enough wear so that they can themselves conform to the horses conformation.

The thing that is important to realize with base narrow horses is that they tend to slightly overload their lateral sides of their hooves.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

fore leg extension

I took movies today. I wanted to make them just like Nic from Rockley farm. I placed the camera on the ground and walked straight towards it. Unfortunately, Molly did not want to walk perfectly straight towards the camera. So these movies did not come out. However, the ones from the side did work quite well. I took them on the pasture so I can't really see if Molly lands heel first, or at least flat, but what I can see is how she extends her forelegs. I took pictures from the movie once when she extended the right and once the left leg. I made sure both pictures are scaled to the same size and represent the same stage of the stride: just before the one set of diagonal feet has not yet hit the ground and the other set has just not yet left it.  Then I measured the angle between the front legs. To my surprise, the FR had even a bigger stride than the FL. The difference is very small though, probably slightly affected by the camera angle. But in any case I think that this confirms my impression that Molly really extends her FR well.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Molly's "handedness"

I needed to update this entry, as I have learned a lot more on this issue.

There are some discrepancies on the terminology and also on the effect handedness has on the horse's hooves.

Most horses prefer one side over the other. They bend easier to one side, they have an easier time to pick up the canter on the correct lead. Many horses also have an obvious asymmetry in their front hooves. One hoof is often bigger and has a more shallow dorsal wall angle while the other is often more upright. The bigger, more shallow front hoof is considered the "dominant" hoof. If this hoof is on the left side, the horse is said to be "left-side dominant" and if it is the right side, the horse is said to be "right-side dominant". Often times, a left side dominant horse will have its mane laying on the right side of the neck, it will sleep more often on the right side of its body and when grazing, it will place the dominant left hoof more often forward of the non-dominant front hoof. Because of this handedness (also called "side dominance") the dominant side usually has better developed muscles in the shoulder area.

Every single one of the observations listed in the paragraph above indicates that Molly is a left side dominant horse. Inspection of the picture below shows that Mollys FR hoof is more upright. When Molly stands on concrete, the difference is not actually this big, but since in the picture she stands on sand she can adjust her heel height herself and this is then how she comes up with such differently steep hooves.

It is also quite easy to see that Molly's pastern bone is much bigger on the left foot. I measured the circumference and it is about 1 cm bigger on the left than on the right. This is a strong indication that the left foot is her dominant one, meaning it receives more load and thus, during growth of the foal the bones lay down more material.

So far we were only concerened with the front feet. So what about the hinds?

There is one more observation with respect to a horse's handedness and this is the fact that the legs (both front and hind) on one side of the horse track more towards the outside of the body while the legs on the other side of the body track more towards the horse's midline. The dominant front tracks more towards the outside of the body, so this would suggest that the hind that tracks towards the outside is also the dominant one. I.e. a left side dominant horse has a dominant front AND hind left hoof.

However, there is some discussion about which hind leg is the dominant one.

David Farmillo writes:
"This same difference is also applicable to the hinds and will be diagonally opposite to the fronts."

Ute Miethe, on the other hand, observes that the dominant hind is on the same side as the dominant front and finds that left sided horses prefer the right-side canter, where they can use the dominant left hind leg for canter departures.

A swiss farrier (Eric Perreaux) wrote an article on asymmetric feet. I found it a couple of years ago on the web but it since has disappeared (but I still have the pdf). In this article, the farrier had kept records on 400 horses and draws interesting conclusions, that suggest that the handedness of the horse should maybe not be divided in "dominant" and "non-dominant", but instead in "weight-bearing" and "propulsive".

This farrier observed the following:

1) the diagonal hind to the bigger front is also bigger, and represents the "weight-bearing" hind, whereas the other hind is also smaller (like its diagonal front) and represents the "propulsive" hind. The weight-bearing hind is placed more towards the midline and the propulsive hind more towards the outside of the body.
2) the "bearing hind" exhibits a toe that points towards the outside, while the "propulsive" hind has a toe that points towards the inside.

So how does all this apply to Molly?

I must say that Molly, who from her front feet and every single other indication is a left sided horse, canters much nicer on the left lead, which is inconsistent with Ute Miethe's observations, that a left sided horse should prefer the right lead canter. Molly hates the right lead canter! I should point out that the same observation was made by Molly's  trainer, when Molly was 2.5 years of age and is documented on the video. Thus, this is not only my impression or something I may be doing wrong while riding her.

Also, as the picture shows clearly, the hind foot that is diagonal to Molly's big front left DOES point outwards, as observed by that Swiss farrier to be the case. Also, both of her right feet are placed more towards the midline and this also speaks for her right hind to be the one that does the weight-bearing amd thus explains why she canters better to the left. Also, the fact that she sleeps laying on her right side suggests that most of her body weight is on the right side when she is getting up again and therefore she needs a stronger right hind to get that weight off the ground.

In conclusion, as far as I understand that topic now (and my understanding may change ANY time) Molly is a left-sided horse, with a diagonal axis of weight-bearing front left and right hind.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rockley Farm: One example of a healthy hoof

Rockley Farm: One example of a healthy hoof: I grabbed some photos the other day of what I would describe as a truly healthy hoof.  This horse covers hundreds of miles over the toughest...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Molly was lucky today!

This is the time of year where Molly would really like to go and meet a stallion. Plus, the electric fence is very weak due to the frozen ground. Last night Molly must have decided to raise up in the air at the gate. She must have gotten stuck with her front left between fence post and gate, pulled back and broke the whole hinge out of the wooden post. Lucky nothing happened, just a little skin was scraped off at the coronary band. I saw a little blood in the snow. But she was not lame and the wound is very minor.  The gate was laying on the floor this morning when I came but luckily there is the electric line that runs across the gate and this was still intact. I still had a minor heart attack when I saw that gate laying on the ground and some blood around it. Molly and I were very lucky!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

frozen hoof prints in the snow

I like to look at those. Right now we have ideal conditions. The soil is frozen. On top of it is a 1 inch layer of ice and on top of that 1/2 inch of of semi frozen snow. This makes for perfectly stable hoof prints.

The two closest ones are from Gus, left, a front hoof, right a hind hoof. It looks as if the hooves are very comfy :-)! I think if the horses could order a terrain that they liked most they would order this terrain. The ground is solid, but the ice-snow does nicely conform to the hoof and gives support to sole and frog. Both horses move fantastic on that ground.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Increase in DWA is only possible with substantial increase of size of digital cushion and steep palmar angle of coffin bone.