Do you find yourself battling with ongoing toe cracks, flares, or hoof imbalances despite the skill of your knowledgeable trimmer?
Ruling out pathology created from a poorly executed trim, why is it that with some horses one or more feet just don’t “come right”? In cases like this it pays to pause a moment and look for answers higher than the hoof – here the body can reveal many answers.
Just like a handbrake in a car prevents movement from happening, upper body injury can effectively shut down natural function, resulting in hoof pathology.
We need to remember that everything in the body exists in a state of balance. Hooves affect overall health just as much as dental health, skeletal function, diet or lifestyle does. You can’t really separate one from the other – because a change in one of these areas has the potential to affect all the others. For example, that ongoing toe crack you’re seeing could well be a symptom of an imbalance somewhere else. The symptom if you like, of a deeper cause.
So how does an upper body injury lead to hoof pathology? Simply put, they create areas of tension that should not exist. Which can easily be seen in the photo below.
Any form of muscular tension will alter how your horse carries itself, and loads its hoof. This can usually be seen on the hoof in the form of scuff marks, and weight distribution patterns. Normally it’s nothing too hard to correct. But when an injury is so severe that it creates a permanent shift to your horses balance and weight bearing, this is when we see persistent hoof problems appear. From the photo alone one can imagine the tension this horse was attempting to compensate in order to find comfort. But after bodywork, the concern area has completely softened.
Now, let’s see the effect that releasing an upper body injury can have on a hoof. Before bodywork this hoof constantly remained unbalanced, and was asymmetrical in shape. Whenever it hit the ground it would twist, and it had a notorious reputation for breaking hoofboots (the breakages where beyond what the manufacturers had ever seen!) The cause of this was a twist through the pelvis, coupled with a minor dislocation of the hind cannon bone. After treatment the hoof began to correct form and is now on its way to resuming correct function.
Flares are particularly interesting, because in the case of flares that can’t seem to be grown out with corrective trimming, we have to stop and ask why this is the case – often they are not a flare at all. Instead they are a natural crutch formed by the hoof to best protect the body. For a horse, the ability to move is far more important than whether their foot looks right to our human eyes. And if that means creating a flare to support the injured hip, or better distribute the pain created by a subluxated vertebra then so be it. In situations where these flares are rasped away, these horses can become lame even if very little material is removed. But once again, when you remove the cause of the flare the hoof simply adapts to the new upper body freedom - and the flare grows out.
And for those who suffer from pigeon toes? Quite often these horses are suffering from rib and shoulderblade trauma. But once the body is given the opportunity to function correctly again, corrective trimming works wonders.
But it’s important to point out that this is a two way street. For although an injury can create hoof pathology, poor hoof form can also create tension, or breakdown of function in other areas of the horse. It’s amazing how many times a bodyworker is called out only to find that the hoof is a major cause of the problem. It’s about being able to recognise which one is creating what condition, and then helping them support each other on the road to total recovery.
Life is a delicate interplay of balance, but this is also the most powerful tool we have. Because bringing positive change to a single area of imbalance can start a world of beneficial change throughout the body. Becoming another way we can help our horses live a healthier, happier, pain free life.
All images copyright EquiCare Article by Jonathan Baker – Equicare – www.equicare.co.nz
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Content and photographs copyright EquiCare 2013-2016 - Stock Images used with permission - Ghost Saddles used with permission. ConTact C.A.R.E, Flinchlock, and Flinchlock Release Therapy are all registered trademarks of Dale Speedy Ngatea ConTact Care and have been used with permission. No part of these articles may be used in part or in whole without the written permission of the author