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Digital Cushion
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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 06:59 am
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A few more thoughts on this subject.

Yesterday I went to see a horse I first met some 18 months ago.  He is a TB now 7, retired from racing at 3 yrs as a cripple with bowed tendons in both front limbs.  His front feet were huge but not the bell-shaped, flat feet often seen in TBs.  The heels were badly underrun, the walls tracing a straight line from hairline to ground all round with no obvious flare.  The soles were deeply cupped cranial to the apex of the frog with no distinct junction between sole and wall - it looked like the sole had been dragged downwards in a sharp curve at the toe to meet the ground.  The overall hoof was wider across the quarters than in length. 

It did not need x-rays to know the orientation of the coffin bone planes were steeply negative at the heels, resulting in the deep solar cupping at the toe.   The entire hoof wall was one big flare all the way around with a wide chunk of lamellar wedge extending from quarter to quarter - hence no real sole/wall junction.  This horse is also highly susceptible to laminitis, having had several mild bouts since I've known him.

We have made a lot of progress but there is still some way to go.  The heels are now back where they should be beneath the line of the canon bones, the solar cupping has finally just about gone with just a tiny remnant of lamellar wedge to grow out.  The overall size of the hoof has reduced to dimensions that are appropriate to the size of the horse.  Remarkably, this horse was was not lame when I first met him and is not lame now (other than periods when laminitis has reappeared) - he even heel-strikes on the soft turf of his paddock.  He lives on the side of a hill with minimal flat ground, delighting in flying up and down the steep gradient at a fast canter - this horse is not keen on trot, much prefers to canter even on his flat sand arena.

Measurements:

TB, 7 yrs old, 16 h, weight: 1280 lbs
Bone/tendon: 9.5"

Digital cushion/frog:

LF 51 mm
LH 46 mm

RF 48 mm
RH 48 mm

This gives him a score of 3.7 for the forefeet and 3.5 for the hinds.  As you can see, there is very little difference between front and back digital cushion depths.  However, there is a difference in texture.  The fronts feel very firm, rather like the feel of a tight muscle, (eg rhomboideus) with no 'give'.  The rear DCs feel more elastic, there is some recoil or bounce - 'like a trampoline' as the owner of the bay horse above puts it.

Although this horse just scrapes over the line on our current thoughts about minimum depth/1000 lbs bodyweight he probably exemplifies Prof Bowker's comments about a 'sound foot not necessarily being a good foot'.  He is paddock sound at the moment but I think would be unlikely to remain sound if he was in any kind of regular work, he needs more cushioning support and protection, in his front feet especially.

Thinking that we do need to take into account differences in texture as well as measurement, it seems the simplest way to do this is to compare front and back DCs on each horse as I think this could serve as a mirror for how the horse has been choosing to use his feet, and indeed his whole body.

The horse I saw yesterday has had good reason to load his back feet rather than his fronts for at least the past 4 years, probably longer - bowed tendons and laminitis, little wonder he prefers canter - his DCs reflect this, the hinds are more functional than the fronts although of similar dimensions.

I don't think it is particularly important as to what historically caused the horse to prefer back or front feet loading - as in all other areas of horsemanship we are dealing with the horse as he presents himself to us today.  Once any outright pathologies have been fixed (like bowed tendons, laminitis or whatever) we can start encouraging the horse to load whichever set of feet have the weakest DCs - using boots, pads etc and appropriate ridden and/or ground exercises.   Sam - really can't answer your question about how long it takes - too many variables for each individual horse.

The owner of the bay horse in the photo above tells me the deeper front DCs feel like HD foam, a trampoline that springs back to the original shape.  The rear DCs feel soft, like a worn-out kitchen sponge with no elasticity.  Will report on the back-boots experiment in a couple of days when we can be sure results are consistent.  Apparently this horse was broken-in very forecfully, tight side-reins, driven 'forward' etc - maybe he learned that loading his back feet properly was 'against the rules' just as Ollie may have learned that cantering under saddle was forbidden - either way, it would appear these horses may have never learned to weight their back feet in a way that stimulates DC growth.

This morning I prodded and poked my own horses again to assess difference between front and back DCs:

Rory - 19 yr old:
All 4 DCs have a similar feel, rather like a doubled-over gelpad, very slightly firmer in front.

Sol - 6 yr old:
Front DCs feel like HD foam, backs are like gelpad, same as Rory

Gante - 12 yr old:
All 4 DCs feel like HD foam, identical texture, firm but elastic

I don't know if we should be aiming for similar depths and similar textures in back and front feet - perhaps this will become clear as we gather more data.

Best wishes - Pauline


Best wishes - Pauline







Leah
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 11:21 am
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Dr Deb, I am not sure what kind of boots you are using but I do know some horses have actual pain from the design of certain boots.

Depending on the build of the leg and hoof (heel height, etc) certain boots (even if 'fitted' by measurement) create heel pain.

Obviously I am sure you can recognize this but I mention this for others following along.

It caught me by surprise when I first realized the boots could actually be creating some problems.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 07:36 pm
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Leah, Ollie was not kicking because the boots were hurting him in any manner. He was kicking because, in his conception, they "did not belong there", in the same way that a big clob of mud might not belong there.

You did notice, did you not? that once he quit trying to kick them off, that he was taking a deeper, firmer step with the hind feet while wearing them? That would be a good way to tell if any boot was hurting the horse or not. If the boots hurt the horse, the horse will shorten rather than lengthen his step, and will tip either forward or backward or to the side -- whichever way works for whatever feet the boots are on -- in order to get weight OFF of them rather than onto them. -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Apr 16th, 2010 05:49 am
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OK, folks, here's a little report on riding Ollie with the boots on his hind feet this afternoon.

First I took him to the schooling arena with no boots, warmed him up, and then asked him to give me his entire movement repertory "in brief". This includes every kind of bending and lateral work at a walk, ditto at "trot" (pace in Ollie's case), some straightforward stepping-pace, rein back, and Spanish Walk. At all of which he was, as usual, sound and willing. But this 30-minute segment had to be done so as to have a "baseline", not only my memory of what Ollie "normally" feels like, but specifically a baseline for him on this very day, with the footing in the particular condition it was in.

Then I put the boots on his hind feet and went through the entire repertory again. And there was an immediate discernable improvement.

I compare this to riding him with the boots on his fore hoofs two months ago, upon which I reported little or no positive results.

This is now very interesting. Ollie did not just up and offer to trot, and I did not, upon this first ride, ask him to canter under saddle. But that will soon be the case, and we will see how he responds.

Now I am wondering -- I have high-density foam inserts in the boots. Pauline, what would you advise? Should I:

1. Look for some firmer type of foam in order to stimulate digital cushion thickening?

2. Look for some softer type of foam instead?

3. Figure out some way to embed little marbles or something of the sort in the foam, so as to provide texture for more stimulation? Maybe we could embed one of those rubber curry-combs in there!

4. Should I ride the horse in the foam boots all the time, I mean, once he is conditioned to them? It seems to me that if any horse has been avoiding fully weighting his hind legs for years, that one should work up to it rather gradually -- I would say a program of about two months' duration should be sufficient. This would mean that I must delay really serious work with the hind boots until I get back from my visit to Australia/New Zealand in late May.

I also want to add -- it is necessary to remember that, even without boots, Oliver is not a horse that is in any OBVIOUS way "dumping onto the forehand": as the attached photo shows, this horse clearly places his hind hoofs well up under the body and bends the hind joints -- he more clearly "sits" when he moves than any other horse I've ever personally owned. The feel without boots is already good. Nonetheless, it is always possible for a four-legged animal to find ways of redistributing to the forefeet some of the weight that might have gone into the hind feet. In fact, I believe that MOST horses do this, especially American-bred horses, for the great majority bred here have hocks of only minimally sufficient width.

So what we are liable to find out is how talented Oliver actually is; and I also anticipate that he will canter under saddle more readily with the boots on. Comments and other people doing the same experiment with their horses are welcome! -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Oliver sitting down in gait 2-2010 cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 711 times)

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Fri Apr 16th, 2010 08:39 am
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This is getting more interesting by the day!

First, I'll give you an interim report on the bay horse as it may be a week before I can say anything conclusively.  His owner has done everything as cautiously as possible, commencing on Wednesday afternoon.  The horse was warmed up and worked lightly from the ground without boots, much as you did with Ollie.  Unlike Ollie, this horse made no objection to the presence of boots on his back feet so he was asked for a couple of walk/trot transitions and then a couple of trot/canter transitions in each direction - no more than 10 minutes in total with the boots on.  This horse has a different nature to Ollie, 'obliging' is not a word that comes to mind; when something isn't right he doesn't hold back from making his opinion known.

The first change the owner noticed was that the horse did not put his ears back when going into the canter - apparently this had always been his habit.  He even offered to go into canter which his owner could not recall ever happening before.   She also noticed that there was 'more up-and-down movement' in his rump and that his hocks were flexing more than she had seen previously.

Intending to repeat the exact same sequence on Thursday afternoon, his owner found he was sore and stiff at a walk in her arena, he was also reluctant to pick up his hind feet for cleaning, snatching the foot away - something he never does usually.  She very wisely decided to leave him be and will re-assess later this afternoon.  Despite all her care it appears this horse enthusiastically used his body in an entirely different way once he felt the comfort of his rear boots.  I'm hoping this will be just the sort of soreness we feel when we go for a run or a session at the gym after a long absence, but it may be a few days before he can have another trial with the boots.

Bob Bowker spoke of seeing this in many horses - he would tape soft foam tubes to their feet so the foam would extend as far as the outer heel bulbs; the horses would  immediately step out with a heelstrike and then 10 strides later pull up hopping lame.  Too much too soon!

There is no doubt that Ollie is weighting himself beautifully when you ride - I've never seen a photo otherwise - but, as you say, horses are such wizards at hiding what parts of their feet are taking the most weight that it is impossible for us to see without a treadmill and an array of lab equipment.  It may also be that he is weighting his hind feet entirely correctly when in pace but finds it more difficult to do so in trot and canter - hence his preference, but the short time per day or week in which he does weight correctly is not long enough to provide significant DC stimulation.

Given you have seen a distinct difference, I would stay with the hd foam pads you are currently using - they will crush down and soften anyway before too long so you will have to keep replacing them.  As they soften you will have an opportunity to see what Ollie likes best.  I would definitely not get anything firmer.

The longer Ollie can wear his boots and pads the better - not just when you ride, but you should certainly use them every time you ride until Ollie has grown enough DC that he no longer needs them.  Would it be possible for your barn manager to put them on in the morning so that he is wearing them for turnout and then take them off again at night?  He cannot have them on 24/7 - the skin will become soft and fragile, but half or more of each day would be very good.  If this can be arranged, he could continue to get the benefit even when you are away travelling.  It would probably be better to work up to longer hours of wearing them, say, a couple of hours to start with and then after a while include turnout time so he is not tempted to do cartwheels in them until his body has adjusted - the bay horse only had them on for 10 minutes but was sore next day, however he is not accustomed to weighting his back feet in the way that Ollie does at pace so Ollie will be less likely to become sore than most horses, I think.

Best wishes - Pauline





DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Apr 16th, 2010 09:35 am
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Well, I will tell you a funny story that is an exact reflection of this. Some years ago I was giving my friends M.J. and Linda lessons at the old barn where I used to have Painty. These women are both quite experienced riders and M.J. really is a fine rider and trainer with quite a few years' experience. Both Linda and I had horses at the old barn, but M.J. would borrow one from Linda when she came down to ride with us.

The lessons took the form of developing a pas de trois for the three of us to display at the summer show they always held. The horse that Linda loaned M.J. was a big handsome Trakehner that had come to her -- as almost all her horses -- because it was only about 3/4ths sound.

A lot of Linda's "freebies" were lame in the right fore because we live near Oakdale, California, which bills itself "The Cowboy Capital of the World," and it is true there are about ten gazillion horses around here employed in team roping, and the "header" horse almost always winds up getting retired because it goes lame in the right fore. Nobody ever said that PRCA ropers could ride -- their horses are essentially motorcycles with legs. CROOKED motorcycles with legs, I should say.

But I digress. This Trakehner, not being a roper, was also not lame in the right fore; he was lame on the right hind. The lameness took the form of a mild "offness", plus the animal had a marked preference to circle right and to take the right lead....which always hints to me that the whole problem might be that the horse has been allowed to travel crooked, doing most of the work off its left hind leg. So I said to M.J., 'untrack him from left to right,' in other words leg-yield from left to right. And she did so, and after four or five steps then I said, 'now go the other way', and she did so.

I had her work back and forth doing little zigzags at leg-yield, and twirl the head, and after just a few minutes, the horse very much started to loosen up. And then I said, 'OK, have him leg-yield left to right while you circle left', in other words 'expand the circle' to the left hand. And as she did so, the horse turned loose and became completely straight. Its neck softened, the base rose, he lengthened his topline and 'came over the top', his whole body being pushed elastically off the powerful downward thrust of the individual hind legs, which were now working equally.

"Wheeeee!!" said M.J., instantly perceiving the great increase in the energy that was coming through, as well as the height of the suspension and the degree of overall elasticity. I grinned and said, 'now, M.J., you can go fifty steps that way -- no more -- then you must walk and let him rest.' And figuring she'd know what I meant and why I said that, I turned away from her and started on something else with Linda.

Sixty-five steps later, suddenly I hear a thundering ruckus behind me and I turned around to see that WB making like a bronc from the Oakdale Rodeo. I mean he had his head between his legs. Too much, too soon!!!!

Happily M.J. is a damned good rider and she stayed on, and we laughed our heads off, and we still laugh about that story today, that M.J. did what Harry always warns students about -- "Don't get greedy!"

So I will be going out to the barn again tomorrow, and yes indeed I definitely intend to check to be sure that I haven't made Ollie sore. I've seen horses born with very crooked hocks, what they call "windswept", who could hardly move well at all, whose backs and necks were screwed up because their weak, mis-shapen hocks hurt them every time they took a step. But I have taken several of these horses and their riders, and had them go through a gradual program, usually again of about two months' duration -- the same essentially as for healing a broken bone -- where we gradually increased the length of the rides, the hardness of the substrate, as well as the degree to which we caused the horse to carry itself upon the hocks; and the result in every case has been that the horse turned out to be useful and sound, sometimes the best darned horse in the barn. You have to work them in order for their bodies to develop.

More tomorrow! -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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 Posted: Fri Apr 16th, 2010 12:03 pm
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Yes Dr Deb I did notice-as I said in my post I was certain you knew the difference but was pointing it out for others following along.

Your observation on boot use (regarding your post on the hinds) with Ollie is also very much like those many of us with barefoot horses (many whom are professionals-so the 'data base' for observations is at least several hundred horses).

The solution (booting) and reasoning (the digital cushion) is different from ours-but the change in comfort in what was a seemingly very comfortable barefoot horse (as you said-no obvious posture issues, etc) is the same.


Jeannie
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 04:04 am
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Dr Deb and Pauline,

  I measured my TB x Belgium draft's DC and got 6 cm for 3 out of 4 feet, the right front being 6.8 cm. They are firm and elastic, he is out on pasture most of the time, unless it is storming or the grass is too rich, as it is now. The frogs get a little ragged in the wet winters. He lands heel first and will canter.
     I thought you might be interested in a heavier horse's DC, he is around 1650 lbs, and 19 years old.
  Pauline, you are always so generous with your information, we are always trying to do your stretches.
       The first photo is of his left front, the flatter of the two front.
                                      Jeannie

Attachment: L FRont.JPG (Downloaded 627 times)

Jeannie
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 04:06 am
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This photo is of his right hind.

Attachment: Rt Back.JPG (Downloaded 628 times)

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 12:10 pm
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Jeannie - thank you so much for doing this, very interesting to see a different type of foot.  Your boy scores 3.6 for both front and back feet.  I've set up a spreadsheet to collate measurements from as many horses as possible and have been entering height and bone-tendon measurements as well - would love to have these extra details so I can include them on the sheet if that's OK with you.

I'm intending to make a nuisance of myself by turning up at local shows, pony club meets etc asking to measure any horses present - would like to look at as many different types and sizes as I can find.

Best wishes - Pauline

Jeannie
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 06:36 pm
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Pauline,  his b-t is 10 1/2 inches, his height 16.3 hands. I'm happy to help out in the information department, and will be looking at feet with a new eye now.
                                       Jeannie

AdamTill
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 02:17 pm
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My Icelandic (weight 900-1000 lbs) measures:

LF - 4.5

RF - 4.6

LH - 3.2

RH - 3.4

BT - 7 3/8 inches

H - 14hh

Might have to organize some boots for him to try what you folks were discussing...sounds interesting.

 

Last edited on Tue Apr 20th, 2010 02:17 pm by AdamTill

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 08:06 pm
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Adam, with respect to boots -- somewhere in one of these threads you mentioned several brands, and I permitted it because in this type of case, I don't think there is any other way to be clear. Plus none of you is a sales rep for any boot company, so there is no vested interest being pushed.

I will therefore tell you that the boots I have for Ollie are "Boa Boots", that have a dial that tightens a laced cable over a tongue, like the tongue of a shoe, to close them. You asked me previously what I meant by 'collar' -- these boots have a soft, rolled collar at the top similar to what you would find on any sport shoe. They also come with gaiters, but I have ridden him without messing with the gaiters now thirty times, always in footing that is at least somewhat sandy, without getting any significant amount of sand in the boots.

I find that these boots do not pinch the coronet bands, do not abrade the heels, have good but not excessive traction on the undersurfaces, are durable, and are very easy to get on or off. Also, I bought them to fit Ollie's forefeet but with just a little extra snugging up they work perfectly well on the back feet, too. The only slight inconvenience with them is getting the protective "hubcaps" on over the dials, after you've finished tightening -- you have to align the little plastic caps just right or they don't go on easily and/or may come off and be lost.

For $165 USD, I think they're a great deal. The cost seemed cheap to me because you have to compare it to two things: one, what it would cost (around $200 a pop) to have him shod with pads; and two, how extremely large a pain in the ass it is to go out and wrap the feet with duct tape if he has another episode of laminitis. This has to be done at least once every two days, and you can quickly spend $165 just on duct tape. -- Dr. Deb

AdamTill
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 Posted: Wed Apr 21st, 2010 02:32 pm
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Hi Dr Deb,

I might have misunderstood, but that's what I had thought you had requested with the boot discussion. A lot of the designs are close enough in description but far apart enough in function that you can't really meaningfully discuss them without naming names, but I wouldn't otherwise mention brand names here.

Your Boa's are what I had mistakenly called Old Macs before someone corrected me - too many out there to keep straight sometimes! They're the ones I generally recommend for folks that have horses with roundish feet, and/or want boots that are really easy to get on and off. 

The "downside" to Boas is that you have to be careful tightening the cable dial, since folks that buy the wrong size and try to prevent them from twisting by cranking down the dial have sometimes resulted in scars at the coronet from the underside of the crank. Like any boot, however, if they fit properly without twisting BEFORE the crank gets done up, then overtightening isn't an issue.

My horse seems to have picked up a bug somewhere that the vet's coming out to check, since he keeps stretching out as if to urinate without being able to, even with a clean sheath/no back issues etc etc. After he's feeling better, I plan to play around with pads on his hinds. If it works, then I'll try casting the pads on, so he can wear them for a few weeks in the field.

Dorothy
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 Posted: Wed Apr 21st, 2010 04:23 pm
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Hi Pauline,

I have measured my 3 horses:

Solo 15.3hh, 1,030lbs, 10yo, Anglo-Arab, never shod, occasional use of hoofboots, no lameness

B-T 8.5" = 8.25"/1,000lbs

DC LF 5.8cm = 5.6/1,000lbs; RF 5.9cm = 5.7/1,000lbs

      LH 5.6cm = 5.4/1,000lbs; RH 5.6cm = 5.4/1,000lbs

fronts feel like firm gel pad, hinds a bit firmer

Tango 15hh, 800lbs, 3yo, ArabxASB, never shod, no lameness

B-T 8" = 10"/1,000lbs

DC LF 5.8cms = 7.3/1,000lbs; RF 5.7cms = 7.1/1,000lbs

      LH 4.1cms = 5.1/1,000lbs; RH 4.2cms = 5.3/1,000lbs

fronts and hinds both feel like firm gel pad

Nif 15hh, 890lbs, 24yo, Arab, shod til age 17, then barefoot, never lame through his feet

B-T 8.25" = 9.27/1,000lbs

DC LF 5.5cms = 6.2/1000lbs; RF 5.4cms = 6.1/1,000lbs

      LH 4.8cms = 5.4/1,000lbs; RH 4.5cms = 5.1/1,000lbs

fronts and hinds feel like soft gel pad

 

I hope this is helpful! I will be interested to see how the 3yo's statistics change as he matures

Dorothy


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