Guest Post: Ouchie Feet (sequel to Happy Feet? 10 years later?)

I’m going legit and posting a real live 110% educational guest post by the one, the only Charlotte Stein!  As you’ll see – I needed the help! I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing.  How could that happen?! Was it developmental or preventable? Treatable?  Clearly I needed the advice of a pro.


Recently I received an email from Snarky Rider asking me to explain the situation in this picture.

To start, I think we need to understand what we are looking at. We’re looking at a pony who is standing on his extensor process.

The extensor process of the coffin bone is the top part of the bone where the extensor tendon inserts and also the frontal part of the coffin joint. In a healthy situation you should be able to feel the tip of the coffin bone just above the hairline.

Take a look at the two pictures above. They show examples of a hoof with normal fetlock angle and weight bearing position and where all the joints are. The fetlock should be behind the heel, if at any time when a horse is standing the fetlock joint, pastern joint or coffin joint is straight or bent forward you have a problem.

Here is a less extreme example, notice how the fetlock and pastern joint is bent forward?  Notice also the bulge at the extensor process?

We call this an Extensor Bearing Hoof. In the case of the adorable pony above, it’s both fronts.

Okay, so now we know where the extensor process is located. So how does a horse end up standing on it? This type of pathology is caused by a very high heel and/or severe pain in the posterior of the hoof – high jammed up bars or a major trauma to the back of the hoof.

The horse then begins to bear weight on the toe to avoid pain in the back of the hoof, the longer this goes on, the higher the heel becomes until eventually the joint articulation between the coffin bone and the second pastern and fetlock  joint  itself is affected and bent forward.  This situation will also remodel the coffin bone as it gives way to un-natural pressure.

Terrain and lifestyle can also affect a hoof and can cause this situation in young horses. Foals are born with undeveloped hooves. They require movement on firm ground to help with healthy growth of not just the body, but the hooves as well. So when you have a developing foal, living in small quarters where he cannot move and has no concussive force you will end up with an improperly formed hoof and in extreme situations – club foot, coon foot or an extensor bearing hoof.  Let that same foal have unlimited freedom of movement and his feet and body will develop correctly.

Treatment of this situation is not easy, but it is possible if caught early enough (Although I don’t know about the pony- that will depend on whether there is any movement left in his fetlock joints and the P2 and P3 joints.

Trimming for this requires getting the horse to load his heels again, as much as possible with each trim. Intervals would and should not be more than 3 days apart. And I believe with each trim, body work should also be done to help release the contracted muscles and give relief to the horse.

Diet and living situation will need to be addressed. In order for ring bone and calcifications to wear properly the bodies pH needs to be alkaline and the horse has to move,  as much as he can handle every day and not just in pasture with buddies but also on firm non concussive terrain.

Rehabilitating a horse from this situation can take years, and more than likely a horse in this situation will never be a riding or breeding horse. A horse like this is a pet and pasture companion, he will always need corrective trimming. And he will need someone who loves him and has no expectations from him except to be what he is: A Happy Horse.

As for the quality of life question, this is decided on an individual basis by the caretakers of the animal, it can’t be judged by pictures or from afar. I do though know that if this pony (or any other amazing equine with this problem) where to end up in my neighbourhood and his owner asked me what I thought. I would have to ask, “What does the pony think?” and if the pony was willing, I’d give him everything I have as a trimmer.


Charlotte Stein is an Equine Soundness trained Holisitic Hoof Health Practitioner who should receive certification by the end of 2012. She lives and works in Manitoba, Canada with three amazing and spoiled gad-about Appaloosa’s.


About snarkyrider

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in Conformation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I’m trying not to be judgemental, but how can that pony possibly NOT be in constant pain? Years to recover, possilby? It just seems cruel to have him suffer through that…

    • The whole when to euthanize is a huge debate. Personally, I think pain AND the animals attitude need to be taken into consideration. I’m in almost constant pain (it’s not some horrifid disease, I just tend to ache) but I don’t want to be “put down”! My dog is getting old and he’s a (very) large breed – his hips hurt and he has problems getting around now, bu the still plays and pounces! He gobbles down his food and is still the happiest dog you’ve ever seen – I won’t even consider putting him down until his attitude changes. That, to me, is a key sign that they’re not enjoying life.

  2. The other question is, what happened to that animal? I have seen some pretty bad pics, not quite as bad as that. A local rescue, which is highly accredited took in a donkey with some really bad hooves. With alot of corrective trimming, (still ongoing) she can at least be happy and pain free for the most part.

  3. The pony would need xrays before you could even start to correct it. If the coffin bone has gone to bad position the only thing you could do is end his suffering and put him down. Poor little thing.

  4. This pony was on CL recently, in Tennessee I believe. I was told he was euthanized.

  5. Who was the crumbum who let the pony get into this condition? Whoever it was needs one upside the head!

  6. FourDancingHorses

    Sadly, there’s no fixing something like this…World Horse Welfare in the UK had a rescued mare that was like this on her hind feet (video is here: that they just couldn’t help, and they had to put her down. It’s horrible and cruel that someone could be so careless as to let an horse/pony get to this state.

  7. That looks unbelievably painful *winces*

  8. I’ve seen that video a few times FourDancingHorses. Sad that.
    I think it depends on each situation what can and cannot be done. X-rays might help in deciding which way is the right way to go. It depends on mobility in the joints and if that animal will have a relatively happy life. I suspect though once it gets as far as it did for this poor fella there’s nothing to be done. Which is a shame, because he sure didn’t deserve it.

    A note on horses and pain – they don’t show it till they can’t hide it anymore. Which is also when it’s usually too late. So, if you have a horse who’s short strided, defensive (strikes, kicks, bites) won’t move out, runs off etc. Assess him, chances are he’s in pain somewhere.

    I think Snarky said it best earlier way up there in the other posts when it comes to quality of life.

  9. Ontheroadagain

    Are you guys able to edit your posts at all? You typoed the address for her website so it goes to a dead end.

  10. Well… my old guy has ringbone, which is why I moved him to a HUGE pasture situation, and also try to manage his weight. A lot of people hear “RING BONE” and they’re like “ZOMG euth him now!!!”

    He’s doing GREAT. Definitely sound for most riding (if I could put in the time to really get both of us in shape….), and he feels good. I love it when I turn him back out after grooming/riding, and he waits till I’m away, then he TAKES OFF, up the hill and down the hill, bucking & farting, then a good roll, some snorting…. you know they’re OK!

    He’s barefoot right now… we’ll see how long he’s OK like that. I’ve had him in front shoes for at least the spring/summer, and he likes that, but now I’m also curious about the plastic shoes. Not the glue-on kind – Indiana clay soil being what it is.

  11. This is a great post, btw. I learned a lot from this concise article! Thanks for the simple drawing, and other pictures! 🙂

  12. cattypex – if you can get your horses body pH neutral (alkaline) again that will help the body absorb the ring bone in between the joints (you’ll always have it on the outside as there is no wear there). You can try adding therapeutic grade lemon oil (about 5 to 6 drops) to his feed or add raw ACV to his feed (about 1/4 cup daily) or his water. Also, it helps keep flies away. They’re not attracted to balanced bodies. 🙂
    And he sounds like an angel.

    Glad you enjoyed the article.

    • Neutral and alkaline are not synonyms first of all. One means basic pH (>7) and one means neutral (7). Homeostasis is tightly regulated by the body very close to 7.4. If lemon oil and vinegar was a cure people with osteoarthritis wouldn’t have to take aspirin to get through the day. Ringbone (pastern or coffin joint osteoarthritis) absolutely CANNOT be resorbed because that’s not scientifically possible at all- the radiographic changes seen are new bone formation around the joint due to inflammation and the body’s attempt to fuse the joint and stop the painful movement. No movement = no pain. The cartilage has worn away and it cannot grow back by any means currently available, even stem cells. Bone on bone HURTS!

  13. This pony was on the free speech horse forum, and one of the members there posted that the pony had been collected by a rescue and euthanised on 27th March. Link to the thread.

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