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.