Out of Balance

This is Dougie, a Holsteiner Warmblood, purchased by a client in March 2016.  This is a good example of an out-of-balance shoeing.   Also, it’s a Negative Plane Distal Phanlanx (Neg. Palmer/Plantar Angle) hoof confirmation.  I’ve observed this confirmation in many Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, and some Quarter Horses.  Winston, my horse, has this type of hoof confirmation.  I wish that I knew then what I know now about this type of hoof.  I would have shod Winston differently 10 years ago in an attempt to preserve the structural integrity of the coffin joint.

This hoof is out-of-balance because the center-of-area of the bottom of the hoof and the coffin joint are not in alignment.  It’s a Neg. Palmer/Plantar hoof because the rear of the coffin bone is closer to the ground than the front of the bone.  Horses with this type of hoof confirmation have some lameness, body soreness and/or performance issues (trip, stumble and/or forge).   Dougie and other horses with a similar hoof confirmation tend to land more toe-first or flat footed, even with a balanced trim and shoeing.

When presented with this type of hoof confirmation, I recommend a balanced shoeing and a wedge.  A heal-first landing is required to more fully engage the weak digital cushion, absorb shock, promote circulation, and transfer the horses body weight into the ground without imposing a manmade stress.  In other words, force in equals force out and the opposing forces are in alignment.  Thus, no moment (a.k.a. leverage) force to resist through the bone and soft tissue.

The X-Ray clearly shows the toe of the shoe is extended well forward of the tip of the coffin bone.  Think of this type of shoeing as being similar to if you never trimmed your toenails, and for every increase in toenail length, the sole of your toe increases in thickness too.  Thus, tipping the toe area of your foot up and rocking your foot backwards. Therefore, when your toenails grew you’d purchase shoes to fit the new toenail length.  Eventually, your natural stride will have to adjust to accommodate the increased shoe size.  The side effects you’d exhibit are clumsiness, reduced efficiency at all gates, and your upper body (mainly lower back), tendons, and ligaments will start to get sore do to the increased effort it takes to walk and stand…etc., thus, fatiguing and prematurely aging your ligaments, tendons, and bones.  In addition, your feet will be out of balance and your tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles will have to compensate for this instability.  This is similar to what is occurring to this horse and every other horse that is shoed and trimmed out of balance.

The extended toe increases the amount of torque required to be applied at the joint (by the deep digital flexor tendon) to move the hoof through its stride.  It also increases strain and tension that is applied to the ligaments that hold the joint together.  When I hoof tested this horse he showed soreness and sensitivity through the frog.  This indicates that the ligaments that hold the coffin joint together are inflamed.  The soreness usually takes a few years to show up.  It’s due to fatigue from the structure being asked to do something that it was never designed to do.  This is partly due to poor hoof confirmation but mainly attributed to out-of-balance shoeing.

When left untreated (out-of-balance), eventually the horse will show signs of lameness.  Usually, they show-up around ten years old.  This is because the soft tissue (ligaments) are sprained and starting to fail (a.k.a. fatigue).  Head bobbing and body soreness are more pronounced and noticeable.  Unless the farrier is able to recognize the distortions and understand the physics behind why this injury mechanism is occurring, the horse will continue to deteriorate until the joint completely fails.  Worst case scenario, the horse will have to be put down.  If your veterinarian and/or farrier is unable to diagnose the injury mechanism, they’ll only be treating the symptoms.  This may give some short-term relief but the joint will continue to deteriorate.  The next step is to “nerve” the hoof, thus, cutting the nerves to the joint to remove the pain response.  This too does not help the horse.  The ultimate conclusion is the complete failure of the structure.  No hoof, no horse!

The following photos document what the hoof looked like prior to shoeing.  The subsequent photos show the hoof mapping, sole exfoliation, trimming, dressing the hoof wall, and final balanced shoeing.  This was all completed at the first shoeing.   Dougie was sold in November of 2017.   The owner recently purchased a new Warmblood named Jamison.  See Jamison’s article describing his hoof issues.