Thursday, March 13, 2014

Q's Hoofers

Her feet look better than they have since I've owned her coming out of this winter - except the medio-lateral balance of her front hooves is really altered from what it used to be.

Casually resting a hind; she swaps
steadily back and forth between
both hinds as she waits for me.
I've been watching her movement a lot lately (another benefit of Mike riding her while I ride Griffin) and suspected that I really needed to look at medio-lateral balance in her feet a bit closer. Her landings on her front feet are a bit off from what they once were. She's landing a titch *more* laterally than she used to. I know that hooves should land a bit more lateral than medial at first, but Q's is more exaggerated than what it had been prior to winter. On the level surface of the rail trail over the weekend I was really able to observe how her landings have altered. The imbalance is obvious - her lateral heel is more developed than the medial; this is very atypical for her front hooves. Her way of going behind has always led to a slight imbalance, but its what she needs for her conformation.

One of the few drawbacks to where I keep my horses is the lack of level surfaces. The only concrete pads in the barn are the tack room (can't trim in there for obvious reasons) and the wash stall. The wash stall area would be a great and obvious option for trimming on a level surface (so I can better see her stance and the balance of the hoof), except that it has pallets full of fertilizer and lyme on one half of it! I plan to move these sometime soon, but its going to be a good bit of labor and my time at the barn is so fleeting currently that I would rather spend it with my horses.

As a result, all of my trimming is done in the barn aisle which isn't perfectly level and isn't a hard surface. This creates an obvious hurdle for accurately assessing my horses hooves pre and post trim. I suspect this has lent itself poorly to my trimming through this winter. Shame on me for not paying more mind to things.

Fronts. Beefier development
along the inside (medial) heel areas.
At any rate, I modified the medio-lateral balance of Q's front hooves mildly on Tuesday night; I don't ever do tons at once with things like this. I like to see what she's going to do with her feet from a series of smaller modifications over time. Ultimately, the amount of riding we have coming up should help to determine how she wants her feet to be.

It was quite obvious to me (once I really paid mind to it) that the medial half of the hoof (if you imagine the hoof split down the middle through the frog from toe to heel) is indeed much higher than the lateral side. Her movement on the rail trail and her stance when standing still really suggested to me that she needed more on the lateral side, but she can't exactly get that if she's constantly wearing away the lateral side more than the medial from the current imbalance.

I hope that with time, miles, and minor modifications through trimming here and there she will get back to where she was. I really feel shamed for not noticing things sooner. Medio-lateral imbalances in the hoof and trimming for them is a weakness for me. I'm thankful at least that I am observant enough to notice things, refer back to older photos and videos, and now do what I can to try to get her feet back to how they were for the first nearly 2 years I had her.

And, No, I don't think her feet "want" to be where they are now. These changes have occurred through winter months when she wasn't in a working schedule like she had been so many months before. I've just been trimming and putting her through mild work in a soft environment that hasn't challenged or applied much wear to her feet. I know that ultimately it will be the increase in miles over varied terrain this upcoming season that will "fix" her feet, but the way she's moving now has made me concerned that if I don't give her feet a little help at the beginning then the imbalance will increase because her footfalls are pretty far from the "correct" she'd been at for so long.

Slight filling in hinds due to
standing at the fenceline immobile
as she flirted shamlessly with the
geldings on the other side.
I do love that she very often stands
squarely wherever she is.
Another hurdle Q and I were able to start to overcome Tuesday night was with her hind feet. I reallysuspect that someone may have been overly harsh in handling her hind feet at some point in her past because of her sensitivity about them being handled - it's always been more of a challenge than I ever expect it should be.

She's always let me put them on the stand to apply a roll around the hoof or bring back toe (bringing the hind foot forward under the body and resting it atop the stand). Bringing the hoof backward to rest in on the stand in a manner to work on the sole and bars of her feet has always been an issue though. She hops and skips away from me, doing all she can to avoid it. And when I do get her to stand still, she is very reluctant to let her leg be placed on the hoof stand. She'll let me do hind leg stretches with her, but if that hoof stand comes out she's not interested in me being near her.

Part of her distrust with her hind legs has also developed from two hefty cases of scratches since I got her in 2012. Treatments were NO FUN for her or me. Its the only time she's ever kicked me - and even that was delivered after she'd warned me at least a dozen times! She was hurting, I don't blame her. But I had to treat it. So, poor lady has a lot of negative associations with her back legs.

(Aside: Yes, I've also considered sensitivity in her hocks as an issue and my vet and I are looking into this. We're planning to do radiographs later in the spring. Tests from last month's vet visit demonstrated that she is tender and is more sensitive on the left than the right; and, no, the injury to her left stifle from last spring is not a contributing factor. My vet confirms that that injury was purely superficial; a lesion of the skin with no association in the soft tissue/joint/bone.)

I was very calm and patient with Q Tuesday night though. She was calm in return and allowed me to stretch out her hind legs and place them on the hoof stand on both sides long enough for me to touch her back feet up more thoroughly than I have in months. I kept talking to her the whole time telling her how good she was, shooting multiple glances at her facial expression to see if there were any signs of distress. Completely calm pony, ears on a swivel, eyes bright and alert, lower lip loose and hanging. I hope this is demonstrative of what future hind feet trims will be like!

We'll see where things go with her feet this season. She's definitely in a better place than she's been and I'm learning more all the time. I'm optimistic!

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