Heel Bulb Brain Teaser

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Heel Bulb Brain Teaser

This is a discussion on Heel Bulb Brain Teaser within the Hoof Care forums, part of the Horse Health category
  • Heel bulb abscess
  • Equine hoof and bulb seperation

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    05-26-2012, 02:43 PM
Heel Bulb Brain Teaser

I'm working a double today, so I'm looking at every trimming pic I can find on the internet trying to decipher good from BS. Here's my question.

You are trimming a foot that has/had contracted heels, poor quality digital cushions and heel bulbs. On one foot, the heel bulb is uneven. One's a bit more squished than the other, like one is golf ball and the other is a super ball. Do you...

1. Still level the heel according to the sole of the plane and incourage the heel bulb on the one side to expand?

2. Leave the heel slightly unbalanced as it already is due to the smaller bulb on one side? Logic being, if the support isn't there via the digital cushion, leveling that heel out would crush the bigger heel bulb?

Sorry, I think a lot on doubles. They are very boring in the summer time. I'm also dealing with feet that are still correcting themselves from years a bad trimming, and want to proceed in the best interest of my horse.
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    05-26-2012, 10:00 PM
poor quality digital cushions QUOTE]

Please elaborate because I'm confused
    05-26-2012, 10:07 PM
My OTTB is 10 years old and has only been out of shoes for 4 months. His digital cushion on his club foot is pure mush. It's got no structural integrity for lack of a better word. While the heel is not sheered per sey, the heel bulb, instead of having even butt cheeks, has a big cheek and a smaller cheek. The end result being, when I trim the heels even from the underside, my choices are to trim both sides evenly leaving the smaller heel bulb more unsupported, or leaving the heel slight unbalanced laterally to allow for the smaller bulb until the digital cushion starts to develop (if that happens at all) thereby popping up the smaller bulb.

I'm on hour 15 of a 16 hour day, so me brain not work good no more 2 nite. I'll try to post a pic tomorrow for better clarification.
    05-26-2012, 10:54 PM
No, no. No need to post pics. I know what a club foot is and how it's different.

It's got a more concave sole than the other front foot and the frog is narrower and what little bit is there is probly thrushy. Doesn't matter if he's barefoot or shod, that foot will be thrushy and have no frog. There's a reason for this.

What I was confused about is you're using the word "digital cushion" to describe the frog. The digital cushion is internal, above the frog

Whatever you do, don't trim the heels unlevel to fix this. You'll cause irreversible damage if you do that very long.
    05-26-2012, 10:57 PM
Actually I didn't refer to his frogs at all. By digital cushion, I am talking about the tissue in the heel bulb area.
    05-26-2012, 10:59 PM
Digital Cushion | HorseHoofHelp.com

This thing. My understanding is that you can get a sense of how healthy it is (or not) by pressing on the heel bulb. Horse's with weak digital cushions are more prone to crushed heels since there is less platform back there to prop everything up, no?
    05-26-2012, 11:39 PM
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
Horse's with weak digital cushions are more prone to crushed heels since there is less platform back there to prop everything up, no?
If this was accurate, you're horse should have crushed heels on his club foot. Does he? How?
    05-27-2012, 02:16 AM
Puck, no disrespect, but you're reading too much into this club foot thing.

I usually don't make a get too into these farrier discussions other than to argue a little or make a short post. But you've posted on your horse's feet many times, and that says you care. I comment that.

Please try not to be offended. If you do get offended and don't take advice, maybe somebody else will see it and it'll help their horse.

The subject of club feet comes up a lot here. Most farriers don't have an answer for it. Barefoot trimmers try to get too technical about it. You're probably wasting time reading hoof care articles on the internet and even vet books. Learning about club feet doesn't happen in a labratory or a classroom. It happens in real world shoeing and trimming and watching horses. Paying attention to the whole horse instead of just looking from the knees down.

What makes a horse's foot steep and narrow? Weight distribution. The most fundamental fact every farrier should know is that a horse's hooves change shape due to how they bear weight. So it's very easy for a horse to develop a club foot.

1) They can have an injury that causes them to favor a leg. Over time, that foot will atrophy like a muscle in a broken leg. It becomes narrower and steeper because the weight it's designed to carry isn't being applied. By the time the injury heals, the muscle is stronger on the un-injured side, and the horse uses the strong side more, even resting in a stall.

2) A horse can also become club-footed from grazing. This starts at a young age when their legs are long. They throw one foot out in front so they can reach the ground to graze, and one foot is bearing more weight. Some overcome it, some don't. (This is also why so many gaited horses are toed-out. Long legs, short neck, they wear the insides of their front feet down spreading out like a giraffe to eat. Shorter medial length=splay-footed)

3) Another way a horse can develop a club foot is from a rider working the horse too much in one direction. If the rider feels more comfortable loping to the left, they lope to the left and build that side up stronger. Horse develops a strong left side and over-uses it.

In the majority of cases, a club footed horse will go lame on the strong foot first. When laminitis sets in, the strong side (wider, lower-heeled foot) will have more coffin bone sinking and rotation because there's more weight on it. Same reason a normal horse's front hooves founder worse than the hinds.....there's more weight on em.

Has anyone ever seen a horse founder worse on the back than on the front? I have. How is this possible? Because the front feet were so lame that this horse was supporting most of his body weight on his hindquarters. More weight on the hinds cause more separation and sinking. It's possible because of how a horse bears weight. The shape of hooves and location of flares are because of how weight is distributed. I see horses with hip problems that have a club foot on the back.

Farriers can alter and enhance the shape of each hoof as an individual........But fixing the whole horse is up to the owner. When I run in to a horse that has an overall balance problem like a club foot, I explain to them what needs to be done. They don't want to hear it. Their response is, "Don't tell me, just fix it, you're the farrier"!!!

Well, I don't fix it, you do. I understand people pay farriers to fix things. But they also pay us to know what needs to be done. In this day and age, people want fast, convenient service. They want things done for them. But the reality is, sometimes you have to put forth a little effort.

To fix a club-footed horse, you have to get him to USE THAT CLUB FOOT. If he's clubbed on the left front, lope him primarily to the left. Using it will spread it out, equal out the heels and overall angles, and eliminate the dish. Not only will using the weak (club) foot cause the feet to match, it will cause the horse to become balanced in his movements. It won't happen tomorrow or next week, but it'll happen.

So why is Puck's hoof clubbed? Because he's not bearing as much weight on it as he should. Could be because he had an injury and favored that foot, could be structural imbalance, could be man-made. But you can fix it

If yall don't believe me, look at a club footed horse from the back. Get him squared up and stand on a chair and look down his back up to his withers. Look at the difference in muscle mass on each side of his withers. Ride a club footed horse and lope to the weak side (club-footed side) See if that horse counter-canters because he can't pick up his leads to the weak side. Ride a club-footed horse in a straight line and see if you're saddle doasn't sit over to one side.

It's not his foot that needs work, it's his overall balance. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is recognize the obvious
loosie, Magaidh and loveyourhorse like this.
    05-27-2012, 02:32 AM
I found that to be quite interesting and enlightening, AC. It makes a lot of sense to me!
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    05-27-2012, 02:33 AM

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