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Medial-Lateral Balance in a horse that toes out

This first post was taken from Dr. Deb's site, which I think is a good one on my quest to find a farrier who doesn't want to "fix" her.   Now I think it is also necessary to ask why this animal developed sheared heels in the first place. It will have taken at least two, and in all probability more like ten, years for the feet to get into this condition. This means that for at least two, but perhaps for as long as ten years, the farrier has consistently been mis-trimming this horse.   Now I know of no farrier (or at least none who has a viable and ongoing business) who knowingly mis-trims any horse. To do so would be to put himself or herself right out of business.   Therefore we need to ask again, how it could occur that a farrier -- without CONSCIOUSLY meaning to -- could perform over a course of time the very reverse of what this, or any, horse needs; could in fact perform just what would be needed to gradually bring on a severe case of sheared heels. And the answer to this is that the farrier has consistently, over the long course of time, been trying to "give this horse some help".   Very likely the owner knew about this, and even, likely enough, has been asking him to do it.   And the "help" that has been given is predicated on the totally erroneous -- but common -- belief that a horse's front toes ought to orient straight forward, so that the axial plane or plane of assessment that bisects each forelimb shall be parallel to the midline or sagittal plane of the body. I would mention that I believe that this is not only a common belief, it is oftentimes almost an obsession with both owners and farriers.   And, looking at the direction of the shear (i.e. which heel is higher), we may easily deduce that this horse was being given "help" (the help is actually a death sentence as you see), because its right forelimb wants to orient outwards. So, the farrier has for years been lowering one heel while permitting the other one to rise -- in other words the farrier has purposely been mediolaterally unbalancing the hoof -- in order to crank those toes around so that they point forward.   Now no one who knows any equine anatomy -- let alone any orthopedics -- could possibly conscience doing this. Because anyone who has studied the peculiar and unique beauties of equine anatomy would know that a horse cannot supinate the manus; in other words, that if the animal "toes out", and its knees can be seen also to orient outwards, it must necessarily mean that its elbows orient inward. If the person knew even the most basic facts about equine anatomy -- and surely the certificate farrier should -- then they would know that any attempt to get the fore hoofs to orient in any wise other than the plane which bisects the knee, will inevitably result in twisting, unlevelling, and strain to every joint of the forelimb with every step the horse takes.   As to the animal's so-called "club" foot -- there is not, nor has there ever been, any such thing in a rideable horse. Horses are not born with club feet, which means the malformation and/or co-fusion of one or more of the normally separate distal elements, for example as with a "frozen" coffin joint. Where this does occur -- and it is extremely rare -- the foal is euthanatized and we do not see him in the riding horse population.   Therefore all of the steep feet with contracted heels -- properly they are called "encastellated" feet -- are not club feet but clubbed feet. And they arise because the foal has been leaning, and is being taught to lean, even in the first month of life; probably largely by virtue of the fact that his dam will only let him nurse on the one side. So that, over the time from birth to about two months of age, one of the foal's feet begins to contract, and contracts enough that the owner will finally notice it.   And this is also why the animal toes out more on one limb than the other; whichever way the animal leans, i.e. he will lean toward the side on which he prefers to bear weight, the forefoot of the other side will become encastellated, and that foot will also toe outward more or less markedly, while the preferred weightbearing foot toes out only a little or toes straight forward. And this will perpetuate itself, sometimes to quite a marked degree, unless the human steps in to break the cycle. And that is done by soon teaching the foal to carry itself straight, and this program of human intervention is carried right on through weaning and first backing and first ride and all the training, until the horse dies. A horse is straight when it no longer matters to the horse whether he bears weight upon the left pair of limbs, or upon the right pair; and when it no longer matters, you will find that his feet are within normal limits equal, and his toes point to where they are supposed to given the build of his chest and his ability to carry himself upon the hindquarter; and there is no more "club foot" apparent.   Likewise you will also find that he no longer toes out more on one forefoot than the other, and you no longer have any motivation or reason (or un-reason) to ask any farrier to give the horse "help" that is the kind of help that is likely to help him die sooner.