What I base my techniques on
The hoof of the horse is a superb piece of engineering and biomechanics.
The hoof of the horse is a superb piece of engineering and biomechanics. It carries out its function with the utmost efficiency protecting the internal structures and helping cushion the concussion on the upper body. When the hoof is compromised, for whatever reason, and it cannot cope with the stress placed on it, then the hoof and upper body begin to break down.
I believe the hoof can normally carry out the function it was designed for extremely efficiently, but sometimes it cannot for whatever reason, and it then starts to lose its integrity. I believe it is because the tissue of the hoof is under abnormal stress and cannot repair itself and therefore cannot carry out the function it was designed for.
I have based a lot of my research on what happens to the tissue of the foot when it is placed under stress and how tissue copes with that stress or begins to deteriorate. I researched what caused stress on a hoof, how much stress could be placed on the hoof and for how long and if the hoof was capable of repairing itself. To do this I had to look at the tissue of the hoof in each individual part of the hoof and its related function. This meant looking at the pathology of the tissue in each section of the hoof and deciding its basic function and correct alignment within the hoof capsule.
What do I mean by pathology?
In my practice, I use pathology to understand and recognise if the tissue of the hoof is coping with the stress placed a pond it. Because if tissue is not coping with the stress placed on it the tissue begins to break down. This then means the tissue will undergo changes in its vascular flow and the tissue size, shape, position and color will change. The hoof will then be unable to cope with the everyday stress placed on it or pressure on itself.
I had to educate myself on what tissue in a certain section of the hoof looked like, felt like and reacted like when in a normal non-stressed or stressed situation. I also had to learn if it was able to maintain its function if misaligned. What my research showed was that the hoof is always going through stages of stress and the hoof is repairing itself constantly. In all living forms this is happening consistently, cells of the tissue are receiving blood and regenerating the tissue (new tissue growth). What happens if the stress on the tissue is greater than that tissue can cope with is the tissue beings to deteriorate (break down) and then it changes shape, and the tissue cannot perform its function. This is the same as in the hoof of the horse. If the stress is too great or prolonged for long periods, then the tissue of the hoof will change its shape or in some cases completely break down. This is what we see as podiatry problems in feet.
I now have a greater understanding of this process and I trim or shoe a foot (and I say foot because each foot is different) to relieve the stresses placed on the different sections of the hoof as to allow the opportunity for the tissue to repair itself. I must say that this is not a quick-fix program nor an easy process to achieve in some horses, as tissue takes time to grow and lay down new foundations on which to return to its normal shape.
My work is now approached from pathology with the point of view that the hoof can repair itself if given the opportunity and then it can support itself and the upper body, but the only way it can support itself and the upper body is through correct tissue structure and function.
How do we achieve this? This is through understanding the pathology of the foot and returning and maintaining correct vascular flow as to ensure correct tissue structure and alignment. This in return will allow for correct hoof function and upper body support. This means correct orthopaedic balance, simply speaking orthopaedic balance refers to the structural and functional balance of the entire musculoskeletal system of the horse, starting with the hoof and extending throughout the upper body, all bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and hooves perfectly aligned and working together in harmony, as they are designed to do. Correct orthopaedic balance allows the horse to move freely and perform to its maximum potential.
In closing, this is mostly achieved by the trimming process of the foot and in some cases using a shoe as an aid in this process. I believe the correct normal tissue strength and alignment within the foot will give ample support to the hoof as this is what it is designed to achieve.