• Holistic Equine

Use of Objective Data in Successful Modern Hoof Care

In this article, learn about objective data in the hoof care industry, how we use it to help horses and where you can learn more and get help!

"Early detection leads to early correction, and prevention is much better than cure. Objective data gives the horse a voice"

Wayne Turner - Progressive Equine Services & Hoof Care Centre

What is objective data?

Objective data are observable and measurable data (“signs”) obtained through observation, physical examination, and laboratory and diagnostic testing. In the world of modern hoof care, objective data includes information gathered via gait analysis as well as software that provides information on the proportions, angles and lengths of the hoof and internal structures, namely the relationship of the phalanges to the hoof and the ground plane.

The world of farriery, podiatry and barefoot trimming is changing, and it needs to. Social media and increasingly available technology which enables assessment of hooves and creation of objective data is revolutionising the hoof care industry.

A mobile phone can capture quality hoof images, and with the use of a simple app such as HoofmAapp, one can quickly assess hoof proportions and document changes. Mobile x-ray machines can capture radiographic images out in the field and in a heartbeat, intelligent imaging software such as Metron-Hoof can identify and provide measurements, create a detailed report and within moments it can be shared online with the horse’s team of professionals.

"Data is invaluable information. When used correctly, it can help prevent lameness and unnecessary suffering in horses"

Beccy Smith - Author

The above images show healthy changes (bottom right) to hoof proportions in Annie (see below) following documentation demonstrating the need for changes to the dorsal/palmar hoof balance. The positive changes to HPA, alignment and toe:heel ratio (right) were observed within a 10 day period. The radiograph mark ups (left) were created using Metron-Hoof imaging software and the mark ups on the right were created using the iPhone hoof mapping app; HoofmApp.

Why the need for objective data?

It makes us better at caring for horses. This quote really says it all...

"Early detection leads to early correction, and prevention is much better than cure. Objective data gives the horse a voice"

Wayne Turner - Progressive Equine Services & Hoof Care Centre

In one study, Leading lameness vet Sue Dyson found 73% of the horses were lame when owners believed they were sound (1). In a study by the same vet, involving 506 sports horses in normal work and presumed to be sound, 47% were found to be overtly lame or had other pain-related gait abnormalities (2). In one online article, Dyson comments about the study say that it “revealed a startling frequency of lameness in the general sports horse population. Clearly, many horses with hindlimb and/or forelimb lameness go unrecognised” (3).

The use of objective data has helped researchers and equine professionals recognise certain hoof morphology (shape) associated with lameness, both in the hoof and above the hoof. Numerous publications demonstrate this and while the perfect hoof (angles, size, shape and measurement) has yet to be agreed upon and identified by all; there is overwhelming evidence that particular proportions are strongly linked to tissue breakdown and pathology. In one study, low plantar P3 angles have been found to be associated with increased incidence of lameness in the hind limb, primarily in the stifle, then the hock, then the ligamentous tissues (4).

In short, nearly half of the regular sport horse population might be lame, and the lameness isn’t being recognised by owners. Hoof carers regularly visit horses and can be proactive in preventing lameness, with the right education and application of knowledge. If all podiatrists, farriers and trimmers routinely document horse’s hooves and use tools to create scientifically valid objective data to help recognise proportions or morphology early on, a more proactive approach could be implemented and more lameness would be prevented.

How we use objective data documenting in our podiatry services

Annie is a 27 year old retired Arab mare who had exceptionally long toes and under run heels before becoming a client 15 months ago. Annie lives out 24/7 on natural fell side and despite a challenging environment, is thriving and healing.

Recently, Annie’s owner decided to get podiatry balance x-rays and these really helped us appreciate how much sole depth Annie now has and we were able to trim her toe plane and address the dorsal-palmar imbalance. In short, her toes were too high and long, hoof-pastern axis was broken back and radiographs confirmed she had low palmar and plantar p3 angles and her phalanges were misaligned. This contributes to compensatory posture and is associated with a greater risk of pathology and lameness in the foot and further up the limb.

This is Annie at her first consult in November 2020. Note the compensatory posture documented:

This is Annie’s LF (top) and LH (bottom) before trimming before we used objective data software. Note the long toe, bruising in the wall and broken back HPA:

In December 30th 2021, I attended with the vet during the taking of radiographs and used Metron-Hoof blocks and imaging software to document the foot and hoof. In this example below, I also demonstrate use of the relatively new hoof mapping iPhone app called HoofmApp to show the changes in the hoof following one trim after the radiographs were taken.