Flaring, Rotation & Distal Descent

Rory is a beautiful, 4 year old Arabian and when I first met her she had shoes on the fronts and bare in the hinds. Her owner was concerned as her current farrier was allowing the hooves to become more and more flared. I was already trimming a number of other horses at this barn, who also had very flared and cracked feet, and so she asked me to work on Rory.

As you will see from the photos, her hooves were overdue for a reset, and so that accounts for some of the problems but the hooves were close to a complete breakdown. The balance of the hooves was very poor, with way too much toe and also large flares in the quarters... All of which were undermining the laminar connection and had allowed both rotation and sinking of the coffin bone. Her front right was the worst as the coffin bone had sunk more in this hoof and this is why it has been slower in recovering.

Rory FR 1
Rory FR 2
Rory FR 3

Right Front

July 2009

  • These are the "before" photos of her feet with the shoes on. The red line that starts out as a solid line and then turns into a dotted line, indicates where the toe wall should be. As you can see, on Rory, this was in completely the wrong place and was literally tearing the lamina with every step. This created the huge toe flare.

  • The front shot shows how the hoof is desperately trying to grow in tight (at the top) but the large quarters flares are preventing it.

  • Notice on the sole shot the distance from the green line at the end of the frog to the green line at the toe. On a foot with a healthy laminar connection and correct balance, the distance from the frog apex to the toe should be approximately 1/3 of the overall length of the hoof. With the remaining 2/3's being from the apex to the heels. On Rory it was more like 1/2 the overall length.

August 2009
  • You can see how by relieving the breakover the toe can now grow in with a tight connection and is now 1/3 of the way down the hoof.

  • By relieving the quarter flares the side walls are also getting straighter.

  • The correct 1/3 to 2/3 ratio is getting closer.

October 2009
  • The new tight growth has reached 2/3's of the way down.

  • The hoof is way better than it was and in another couple of months all the old flare should be gone, but because this hoof had so much damage it's going to take another complete growth cycle (9 months) to really get a completely tight laminar connection.

Rory FL 1
Rory FL 2
Rory FL 3

Left Front
Her left front had a similar problems as the right front with a similar amount of rotation (around 11°) but the coffin bone had not sunk as much, so the progress has been much faster on this hoof. Her heels may eventually come down a little more but overall this hoof is almost completely back to full health.

Rory RL 1
Rory RL 2
Rory RL 3

Left Rear
Her rears were not shod but still had large flares. The left rear was the worse of the two with what appeared to be a negative plane coffin bone - see the bull-nosed appearance on the side shot. This puts a lot of strain on the rest of the leg and can lead to hock problems. By October this hoof was almost back to full health too.

Rory's recovery was fairly quick but she did experience some nasty abscessing in the front right which at times tested her owner's commitment to this method. Her vet recommended doing rehab shoeing at one point (using the same farrier that contributed to this mess!) but her owner stayed strong (I am very proud of her for that). Rory wore boots when necessary for turnout and also for light riding which helped her tremendously.

Her diet was also addressed and kept tight which goes a long way towards recovery. Once a horse has had laminitis their hooves will be less resistant to insult so it is imperative to keep their sugar intake in check, especially with easy keepers such as arabs.

I recently received this lovely email from her owner:
Rory looks great. Took her out day after boxing day for a hack. She was FULL of energy and took every opportunity to try and run.
She was a little frustrated at being forced to walk and occasionally trot - but very happy to be out and about.

P.S. I dread to think what would have been the end result if I had not met up with you. Her feet were a time bomb just waiting to happen. Providential timing I'd say. Thanks again for everything. You rock.

Comments for Flaring, Rotation & Distal Descent

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Jan 20, 2010
11 degrees rotation
by: Jenny

Thanks for your comments Ian. Yes xrays were taken of the fronts and I did overlay the right front on the photos (August 2009 set). Unfortunately the markers that the vet used on the toe wall were fairly faint hence why I said "around 11°".

If xrays aren't available you can get a pretty good idea of the amount of rotation but measuring the angle between the tight new growth at the top and the older flared growth below.

Glad you found it informative - it took quite a while to put it all together!

Jan 17, 2010
11 degrees of rotation.
by: Ian

Your article is most informative.
Were radiographs taken?
* If not how did you arrive at 11 degrees of rotation?
* If so it would have been useful to have included the radiographs in your article!

Good photoraphs and well illustrated - many thanks.

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