I'm volunteering at an Equine Ministry Camp this summer. Last week one of the horses was 'off' in his fronts. The coronary bands were a bit inflamed. He had a noticeable pulse and he was reluctant to move. He looked as if he were walking on eggshells. He was also 'pointing' with his right fore. He would not stand square and would not halt squared when asked to. The other 'symptom' was he was standing in front of the vertical meaning, if a plumb line were dropped from the center of the upper leg down to the ground it should intersect the leg fairly in the center and ending at the heels - not ending inches in back of the heels.
The red line shows the vertical line that should bisect the forearm, knee, fetlock and end at the heels:
This guy at the barn was standing about 5 inches in front of the vertical. This position is known as camped out. Standing in back of the vertical line is called "camped under".
Now, generally speaking this (standing in front of the vertical or 'camping out' indicates toes that are a bit sore. Combine that with a 'walking on eggshells' type of movement with the slightly inflamed coronary band and an increased pulse - that all speaks laminitis - inflammation of the laminae of the foot.
I didn't get photos but noticed that his fronts were both kind of wonky. The toed-out a bit but also looked a little wider on each lateral hoofwall (lateral = outside). But, the coronary band was a bit jammed up on the medial heel side.
Well, that shouted diagonal imbalance to me.
When I scoped down the heels to see the overall levelness of the hoofwall I did notice that the lateral toe quarter and the medial heel were still visible to the eye even though the rest of the hoof had 'disappeared' from sight.
Yup -- that was definitely a diagonal imbalance.
I also noticed that the heels were VERY short - almost non-existent and the horse was standing almost on his hairline in the backs of the hooves.
Now, the question was -- was this diagonal imbalance enough to cause the increased pulse and the swelling at the coronary band as well as the shortened stride and walking on eggshells? I trimmed a bit off the offending heels and toe quarters and got the slight flaring taken care of. I corrected the diagonal imbalance with just a tiny, tiny bit of rasping.
The coronary band/hairline that was jammed up relaxed; the horse stood square and no longer walked on eggshells. In fact, he trotted (well, actually gave a slow running walk) up a gravel drive without any urging or discomfort.
It was just a tiny bit that I rasped. The owner said, "But you hardly took anything off!"
That is true but it was obviously enough of an imbalance to cause some discomfort to the horse. Perhaps the horse was a bit laminitic but was he laminitic because of the diagonal imbalance? Or for another reason? (Perhaps the extremely low heels? And, or, we had had record-breaking heat that week that finally broke with a massive thunderstorm that day.)
I don't have an answer as to whether a laminitic condition exacerbated the diagonal imbalance enough to cause discomfort or the diagonal imbalance caused enough of an imbalance in the joints of the lower leg to cause some inflammation of the foot thus causing the symptoms of laminitis.
Whenever a horse feels 'off', its always a good thing to immediately assess the balance of the hooves, especially in older horses. This guy is a senior horse in his early 20's. Without radiographs one cannot really determine if there are significant bony changes and joint changes unless they are so severe as to be visible to the naked eye.
But, with a good balanced trim, if the horse walks off sound then the horse is not lying. If a horse walks off in discomfort, the horse is still not lying at which point the root cause must be determined and "fixed".
Not all imbalances are so easy of a fix. Not all indications of laminitis are an easy fix and laminitis MUST be taken very seriously. It must be tended to immediately to prevent further progress into more dangerous developments that can jeopardize the horse's use as well as even his life.
You can read more about Diagonal Imbalance of the Equine Hoof HERE.
And that's my 'story' for this week ...
Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoof care for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone in the US (774)-280-4227 NEW PHONE). For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com