Saturday, May 2, 2009

Special entry for obsessive-compulsives: Riley's footfalls

One of my blogging duties is to moderate comments. No big deal, I publish nearly every comment I receive -- most are thoughtful, informative, funny, etc. Most of them. A few have been kind of a bummer. And human nature dictates that those are the ones I obsess over. Do you have OCD tendencies? Come sit by me, we can compare notes on exactly where the path of a 20 meter circle lies in relation to the arena letters, etc.
Oh yes, we were talking about comments. A few weeks ago I got one of those comments, in response to the post about Riley's x-rays. The tone of the comment was attitudinal, the subject was Riley, and the not so subliminal message was "You pea-brain! Your horse is destined for a lifetime of lameness!" Anonymous (you knew it would be anonymous, right?) had a laundry list of flaws, and s/he also informed me that Riley lands toe first when he trots, which is apparently a grade 1 lameness. I unceremoniously hit the Reject button on the moderation page.

Unfortunately, there is no Purge button for my brain. Toe first? What the h*ll? Yes, Riley tends to point the toe downward at the top of each stride. I figured it's the same gait mechanics as his mom (see middle photo), but I hadn't noticed him landing toe first. The toe-first horses I've seen (we have a navicular pony in our barn) have had a stabby, short-strided gait. Is Riley's gait simply his way of going, or does he have an issue? Break out the camcorder!

An informal analysis of footfalls.
First, the disclaimers: This was an impromptu capture with a somewhat unwilling videographer, who was hungry and grumpy. We're on a circle; the video quality is CRAPPO (although the close work of the feet is not bad); and the footing makes it hard to see the landing. Oh, and I pause the footage in three places.

After watching it, a few things occur to me...
  1. Remember to always put him in brushing boots on the lunge line.
  2. The landing varies more than I thought it would. I dunno, the toe is angled downward but it looks to me like the heel is bearing the weight.
  3. I have nothing to compare this to. Does ANYONE else have similar footage of their horse? Any obsessives out there with a camcorder and Moviemaker?

I haven't yet told Bob but we'll probably try this again on a harder surface, outside. Hopefully our marriage is strong enough to survive these videotaping sessions.


An interesting comparison of hoof touchdowns (video)

High heel landing (video)


  1. Oh, gosh, don't get me started. My farrier said my Tucker may land toe first. I can't tell. Never could. He might, he might not. I am just not going to worry about it. If he does, there's nothing to do about it beyond the trim and shoeing he has now.

    So?? It's like a set of x-rays that show a horse "may" have some hock issues in the future, or has the signs he "might" get navicular, or, there's a little something in the joint that "might" become a problem in the future.

    My horse also might go out into the pasture and take a bad step tomorrow. There is no way to predict what will happen, nor any assurance a horse will be lame in the future. Some horses with conformational flaws that "should" make them lame or unable to do certain jobs often go on to long, rich careers.

    Essentially, unless there is something you can do to correct the perceived problem, just give your horse the best care, the best training, the best food, and the best home you can and enjoy the ride. Whatever will be, will be!!

  2. I don't have any video of my horse trotting in slowmo, but I found these on youtube. until he extends his foot all the way it looks like he's going to land on his toe. But then he lands on his heel.

    Here's one of a horse landing on his toe.

  3. BTW, was Riley's mom ridden competitively or was she just a broodmare all her life? If she was shown extensively and her feet held up, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

  4. Oh, goodness, what a bit of crazy commenting, there. Honestly, this is the kind of issue that's pretty tough to detect from video footage, especially as the camera is not on a plane with the ground so it's easy to exaggerate how much the relaxed gate looks like one tending towards lameness.

    Secondly, if Riley is landing toe first and there isn't anything wrong with the joints, it's probably because he's not driving himself from the rear. Which, really, would you expect with a young horse, not under saddle?

    Remember, I know lameness problems and gate problems, having had ol' broken-bone-in-the-foot Pepper to coddle for years. Without someone in the saddle, he never landed his front feet heel first but his gate changed a lot once you were seated.

  5. What is it about horse people that they revert back to high school, or even middle school? I swear to God, I never met a bigger group of childish, snotty, trash talking, jealous, back biting idiots in my life! Half the time, it's more about the ego then any love for the horse. How many horses have had their lives shortened because someone cared more about a ribbon then the well being of a living, breathing animal?

    DISCLAIMER: Obviously, not everybody is like this. I've met some lovely people since I got back into the horse world (going on ten years now), but the barn princess/clique politics has really soured me on the social potential of any boarding barn. Non-stop drama, non-stop back stabbing, non-stop sniping -- the list goes on, and it only takes one or two people out of a couple of dozen to sour it for everyone.

    Point is, there is always going be somebody trying to feel better about his/herself by trash talking you and your horse. Doesn't even matter if they never even met you, if they even have the slightest inkling that you might be a better rider or better mounted then they are, they will try to drag you down. Some of them will even do it out of sheer spite. Ignore them. It's probably the worst thing you can do to that type. Like they can make that kind of judgment call on a horse they never met in life from a 2 minute video on the internet.

  6. I'm not any expert, but in the barefoot video sent along by Jesse, it seems to me that the horse's hooves are trimmed way wrong . . . they need a much shorter toe and more depth in the heel. Those long toes are practically forcing the horse to hyperextend the back of his fetlocks. Just saying. My own horse is barefoot, and his farrier keeps the fronts of his hooves much shorter.

  7. Dragonhawk -- It's funny you should say high school. I've often felt that the dynamics in show barns is a lot LIKE high school, which would be understandable if the boarders were teens. But that's not always so :-)

    Jesse -- no, she was always a broodmare imported in utero from Germany. Her gaits are lovely, though, and fluid. She has a lot of angle in her pastern, while Riley is upright, but she and Riley move similarly.

    Janice -- Pepper broke a bone in his foot? OMG? How did I miss this?

  8. The problem with having a young horse that one is not yet riding is that one spends waaay too much time looking at them, on the lunge, in the field, wherever, trying to see signs of the future, good or bad. Once you start riding your lovely boy (with perfectly normal looking footfalls), all this will fade away
    (and you can obsess on training issues;).

  9. Stacey- I'll dig up the link for you (but you may have to email me and REMIND ME cause I have CRS ;) But I should have some shots of Sonny (my gelding) landing toe first in his near side fore last fall. I have thoughts on this too, but am out of time right now (two wild little mens ready for BED!!) Email me at, if you want, and I'll see what we can dig up to help you and Riley out!

    As to the ANON poster.... welllll.... ya know, someone must've pee'd in their corn flakes. Or maybe someone pee's in their cornflakes everyday. Maybe someone even tied their shorts in a knot too at the same time. ;) Gotta agree with the other poster here who said horse folks revert back to high school...hehehe... sure seems that way. (And y'all wonder why I have Golden Hermit Status...HA~)

  10. This may help with the comments or people that tend to bug you.

    "Never spend more time on a critic than you would on a friend."

    Once I heard that statement, I always revert back to it when something bothers me and then I forget about it and focus on the person who really matters, me. Just kidding, I focus on my family & friends.

  11. I will admit I am not 100% knowledgeable in this subject, so I went on line an took a look at a lot of trotting pictures. And I could see the same thing that Riley shows, I think it has a lot to do with the moment the picture is taken. The only horses that showed a true heel first moment were the ones that were driving from the rear, with impulsion. Give your baby time he will get there.

  12. I really know very little of your horse (I just wandered by a few months ago and then hung out) but he actually DOES look unsound. . from this video at least. I am a freak about gaits though. I can see a lame horse days before most people.

    His trot seems to be somewhat pained and short. . I would expect a longer stride from him, based solely on conformation. It is sort of hard to say from a few minute video.

    Overall,I would just relax and let him grow. I have a "kid" at home also. . .horses are just as bad as children. Every little thing seems bigger simply because it it yours ;)

  13. Helen, you're killin me! :-) Right now I just see tendencies not lameness. But you're right, the key is to relax and let him become a big boy.

    Mrs. Mom I'll hound you mercilessly starting a day or so from now -- just kidding, thanks for the offer!

    Liquidambar, that's the trim we're aiming for after a recent change of farriers.

    Good point Deanna, someone just emailed me with similar advice (what you focus your attention on will grow).

    Posts like this are like having a vast internet audience to help you problem solve. What a wonderful and helpful indulgence. Thanks all!

  14. Stacey- I took a few moments this morning to watch the video you provided, and from what I see: Pay that ANON poster NO mind whatsoever. Riley LOOKS like a young horse, who is growing- which accounts for any "stride deviation" you see in him IMO. And he IS INDEED landing heel first, and quite well.

    Settle down a bit, and stop over-analysing things. He is moving as a two year old should. Now, for some fun, take him on harder surface and move him- walk and trot, and LISTEN to him. Does one step here and there sound "heavier" than others? Does he sound nicely cadenced? Listening to any horse move is going to be one of the first signs of a potential lameness episode.

    In the meantime, relax Mom. ;) Your handsome boy looks good!

  15. Riley (and his mom) are GORGEOUS.

    First, let me offer my condolences on an anonymous critical post...oh sure did it with the best intentions, right? Uh-huh. That's why you provided BTB with contact info or resources to help her out.

    Second,I agree with Mrs. Mom (and others) since he's still growing, and still learning, toss the worry if possible. To me, he looks fine. More than fine, actually.

    There are plenty of sound horses at out barn who have scuffed tips on the front of their shoes (wear patterns are a great thing!)or who ride sound but may move unevenly to one extent or the other when not under saddle. Babies, horses in training often = "oh look over THERE!" "No, over here!" "Wait, there's something on the ground."

    Great way to find unevenness. Fortunately has to do with focus, not feet.

  16. First of all, Riley is a beautiful horse. Very typey.. I come from from both a dressage and a hunter/jumper world. And, I tell you what.. if you were going to sell him just by the way he moves and with the intention of finding him his perfect "niche" in the world. Hunter/Jumper would be the way. He has beautiful gait for the hunter ring. He may not jump nicely though, but you can't tell that until you pop him over a vertical. :)

    Second.. I think the reason he "appears" to be toe first.. (which doesn't appear to me he is landing toe first, he's just kinda fairy princess pointing his toes.. my thoroughbred does this. I'll see if I can get a video for you) is because his heels seem short. He doesn't appear to have much heels.. I might consider taking a series of photos of his hooves (back, front, side ect.) and taking them to a vet, farrier or even just analyzing them online compared to "perfect" horse feet. You know?

    Third.. I think a lot of it is because he's not using his hind end. Which is very normal for an untrained young horse. My Thoroughbred, that I mentioned before, when he was teaching me training level dressage back when I first started before he retired, didn't use his hind end, which could have also contributed to the "toe pointing".

    I hope that helps!

  17. I know most of us horse lovers use it, so thought I'd let you all know that I found some pretty great coupons on Absorbine products. I can't wait to try out UltraShield; the stuff is supposed to work wonders!

  18. When I got my OTTB he was absolute hell to ride because of his choppy, landing toe first trot. His confirmation is very nice, so I was puzzled why he was bound up in his shoulders and stabbed the ground with his feet. I quit hot shoeing him and started using a farrier who does a barefoot (or "natural") trim with the mustang roll/bevel edge on his toe. IT HAS MADE AN INCREDIBLE DIFFERENCE! We are now schooling all kinds of lateral work and he has suspension to die for (for a TB anyway...)
    I think the change has to do with the way the joints in his leg line up when his foot contacts the ground. He lands heel first now. Good luck with Riley and I wish you all the best.

  19. Stacy,
    I think this more of a gait related footfall than an issue with soundness or not. I did a search for an early 1900's photographer by the name of Eadweard Muybridge,(BTW I was careful to get the spelling correct). He is the man that did the amazing still photos of "Animal Locomotion" that are recognized world wide. Do a Google search of his name and the photos will show up as well.

    I will admit that most of his horse subjects were moving at a faster gait, but I think from his photos and your videos that Riley is fine. What I saw was a solid footfall at the trot, yes, he has a toe-first appearance, but when the foot lands it is solidly and properly placed on the ground, and not just the toe is landing, but the entire hoof. This is also at a slow trot and it will likely change at a quicker gait. I wouldn't worry if I were you.

    If you're still concerned about him look in your area for an equine podiatrist. I had one do my horses on occasion just to be sure that things were healthy and sound. They not only concerned with shoes and fit, but also bone structure, alignment, and health.

  20. I ride hunters, and I think Riley is a nice mover. We like the pointed toe movement. I wouldn't let one reader get you down, if you have any questions leave it to the professions, just ask your farrier to help assess Riley's movement. If he does land toe first there is quite a bit the farrier can do to trim the hoof and help the situation. I think it is near impossible to tell in regular footing.

  21. I'm totally unqualified to analyze Riley. But I believe that most horses are less than perfect. I've known multiple horses who have been happy and serviceable for life on less than perfect conformation and movement; including an FEI horse (now retired) with all kinds of defects.

    So I don't know about Riley but I say "So what if he isn't perfect?" I think if you are aware and observant of your horse's soundness over its whole life, that is the right attitude. No one can 100% predict the future. We can just take guesses and try to set things up for success.

  22. By the way, I find it incredibly sweet how Bob dutifully supports you and the other "men" in your life. Reminds me of my own husband, following me around at horse shows, camera and wet wipes in hand, on his birthday. I'm sure he and Bob could commiserate.

  23. Since I'm in the obsessive/compuslive set, I've been pondering this lately and analyzing Youtube videos of how Olympic dressage horses' feet touch the ground. What I found was interesting - during extended trot, they all landed heel first, and during piaffe, they landed toe first. This makes sense especially because a horse going up a hill will always land toe first, and extreme collection sort of simulates going uphill.

    I had my hoofcare practitioner out today and I asked her, on your behalf, what is the optimal setting for judging whether a horse lands heel or toe first. She said a brisk walk on hard flat ground (concrete). A lazy walk won't show it effectively, nor will a lazy trot. Then she went on to say that once she saw a horse go from toe first to heel first when only a millimeter was taken off - just one mm!


    ~lytha in Germany


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.