The Equine Foot: Why it Matters to an Equine Bodyworker
Everyone has heard the saying “No foot, No Horse”, and it could not be more true.
The feet are the foundation for the whole horse, both in movement and structure. When there is hoof issues, whether it be founder, bad feet, caudal heel pain, lower limb/tendon or ligament issues, there will eventually be muscle tension, soreness or an unsound horse. Horses are masters at compensation – they shift their weight to counteract the pain that is happening. A lot of times, horse owners call a body worker or Equine massage sports therapist out to work on the sore area or the opposite leg ie: if left front is sore, right front is taking the weight, however as body workers, we see it a little differently. If the horse has a sore front left leg, then we find a lot of compensation soreness and tension yes on the opposite front, but also on the opposite hind leg/hind in general, as the horse will rock the weight off the front leg on to the opposite hind. As a body worker, when we see a horse with compensation soreness and no known injury (ie a slip or fall, a kick, etc), where do we go? The feet.
Are they balanced?
Where is the horse in their trim or shoe cycle?
Does the horse have a long toe or low heel?
Those sort of things.
With foot soreness and unsoundness, there is generally a direct association with biomechanics and movement. Muscle soreness and posture changes can be a huge resulting factor, which in turn, can also lead to poor saddle fit. These factors all can lead to loss in performance and additional lameness. Where there is asymmetry in movement, performance of the horse will suffer and will eventually lead to overall unsoundness. Back and lower back/lumbar pain is a common area we see compensation pain in horses with poor feet, also we may notice tension and pain in the shoulders and lower neck.
Lower limb anatomy plays a big role as to how the foot can cause lameness and compensation issues in the horse. Attached into the lower limb and foot, there are multiple ligaments and tendons, such as the Suspensory Ligament, Deep Digital Flexor Tendon (DDFT), Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon (SDFT). All of these structures, carry on up the limb, turning from ligaments or tendons into muscles of the upper limb. If these muscles are imbalanced or sore and not functioning properly, it will directly effect the upper body, causing movement changes soreness and tension resulting in compensation that will lead to poor performance and discomfort.
Correct trimming or shoeing and body work go hand in hand. Proper farrier work paired with body work is a great way to keep your horse performing their best, moving their best and feeling their best from the foot to the rest of their body.
The amazing Dr Kerry Ridgeway said it great in regards to the effects that low heel/high heel syndrome has on the horse’s posture and performance - “Appropriate trimming and/or shoeing combined with appropriate bodywork and riding remains the key to soundness”.
About the Author: Teresa Humpage is a certified Equinology Equine Body Worker (EEBW) and Equine Sports Therapist (EST). In 2006, she completed the Equinology EQ100 certification, and later went on to complete the Advance Equine Body Work Massage course in 2011. These courses and her considerable hands on experience set her up to be very successful at the BC College of Equine Sports Therapists; she graduated from this college in 2013 where she was within the top five graduates in her program. Her passion for education continues on as she furthers her knowledge on equine anatomy and biomechanics.Teresa grew up in the Cochrane area and has always had horses in her life. From an early age, she started riding in Pony Club and achieved B Level. Teresa also enjoyed doing hunter/jumpers, but she quickly learned that her true passion is eventing. Even as an adult, she remains involved in Pony Club where she helps with stable management and as a regional examiner.This love and passion for all things equine coupled with her extensive education and experience equips Teresa to effectively treat equine athletes in order to help improve their wellness and performance. Teresa is a strong advocate of collaborating with all members of a horse’s wellness team such as trainers, farriers, vets, physios, and chiropractors in order to develop the best wellness program for each horse she treats.