Trimming in Anglesey, Wales: Cadaver 1

(Photo above: Me trying to look like I know what I'm doing... "all the gear no idea" springs to mind!)

Hello everyone!

I apologise for the delay in getting this content up - I came back from Anglesey and it all went to chaos! I have been juggling a lot the last few weeks, you know how it is!


I'm here now! And I thought I could share with you my first cadaver trim I did during my trim 1 course with EP Training Ltd. Now, I have about 9 legs to write a blog for - I intend on doing as many as I can consecutively. But due to the complexity of some of the hooves, I've decided to write a separate blog for each individual cadaver that I did - just so it gives me the opportunity to speak about each one in detail, go over my mistakes, what I would have done differently and so on.

Now I am not yet a "professional", I'm a student - so please bare that in mind when you look at my work! There is bound to be a few tool marks, errors and a bit of cack-handiness in general. Also this is going to get a little gory! So if you don't like gore this is your warning to press the x button and escape!

For those of you with a tough stomach - hopefully you'll find this interesting.

All of the cadavers were from horses who were unfortunately slaughtered at an abattoir, they had serious pathologies or had at a minimum suffered considerable neglect. Whilst I am usually a jovial person, you have to take a moment to acknowledge the extent of poor equine welfare practices across the globe, not just the UK. When handling these cadavers it was really saddening and quite traumatic, between the 10 of us over 100 cadavers were trimmed and then either dissected or cut open to take specific measurements for research purposes.

Now imagine that being 100 horses in a line, its really sad and quite a vivid picture - one thing I did learn throughout this course; is that many of these horses had the potential to make a full recovery where their hooves were concerned. It was purely down to neglect that they appeared heavily burdened with pathology. But once you had trimmed the over growth, addressed flare and reinstated medial-lateral and dorsal-palmar balance; you would have given these horses half a fighting chance had they been alive.

Others were not so lucky; and had severe evidence of laminitis, sole thinning, bruising, capsule shift, damage to the digital cushion, ossification of the collateral cartilages and in extreme cases the dissolving of the pedal bone. Some of these hooves would probably not have made any sort of recovery - as I am talking paper thin soles that when you palpate them with your thumb they flex like paper. It was actually quite spine chilling and made me feel quite sick!

I hope by becoming an equine podiatrist I can continue educating horse owners; and help horses avoid needless pain and suffering whether that is through visiting people on a one-to one basis, or by writing blog posts to raise the awareness on the subject of hoof care.

So as a first step in trying to broaden your horizons... let's begin with the before photos of hoof number one.

So hoof number one had a bit of a three-leaf clover shape going on from the solar view. The white line had stretched, there was significant leverage created as a result of the over growth, causing the hoof wall to begin to flare and result in cracking.

There was quite a lot of thrush particularly in the central sulcus. This hoof absolutely stank and it was like a black charcoal face mask (but a stinky one) when you got in there with your hoof pick.

The frog had actually shifted too, and there was quite a lot of flappy bits to neaten up to get this frog sitting straighter.

The heels were pretty poor for a hoof you would expect of this size, and when you applied a bit of pressure to the back of the foot, the heels were actually shearing. This is when you can wobble the heels up and down - signs of weak structures at the back of the foot.

Now, I somewhat managed to neaten this hoof up but I assure you being my first cadaver and getting to grips with how to use the tools, it took me a good hour to get any kind of "normal-looking" hoof formed.

You can see how much height this hoof had to it, there was a lot of excess that needed to be nippered off - before using the rasp.

Here are the after photos...

So, from the solar view I've trimmed the "flappy bits" off of the frog (technical term there!) note how the frog is now much straighter than the before picture. Due to this hoof being over grown there was a lot of exfoliating sole that needed to come off. The heels hadn't really over run but did require quite a few swipes of the rasp to correct the medial-lateral balance. I addressed some of the flaring by "top dressing" using the file side of my rasp, however I could have done a lot more than I did - as I can clearly still see flaring of the hoof wall from these photos. Additionally I left the toe a bit pointy, and could have put a stronger bevel at the toe and rounded this off nicely.

My sole to heel plane (dorsal-palmar balance) was also slightly off on this one, the heels sat slightly higher than my toe - which I found the most difficult to get the hang off during the 5 days I was trimming. My mustang roll at this point was also incredibly weak, due to my inconsistency in the bevel. However, all being said this was still a massive improvement from the hoof it was before I started. So I won't be too hard on my self considering it was my first one!

Now time for cutting it up and seeing what angle the pedal bone sat at!

(Diagram above courtesy of Richard Vialls at EP Training Ltd - illustrating the measurements taken to determine dorsal/palmar balance of the pedal bone)

So in case you're new to the world of hooves, ideally we want the pedal bone to sit slightly higher at the palmar processes (end closest to the heels) within the hoof capsule, and the dorsal aspect of the pedal bone slightly lower (but not by much), following the outer dorsal wall of the hoof. The sole of the hoof should be on a flat (as possible) plane between the toe and the heels, the miniscule tilt of the pedal bone ensure that the bony column above is optimally aligned for limb movement and weight bearing. As the limb lands, and loads the back of the heels they are designed to compress slightly; in turn this slight angle of the pedal bone will allow for this compression to happen and the ground forces acting upon it can be sufficiently absorbed. Obviously as the limb is under full weight bearing the pedal bone will sit parallel with the sole (the digital cushion, collateral cartilages and frog compresses to allow this to happen); and once the limb has lifted again it will return to the slightly tilted position. Ideally we want the dorsal/palmar balance to be between 3 and 5 degrees, which isn't much... and as I prove in this cadaver a few more rasp swipes can make all the difference to this balance!

(Photo: Illustrating the cuts we took with the saw, to enable Richard Vialls to take the measurements to determine dorsal/palmar balance)

Measurements of this hoof shown that the dorsal/palmar balance sat at 5.5 degrees, which supports the fact that I left the heels too high and could have shaved off a few more mm; which would have brought it down to 5 degrees - which is a respectable position for it to have sat at in a live horse.

(Photo: To show the thickness of the sole at the toe area, despite there being a lot of exfoliation due to overgrowth the sole at the toe wasn't greatly thick)

Upon sawing the hoof and inspecting the sole thickness I am glad I didn't take any more sole off; and actually as I progressed through my trimming over the 5 days - I ended up taking less and less off. I exfoliated just enough to see my landmarks and would then stop. As sole thickness is not always obvious; I think taking a conservative approach is the best way to go when cleaning up the sole area. More often than not the horse has laid down extra sole for a reason, providing there are no high points to create pressure I have quickly learnt that less is more! And ensures that the horse can keep comfortable; when trimming a living horse you can take less off, reassess and adjust the trim accordingly if they are coping well.

Well, I think that draws us to a close for the first cadaver - I hope you found it interesting and enjoyed my written commentary. A lot goes into producing a performance barefoot trim and I hope this gives you some insight into my learnings, so you can fully understand the training that is undertaken and why podiatrists may approach trimming a little differently.

Adios - until the next one!

Olivia x

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