Friday, June 1, 2012

Seeing the lateral cartilages

I seem to have been having a lot of email discussions lately about the lateral cartilages and impacted bars, mostly about how to find and evaluate them. I was having a hard time articulating this so I decided to do a photo post about it.

First of all- why is this important?
  1. The lateral cartilages are key to the hoof mechanism, it is the lateral cartilages- not the frog- that are the blood pump of the hoof. 
  2. The bars grow out of the lateral cartilages, therefore impacted bars push the lateral cartilages up and out of position- which keeps them from functioning correctly.
  3. Hard, high lateral cartilages can ossify and turn into sidebone.
How do you know where to look?

The easiest way to see the lateral cartilages is to just look at the heels of the hoof while the horse is standing on it. Take a look at these photos I snagged off some email groups I belong to. Most of these hooves are pathological- that is to say not sound. Not even close. But I tried to find the most extreme examples so you could clearly see how the lateral cartilages can be pushed out of their natural position.

This is a founder, the lateral cartilages are jammed up and together on this contracted hoof
This is another founder
This horse is contracted and has a sheared heel, look at how the lateral cartilage on the left is higher
Another very contracted hoof with lateral cartilages jammed together and up
This hoof isn't as contracted but it has a sheared heel, the lateral cartilage is jammed higher on the right
Another very contracted, impacted hoof
This is the sole shot for the hoof directly above 

Okay, now compare them to a healthier hoof. This shot is of Gwen's right fore, can you see the difference? She's a little contracted but not nearly as much as the other horses. There is plenty of room between her lateral cartilages, they aren't jammed upwards into her fetlock and you can see that they're pretty even from side to side.

Yes that is a thrush crack, it's growing in but it's taking its sweet time

In the next two photos I've got my fingers around the lateral cartilages. You can palpate the lateral cartilages and use them to help determine how healthy your own horses's hooves are. Are they wide apart or squished together? Are they mainly down around the coronet band or are they pushed up toward the fetlock? Do they have some flexibility or are they hard like rocks?



If your horse has lateral cartilages that look like any of the previous examples, it's time to take your hoof care professional to task. Trim those bars!

16 comments:

  1. Another hoof thing to check out and worry about, haha!
    Love the info and the photos! You make everything much easier to understand than most of the stuff I read. Very appreciated :)

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    1. You are welcome, thank you for saying that :)

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  2. That was a great post. Thank you! The pictures where you point out the lateral cartilages on Gwen's foot really brought it home for me. She has nice feet! I like the cute wispy fetlock hair, too.

    I am having a little trouble seeing what I am supposed to see in the second and third photos. Maybe it is because the fur is light-colored. Is the jamming evidenced by the crease below the fetlock? The chestnut looks like she has a really long pasterns (because the heels are high, I guess) compared to the second photo which is confusing me.

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    1. Yes, the crease beneath the fetlock is exactly where you should look. On the second horse they are pushed up so high and close together they almost look like one big lump. Can you see the "heart" shape?

      On the chestnut don't look at the fetlock, focus your eye lower on the areas I showed on Gwen's hoof. Though I agree, that horse does have an especially long "finger."

      Let me know if that didn't help, I can mark up the photo and post it again.

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    2. Thanks. That did help.

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  3. This is the area of the hoof that I find most difficult to understand. Even when I look at my own horses I am not sure what I'm seeing. I can see it in your photo's because you point out what to look at, but when I go back to my horses I just don't get it.

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    1. Take pictures, look at them and then go out and palpate. Then look at the photos again. Sometimes you have to let information slosh around in your head before it makes sense :)

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  4. Looking at those contracted hooves makes me wince.

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    1. Me too, it just looks painful doesn't it?

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  5. A lot of good information in this post. You really do make it easier to understand hooves. Thanks!

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  6. Great post per usual! You really do a great job explaining which is why I come back to you frequently! :)
    Ok-so Q; how do you look for it in a hoof that isn't contracted? Like in our case, his frogs are wide spread, and he isn't contracted yet, he has toe first landing which would make for wear lateral cartilages but I just don't see it...
    I do love your pic of how to palpitate..I'll try that out.

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    1. Sorry I didn't comment earlier, needed a chance to think :)

      Palpate the same as I showed and feel for how stiff the tissues are. He might have hard lateral cartilages from earlier trauma. Keep the bars trimmed back and roll the heels and he shouldn't contract at all. I think it's that darn sole that does him in.

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    2. I felt, they all feel somewhat the same, so I'm sure I'm missing something...
      Not rock hard, but like the bottom of a chicken drumstick, the cartilage part..some give but strong feeling.
      Also, I'm not 100% sold on rolling of the heels on his RH, his heel is so far forward as is, I feel rolling it may encourage those wall tubules to keep growing OUT instead of down as well. I've removed (and removing) bar as I see it pop, he's walking super comfortable now. Sole seems to be OK for now..we'll see....it's still glossy, like that shellac reference but shows tiny dots that indeed it is sole. Craziness.

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  7. Hi There! I have an OTTB who had one upright, contracted forefoot. Both of his front hooves have poor lateral cartilage development, but especially that one (it was uneven as well). Is it possible to "rehab" the lateral cartilages? Assuming all trimming is correct, what is the best way to stimulate the development of the cartilages? Thank you!!

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    1. Can you send me some pictures? radal16 (at) hotmail.com

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