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Don't Touch That TOE Callus!

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Well, what a week! The arrival of hurricane IRMA and, being right in the direct hit of landfall, to say that this week has been terrifying is the mildest statement I can make. Millions of people still without power even after 4 days and are looking at WEEKS without power in this horrendous heat and humidity. Suffice to say that some things, sometimes, get put on the back burner without thought. It's where they belong when life and limb are threatened. Yes, Irma was a life threatening storm and there are those who did lose their lives. Many more are at the brink. Homes and livestock lost, farms lost, businesses destroyed - it will take years to recover. I thank God that we got our electric back yesterday and, as such, Scoot Boots is gonna get my post this week!  For that, I am grateful.

At any rate.

I understand there was a bit of controversy about my post from June 27th, "Don't TOUCH That Sole Callus ... https://scootboots.com/blogs/blog/dont-touch-that-sole-callus ... For some reason I can't seem to find the controversial discussion on it so I thought we could visit the TOE CALLUS here as an addendum to the SOLE CALLUS. 

Yes, they are two separate beasts but one is, literally, tied right into the area. 

Let's first define what TOE callus is:  See the light blue area?  Think of the TOE as being 12 o'clock and the central sulcus of the frog being 6 o'clock. The TOE callus is the area from 10:00 over to 2:00 ... can you see that? 

 

The TOE callus is part of the SOLE callus (see the grey area on the illustration going around from heel to heel) ... and it is just as important to manage as any other part of the hoof. 

Some more illustrations to show where the toe callus is: 

 

   

The red shaded area shows where the toe callus is in the graphics above. 

I GENERALLY say don't TOUCH the toe callus but there are times, especially when rehabbing a foot, that one must tend to it. But that gets into very individualized details of individual hooves so won't go there in this blog. (If you want, I am available to consult with you about your horse's hooves -- just pm to me from FB or shoot me an email. I'd be happy to discuss this further with you.) 

Now -- to further muddy the waters, Linda Harris, in doing hundreds of dissections of cadaver hooves, maintains there is no such thing as "toe pillars". (see the yellow/orange spots at 10 and 2 on the 2nd illustration). She also maintains that the anatomy of the horse's limb demands that it retain a specific, precise shape. 

"What one might see as part of the natural wear and build patterns of wild horse feet, is not necessarily a "true" part of the anatomy of either the inner foot or the exterior hoof capsule. 

I use one type of wild horse model as an example, which would be the desert mustang. And this is only because from birth till death they basically get so  much movement over rugged terrain that they hoof wall rarely grows past the level of the sole. This means that for the most part since the wall is not longer than the sole, it can not become a form of leverage to pull the wall out away from the laminea or lead to various distortions as we see in domestic feet. Therefore as far as form and shape it closely follows the anatomy of the inner foot. 

However it also then for these same reasons, (lots of movement on rugged terrain), takes on some characteristics in the hoof capsule that are not literally a part of the horses original anatomy. And these are things that can ONLY be formed through constant movement on a hoof that rarely to never get's distorted to begin with. And these characteristics are something that Nature and Physics BUILD."  Linda Harris, TACT

But then goes on to advise one "should preserve the toe pillars for support." 

Understand, now, the difference ... she maintains there is no such thing as ANATOMICAL toe pillars - but that they are developed and formed from MOVEMENT on "a hoof that rarely to never gets distored to begin with."
 

Gene Ovnicek maintains that on either side of the toe, at the toe quarters (10 and 2), there ARE "toe pillars" which produce stronger horn than the rest of the wall. He advocates that the pillars are "the primary M/L Balancing Structures", and, if I understand correctly, these should not be touched but (http://www.hopeforsoundness.com/assets/pdf/4StepHoofMappingProtocol-Print.pdf)

Dr. Bowker is quoted as saying, "Dr. Robert Bowker's research on lamina density[2] with barefooted horses helps to understand what Dave Duckett talked about in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s regarding “pillars”.[3] The pillars appeared to be stronger portions of the sole seen in the medial and lateral toe quarters of the foot. It is also shown that the lamina is more dense in the areas of the medial and lateral toe quarters on barefooted horses according to lamina counting done by Dr. Bowker. The denser lamina is consistent with the imprint marks made on the foot from the hoof study of the feral horses."  http://hoofforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=411&start=20

And so on and so forth. 

Now, that brings us to the TOE CALLUS which lies between the "toe pillars".  (and the main topic of this post).

Are you confused yet? 

And one wonders WHY there is so much disagreement between farriers and researchers and trimmers.  

Oy! 

Let's make this simple. 

Now, GENERALLY SPEAKING (I'm not talking pathological hooves, now or distorted hooves but healthy, well maintained hooves that are strong and balanced) ... one will find a strong, healthy TOE CALLUS as well as SOLE CALLUS. Refer up to the illustrations to determine which is which and where ... ) 

Let's take a look at that word, CALLUS ... what, exactly, is the definition of the word? 

cal·lus
ˈkaləs/
noun
  1. a thickened and hardened part of the skin or soft tissue, especially in an area that has been subjected to friction.

So, now, a thickened and hardened area caused by friction. Just like the callus on OUR FEET ... when we have well callused feet then we are able to go run around on all sorts of ground without pain. 

THE SAME APPLIES TO THE HORSES' HOOVES! 

Why, why, why ... do farriers and trimmers set about REMOVING that callus on healthy, well balanced and well maintained bare hooves !?!??! 

Think of someone coming along and rasping or shaving off the callus from your feet ... what the heck do you think that would feel like !?!!?  

Yeah, you got it. 

IT WOULD HURT! 

And, no longer would you be able to run about all over on gravel, tarred roads, stony areas.  

Again, the same applies to horses. 

One might 'rocker' the toe callus a bit ala Gene Ovnicek BUT .. that is not going to be an ongoing thing. Only to help a horse who is in rehab to form that NATURAL 10 or 15 degree bevel to that toe callus area. Only a tiny bit of callus is removed. The horse, with good movement, good way of going, balanced hooves, will maintain that rocker himself! 

I've seen it over and over and over again on hundreds of domestic horses --

Between the 'toe pillars' at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. THAT'S where you'll find the toe callus area. 

AND ... that's the proper BREAKOVER point of the hoof, too!  

http://www.barefoottrim.com/physiology/fronthoofangles.htm

I've also seen wild horse hooves, straight off the range, with beautiful hooves and they ALL have that slightely beveled TOE CALLUS between 10 and 2 on the hooves. 

Now whether or not they have "toe pillars", I haven't noticed to be perfectly honest. Wasn't looking for them. (And yes, it doesn't take long with most wild horses that are gathered and adopted out to humans to stand quietly and have their hooves handled without fuss if the teaching/training is correctly done. That's another forte of mine .. I LOVE working with fresh, wild horses - unruined by human hands and "training"!)

 But now, remember, I'm talking GENERALLY ... I'm not talking about hooves that need any sort of rehabbing or major hoof work done on them. 

Take a look at your horse's hooves. Do you see a slightly beveled TOE CALLUS on your horse's hooves? 

Take pics and post them if you can. 

I would LOVE to see what they've got. 

Was all this about as clear as mud? 

Speaking of which -- its time to get back outside to clear out more MUD leftover from Hurricane IRMA. I HATE my horses having to stand in MUD. Thankfully, they've got one dry spot where they can get their hooves out of water and mud ... and its right under the roof of their shelter!  Yay!!!  Am I worried about their hooves? Not at all ... even standing for a little while in knee deep water, as long as they can dry out then their hooves are STILL like cement!  

COMPLETE WITH TOE CALLUS AND TOE ROCKERS! 

Let's discuss this topic ... 1 -2- 3 ... GO! 

 

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 includingThe 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 hoofcare for the last 18 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. For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf

 

AND DON'T FORGET ... My LIVE, online "Natural Hoofcare 101" course begins NEXT WEEK~!  Check it out HERE:  http://integrativehorsecourses.com/online-classes.html .... we have a couple of 'seats' left. 

 

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