A Heel-First Landing vs. A Toe-First Landing Part 2
Does a horse need to land heel-first? What makes a heel-first landing so much better than a toe-first landing?
This is our second blog of the 4 part Scoot Boot blog series which aims to educate horse owners about the damaging effects of a toe-first landing, not only for the health of the hoof but the overall health of the horse. This blog outlines the importance of heel-first landings in horses and why it is the healthier, preferred landing. To read our first part of the series, please go to our blog ‘The Importance of a Heel First Landing Part 1’.
Read through our 4 part Scoot Boot blog series to discover the benefits of a barefoot rehabilitation method to achieve a heel-first landing, just the way nature intended…
Why is it Healthier for Horses to Land Heel-First?
The anatomy of a horse’s front hooves is specifically designed for a heel-first landing. The caudal area (the back) of the hoof contains the frog, digital cushion and lateral cartilage; these are all soft tissues that are designed for the absorption of concussive forces. When a horse lands heel-first on these structures, the forces of the impact can be dissipated efficiently and evenly between these soft tissues, preventing the forces from being absorbed by the ligaments and tendons in the lower limbs and skeletal structures.
A heel-first landing is also vital for the proper DEVELOPMENT of the digital cushion and the lateral cartilages.
(von Horst, 2013)
If a horse is landing toe-first, they are landing on the thinnest part of the sole, where the forces are unable to be dissipated and thus the concussive forces are absorbed by the horse’s lower limbs which are not designed for this. The thinnest part of the sole has the least amount of protection for the most sensitive parts of the hoof, such as the pedal bone. Over time, this can lead to conditions such as arthritis, ringbone, navicular and pedal osteitis.
Are Horses Supposed to Land Heel-First all the Time?
Although heel-first landings are the natural, healthier way for a horse to land on their front feet on level, hard ground, a horse can’t land on its heel in every scenario. In some circumstances, toe-first landings are a normal movement.
Horses can use a toe-first landing to accelerate themselves forward uphill, through slippery terrain (such as wet tarmac and mud) and rocky terrain. This is a perfectly normal and healthy movement for these conditions. However, this movement becomes unhealthy and abnormal when the horse uses a toe-first landing all, or most of the time. Over time, this can cause damage to the horse’s hooves, joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
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