This past weekend, as Hurricane Sandy was coming up the coast, we held our 5th Annual Fall Daisy Haven Farm Recognizing Hoof Capsule Distortion Workshop in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania.

Daisy Haven Farm right in the path of Sandy!

It was attended by a large group of apparent die-hard hoof care providers, massage therapists, horse owners, and veterinarians. They brought with them a broad range of experiences and education from many locations across the country. The workshop was geared towards recognizing hoof capsule distortion utilizing a variety of teaching tools to train your eye.

As we kept one wary eye on Sandy, the workshop covered a wide variety of subject matter: structure and function of the foot, the impact of environment, the feet/teeth/body connection, amongst many other things. 

However, what stands out to me most after this weekend is the ability of our students to persevere in the face of impending catastrophic weather. Talk about a dedicated group of people. Despite all the juggling we had to do, squeezing a four day course into three days given the impending storm, the participants’ enthusiasm overcame the wind whipping through the trees as the rain started driving through the area at the lead edge of the storm.  

What makes our workshops unique amongst other hoof workshops is that we’re not here to teach you a trim style. Our goal is to help our students recognize hoof capsule distortions on a large and small scale, orienting the foot around the center of articulation of the hoof capsule. To facilitate this we utilize our extensive database of hoof pictures with corresponding x-rays. We also use the radiograph equipment on cadaver legs throughout the workshop to provide instant feedback to each participant.  

At the beginning of the workshop we found most students had a much more difficult time placing the coffin bone (P3) in the hoof capsule than they anticipated. This is typical for most workshops.  We then utilized our case studies to help students build a more diverse range of understanding of how the foot distorts and what is going on on the inside.

As the clouds came rolling in, we moved on to cadaver hoof analysis, where students applied theory to the foot in front of them. We radiographed each cadaver leg before the course, and then students checked their work with after x-rays.  

Whether it was the motivation of Sandy creeping closer, or just the group of exceptionally bright attendees (I believe the latter), after the first few days of the clinic every student was significantly more consistent at placing P3 in the hoof capsule. In fact very consistent, as the plan the students implemented on their cadaver hooves proved to be spot-on when examining the after radiographs.

We did actually squeeze in some work on live horses, utilizing our farrier shop for work with composite shoes and hunkering down in the back of the barn out of the wind and rain to correct some significant distortion in a few barefoot horses. These were truly die-hard hoof people.

A few of the students got to experience the full rage of Sandy with us as their travel home was too treacherous. We had a lot of fun “talking hoof” during the storm and were grateful to keep power so the computer was accessible.

We always ask our students for their feedback after a course, so we know what they found most impactful, not to mention what we can improve on for the next course. Here are just a few comments from this weekend’s participants. I believe they say it better than I ever could.

“The most impactful exercise for me was being challenged to visualize the bone and soft tissue placement inside the hoof. Having the cadaver legs already numbered and x-rayed so that we could trim the feet and then have the farrier work reviewed by you and your staff was awesome. Having the legs x-rayed so that we could see the resulting change hoof/laminar relation, palmar angle change, and bone alignment was mind blowing. This had to be the neatest clinic I’ve ever been to.”  Tony H., North Carolina, Farrier

“Your format with lecture & discussion and then the mapping and trimming is genius! That combined with digital x-ray “on the spot” plus your feedback was absolutely incredible. One of the things that I am always impressed with is your ability to convey your message without “giving away ” all the answers. Causing your students to think and formulate their own plan makes you a very good teacher! One thing that I noticed is your exceptional ability to adapt to change. With the storm coming in, you had to make quick decisions about how to proceed. I observed you “behind the scenes” adjusting the schedule and placing certain members of your team with certain students/personalities so that they would get the most out of the time available. Finally another high point for me was the fact that you draw a diverse crowd. I was able to meet other barefoot people, metal farriers and horse owners, all with seemingly open minds! I was very nice and it has changed my opinion about other areas in hoof care that I was previously close minded to. Thank you again and hats off to you, your team, husband and family!”.  Joe L., New York, Barefoot Trimmer

“The most helpful thing is learning about how a good trim can effect the center of rotation: if a horse is going to apply all that weight-bearing for 100 miles, you need it to be perfectly balanced and perfectly aligned.” Philip H., New Mexico, Endurance Manager/Trainer, and Barefoot Trimmer

“I think [the cadavers] help new trimmers and even experienced trimmers by allowing them to trim without the risk of injuring a live horse. And being able to dissect the foot and radiograph it are some of the best learning tools.”  Tony G., Pennsylvania, Farrier

“As a hoof care professional it is a great opportunity to check the internal results of your trim using an on-site radiograph machine.”  Kate S., Pennsylvania, Farrier

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the benefit of the digital x-ray machine in my own hoof care practice for the past five years. It has taught me an incredible amount about the foot and how to interpret the external landmarks in relation to the internal structures. I am grateful to be able to share that experience with others and through them, help more horses, apparently regardless of the weather.

For more information on future workshops in recognizing hoof capsule distortion please see our website: