Are We Overly Obsessed With Perfect Rads?

Last month, I was able to spend time at the EponaMind clinic in Paso Robles, CA. It was a great opportunity to meet people I’ve chatted with for years online, geeking out about hoof stuff! Of course, we were able to also learn from some fantastic minds in the hoofcare world – Monique Craig, John Craig, and Mike Savoldi gave some interesting talks and we were able to work on horses hands-on after that.


One topic that was brought up in the various lectures was the idea of a perfect hoof pastern axis and palmar angle. How often do we judge how well a horse is doing, soundness wise, by what their radiographs look like? I know many vets will say “that trim is beautiful” just by how the rads look on the screen, even if the horse is dead lame. If the horse disagrees with our trim/approach in their movement, does it matter if the rads look “gorgeous”?

This is something I have struggled with. How do we please the owners/veterinarians/other professionals AND listen to the horse, when the two don’t always seem to coincide?

John Craig in his lecture mentioned that the average horse studied, in over 2600 radiographic examples – including sound and lames horses- stands with phalanges/pasterns more to the upright side of alignment, which makes the HPA slightly “broken back.” This was statistically significant and the bell curve centered right around that broken back angle. This was fairly shocking! Especially hurting my brain a bit – I know how much Dr. Bowker says that broken back angles put strain on the ligaments surrounding the navicular bone.


That being said, the broken back angle they are talking about isn’t a negative palmar angle/severely broken back, which I think we can all agree is detrimental. Monique and John mentioned they like to see the hoof to be under the bony column, of course, with a reasonable palmar angle (not negative), but that not many horses will naturally have a perfectly straight HPA. So, with that said, are we actually over manipulating horses to try to see that straight HPA, when naturally they would not have that alignment? Are we forcing soft tissue to be in a position it “doesn’t want to be in”? Are we causing lameness this way?

I don’t have all the answers. I did discuss some of these ideas in my recent interview with Monique Craig, founder of EponaMind.  You can hear the interview here. 


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