Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gene Ovnicek

Fox and I at an unregistered Dressage day last year. My first dressage test ever. You can see how nervous Fox and I both are. I believe we got fourth, the second test I was eliminated LOL. We got best turned out though.

Well last night I was lucky enough to attend a seminar held by Gene Ovnicek. I did take notes but half the time I was concentrating so much I forgot LOL. If you don't know, he is the Natural Balance guy. I was a bit worries that he would be touting his products all night but he didn't. He said the main thing to take away from the night is it is the natural balance trimming style that is important, get that right and what you do or don't put on the foot with some exceptions is largely irrelevant. And everything he talked about just made so much sense, some of it I already knew but those topics were always expanded on.

We covered the feral horse studies he had done, how they compared to current domestic horses and the things we put them through. The most interesting thing was that the lameness's that we are seeing now are completely different than what was going on even 50 years ago. Horses mainly travelled at slow to medium speeds in a straight line. Now horses are turning more and more circles. They aren't really built for turning in circles which is why there are so many new things cropping up. The coolest picture I saw was they put black ink on a board and rubbed the feral horses hooves on the board. What they found was that the frog took up the most ink. Some sole around the outside of the foot but barely any wall did. Fascinating.

We did a lot of basic anatomy which was really cool. I was fascinated at how important the check ligament at the back of the leg is and how much of a role it plays in a horses movement and the shape of their foot. If you have a short check ligament, you have a club foot, if you have a long check ligament you have a long low foot. Another interesting point was that the pairs of feet do not need to be the same. If your horse has a club foot, let it be a club foot. If you try and fix it by taking the heels down all you are doing is putting added strain on the internal structures of the foot. Same as trying to build heels in a low slung foot.

We did a lot of stuff on the breakover and the importance of the sole callous. Having a long toe means that the internal structures of the foot are put under a lot of additional strain just lifting the hoof off the ground. The sole callous is so important as that is where the point of the coffin bone is, if you weaken that, you put the coffin bone at risk of descending.

We learned about how a large deviation at the top of the foot by the coronary band indicates a thin sole. We learned about hoof mapping to find the centre of articulation and where the coffin bone sits in the hoof.

The section on mediolateral hoof balance was really interesting especially since I had just done some work on it for an assignment. Basically the traditional may of finding the M/L balance is fraught with error as it all depends on where you stand to look at the hoof. His way of finding the M/L balance is to look at how much wall there is around the sole. If there is the same amount of wall over the top of the sole all the way around, the hoof is in M/L balance. If one side is higher or lower then the hoof is not in balance. I'm so trying that with Fox today. He also emphasised how bad it is for a horse's M/L balance to be out. It compacts the coffin joint on one side and causes joint pain and difficulty moving and the horse eventually changes the position of his leg to make it more comfortable.

He then showed some remedial work done on pigeon toed horses. Amazing. The traditional way of trimming a pigeon toed horse doesn't see where the proper imbalance is and therefore trims it the wrong way. His way looks at all these different points and measurements and finds out that it is actually the lateral side of the hoof the is longer and trims accordingly. And you have a happy horse who stands straight.

He also talked a lot about how the balance of the feet affects the body. Out of balance feet often mean an out of balance body. So all this stuff got me thinking about how Fox's crazy feet have contributed to his overall going and body issues. What came first I guess is a kind of chicken or the egg kind of thing but it is definitely something I'm going to talk over with my trimmer and see if we can get Fox's feet straightened out really well. There is a workshop for farriers and trimmers today that I really hope he is going to. At the end, someone asked a question about body work that I didn't hear properly but Gene said if the feet aren't balanced you can do all the body work you like but unless you sort the feet out not much is going to change. So that's what I'm going to do.

By the way, you know it's cold when the fridges seems warm and your olive oil has solidified.


  1. Fascinating, and so true.
    I think it's important to differentiate between a leg that is crooked, and a foot that has been trimmed wrong.
    Thanks for the report, I really liked the comment about circles. No KIDDING!
    Longing, longing, longing, and oops the horse is all circled out. Lamed out.
    Straight forward, is how they were born to move, long sweeping turns.

    Great Post!

  2. Great that you found Gene Ovnicek's visit interesting. I was lucky enough to get to interview him while he was here and am putting something together for H&P, which will hopefully go to print. I recorded all his sessions if that's of any use.

  3. We are lucky enough to have Gene shoe for us. Two of our horses were lame (still after visiting several vets), one had stem cell therapy, but was still "off" on his right front. Both horses are now sound. What an incredibly knowledgeable man!