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2017 Equine Podiatry Notes

How to Better Understand What We We See

Written and presented August 2017 by R.F. (Ric) Redden, DVM

Our eyes simply transfer images to the threshold of our brain as only a glimpse of what was actually before us. How we transfer that imprint to deeper thoughts and meaningful perception is unique to each of us at any given time. No one can actually view the world through another's eye therefore our perspective and perception will never be identical to that of others.  However, to enhance communication we must strive to bridge this gap and search for realistic ways to train the eye and process what we see in a communicative fashion so that once we can clearly see the forest we can then start to see the trees the limbs leaves and smallest acorn. Understanding what we see is obtained through years of searching the finest details we can possibly imagine using a disciplined, methodical training protocol. Repetitious exercises that are well tuned and designed to consistently eliminate eye error are required for most everything we excel in.

How to view feet in order to learn the secret message

1. Start with only 2 planes and focus your primary vision on an imaginary laser passing through the sagittal plane of the foot and the transvers plane at a level that is centered midway between the ground and coronary band.

This perspective requires photos taken along these planes as it is not practical or possible to view this plane with the eye. Objects viewed through a lens are identical to what the camera sees not what the person taking the photos think they see. We have all been there and viewed our distorted photos.

It is very important that we practice taking these precise repeatable views in order to process this image over and over, so we start to all see the same level of detail even when viewing the foot from others perspective views. Also, be sure to put all direct light behind you to prevent blackout photos.

2. Once we have captured the most represented perspective of the foot we can further our image /brain transfer by putting what we see on paper. My students often say, "I can't draw" my answer that's because you are only looking instead of seeing. Our pen or pencil will follow the command of our brain as it traces the image that we have perceived. This may be a bit awkward for a spell but improves quickly once the real image gets further across the processing threshold that is considerably different than just seeing.

3. Develop a systemic approach to sketching what you see perfecting it as your eye hand coordination improves.

To do this we must let our eye see specific areas of the foot in a systematic fashion, e.g. dorsal face, coronary band, ground surface, heel and bulbs and pastern plane and alignment relative to the planes of the foot. Repeat the sequence with every foot you observe from the smallest details from this day forth and soon your eye starts to transfer very small details to your brain that before never crossed that line.

4. Break the foot profile down into smaller zones, starting with half then quarter, 1/8 etc.  Just like a zoom view and study what you see, consider the options, healthy areas, pathological or just different from the last feet studied as well as the text book model. Practice drawing with various sized grid patterns overlays.

Feet are just as unique as faces on people or finger prints. Stop and think, do we consider faces pathological or unhealthy simply because they are uniquely different? Of course, not and we must become aware of the healthy unique characteristics of feet and learn to identify the borderline between unhealthy areas and remarkable pathology.

Equine podiatry is as much about farrier knowledge and experience as it is veterinary medicine and the responsibility to the overall health and maintenance falls equally to the respective professions. Sounds simple and straight forward however the efficiency of the collaborative efforts is dependent on the mutual level of knowledge and skills of each professional as they collaborate on podiatry issues. Developing an eye for detailed characteristics is the first step in our pursuit to better understand podiatry principals and is essential for collaborating professional to communicate goals, options and monitor response.

5.  External characteristics of greatest interest 

Hoof profile, the angles and planes that can involve the wall surface from coronary band to the ground contact can change every few centimeters and each alteration is there for a reason and considerably different than text book models.

Growth ring patterns toe to heel, medial to lateral describes the history that is a direct influence of the nutrient supply to the tubular and solar papillae. This in turn is directly influenced by the forces within the foot giving meaning to the word mechanics. 

Genetics plays a major role in the basic stereotype of feet however other variables also come into play.  Age, breed, use, nutrition, management, injury and disease all deserve great respect.

Therefore, the tremendous need for us to continuously tune our eye for subtle little clues that can be of greatest value to our discovery exercise should never end.

Recognizing the collaborating professional’s knowledge and skill level for the issue goes a long way to avoid misgivings, poor communication and even poorer results. This can often be confirmed with basic but relatively accurate sketches drawn by each professional that clearly describe what each sees and understands. This common thread is vital to assure success.

Our keen observation is one of our greatest assets. It is one thing to see an object and quite another to understand the many very small details that hold the key to the information we seek.  It is not only our eyes that transfer information to our grey matter, but the summation of our other senses certainly compliments what we see and understand.  Experienced hands that have had hundreds even thousands of feet pass over the many prop receptors located in the finger tips and palms develop a memory for details that otherwise simply cannot compare.  This natural body memory can only be obtained with years of full time farrier experience. We all are creatures of habit and repetition is our go-to learning tool. Experience can be our greatest asset, especially if we are constantly fine tuning our senses for the smallest details.  Nothing hurts us more than a bad experience as it can wreck our confidence level and if we can’t quickly recognize the major flaws and source of our failures it can be tough to give it another try.

I often hear, “I did it just like you said, and it didn’t work.”  This failure is multifaceted.  I may not have transmitted the info properly relative to the frequency of the receiver and taken for granted we were on the same page from the start.  It has always fascinated me to dissect what several different listeners think they heard or viewed and compare it to how they reveal what they really understand.  The receiver often says I didn’t think you really meant for me to do it exactly like your drawing as it seemed too simple to hold fine details. 

This is the point of this session:  to understand what we see, process the information by breaking it down into smaller, simpler components, and begin to make logical sense. Skill development follows keen observation, and both require a lifetime to reach full potential. The more we see, the better our skills for interpretation, planning the work and then working the plan.

To start training the eye, I like to see an imaginary plumb line reference for most all external features.  We all have developed an eye for plumb since we were toddlers, as structural strength requires load to be plumb, Consequently, we do not throw this natural insight away when hanging pictures, posters etc. It is the norm, so let’s use it when observing the foot.  To simplify our perception of how the external shape relates to plumb, we need to view it in its purest form, which is perpendicular to the vertical and horizontal plane. Photos taken in this ideal plane are much easier to observe and thus eliminates image distortion that is produced by the bird’s eye view.  Once the eye is trained to repeatedly detect the various angles and unique characteristics in a disciplined methodical manner, the bird’s eye observation can quickly adjust the view from what has been previously learned, programed and second nature.

Develop a visual system and consistently use it every single time you observe a foot without exception. I personally start by observing the toe angle.   Visualizing plumb and 45 degrees is quite simple as it falls half way between. Divide the upper 45 again included with the lower 45, which will equal 67.5 degrees, and you have an angle that mimics a lot of very upright feet and/or a higher-grade club foot. Now to visualize a relatively healthy toe angle hoof angle of 56 degrees, you are adding 22.5 degrees to the original 45 degrees, which is what you see in a healthy, robust foot.

Another way to quickly determine the approximant toe angle is to visualize plumb and add or subtract 5 to 10 degrees relative to which side of the 45-degree imaginary line the angle falls.  As you observe the toe profile as well as the negative space around it you may find several planes to draw your line of reference.  Taking this into consideration, remember each strikingly different plane is there for a reason and influenced by the mechanical forces and their direct influence on the vascular supply to the horn growth centers.  This begins the thought process of better understanding the model.