Posted in  Understand Hoof Health  on  4 April, 2016 by  Debs Crosoer

We’ve all seen a photo of a friend at some point and hardly recognised them because they really don’t look like that. It can be the same with hooves.

Hooves can be baffling to photograph. If the camera angle isn’t right the hoof can look completely different in real life compared to how the photo looks.

The first set of photos I took of my horses feet, had me convinced I was losing my mind. I’d just got home from the yard (a 1/2 hour drive away), and excitedly (but patiently – computers were sloooow back then) downloaded the photos from my new camera.

On seeing them, I was horrified! How could my horses feet possibly be that unbalanced and I’d not noticed! I got straight back in my car and drove all the way back to the yard to look at the hooves – which looked nothing like the photos. Lesson learned.

I was once sent a series of photos, which I shared with a colleague for help. We concluded, that the foot was either high on the inside, or high on the outside, or had long toes, or had short toes or… you get the idea – we were wondering if the photos had been taken months apart, or had been trimmed in between the shots, or were of different hooves and had been labelled wrong…

Nope. Just a lame horse with interestingly wonky feet.

Take a look at this post I created on facebook to show what I mean.


The wonderful thing about the internet is that you can ask for help and advice from pretty much anyone, anywhere in the world. We simply aren’t restricted by location anymore. This has been wonderfully helpful for horse owners everywhere, both for education purposes and for getting help for a horse when there isn’t anyone available to help in the real world.

Photos are a big part of that. A picture tells a thousand words (so they say). It is possible though, that some of those words are lies!

I see so many posts on facebook asking for advice based on photos, and I don’t, in any way, want to discourage people from doing that. What I do want to do is increase awareness of how misleading those photos can be.

I took this photo the other day


My reaction was a little ‘wtf!?!?! Did I do that!!’ (yes my internal thoughts do over use exclamation marks)

The camera angle was off by a tiny bit - and I can’t emphasise enough, how little. It doesn’t help that this hoof isn’t straight on the leg, but that’s a relatively common problem with horses.

Less Wonky?

Now that looks much straighter.

The first photo could have easily inspired an onslaught of ‘sack the trimmer’ ‘unbalanced’ and other far less complimentary responses.

The second photo, far less so, though I’m not going to kid myself that either photo wouldn’t inspire a world of abuse and criticism, this is the internet afterall (how else is someone to make themselves feel powerful!)

When I put the 2 photos together, they didn’t look nearly as different as they did in isolation

Not so different?

Photos in isolation can be very misleading. Even a series of photos can be very misleading.

I asked for some comments about the 1st photo on a facebook group and I got a very interesting range of answers. I suspect that admitting in my post that I was looking for comments for an article may have skewed the answers I got.

I was told the hoof looked wonky.
The right side needed trimming down.
 Someone mentioned stringhalt (and I was left wondering if they hadn’t accidentally posted on the wrong thread) and called for wedges and shoes.
I’m left handed
There was a scurrilous claim about my competency
A compliment for my clean finger nails
And a whole heap of people (mostly professionals) saying ‘you can’t tell anything at all’ and/or wonky photo.

So, the fact I’d told people I was going to use their comments in an article, probably made people a bit more reluctant to comment at all.

Every day I see photos on facebook, with a whole bunch of trimming instructions, many of them conflicting.

Interestingly, many of the pro’s who commented, almost all with ‘can’t tell from a photo’ I almost never see giving trimming advice over the internet.

I have for years said that anyone who knows enough to give trimming advice, also knows enough to never give trimming advice from a photo, and never in a public forum.

Mostly people who know better simply don’t comment on these kinds of threads. If I had been a worried horse owner simply looking for some help with my horse I was worring about, I may well have been very deflated by the amount of ‘can’t tell a thing ‘ responses. However those responses would likely have been the most accurate.

In response to the comments given...

Yes the foot does look wonky
No the right side doesn’t need trimming down
It’s a front foot, so can’t possibly have string halt, and is seriously rotated so wedges and/or shoes would be very destructive.
Nope I’m a righty
The horse, owner and vet are very happy with my work, xrays have confirmed the foot is in balance, and we’re chosing the horses comfort over the hoof shape (though I agree - it looks odd).
Thank you! My finger nails aren’t often clean 🙂
And YES! Absolutely you can’t tell a blooming thing from a photo, particularly one in isolation. This is actually one of the most deformed feet I have ever seen, and has foundered on all 3 axes

So why do we ask for photos at all?

Well, it helps give a better idea of what someone is talking about. I’ve had clients describe their horse’s hooves as ‘shamefully overgrown’ and they’ve got maybe 1mm of extra growth. I’ve also had clients describe their horse’s hooves, as ‘not very overgrown at all, it can wait a few weeks’ and they’ve had 20mm of extra wall height.

Sometimes you just can’t tell what someone means by the words they say, as it’s all down to perspective and personal interpretation. A photo can help a lot with this.

A photo can show up big and obvious problems, that may not have been mentioned by an owner, particularly if its ‘always been like that’

A photo can give a better idea of what you’re talking about. You know, someone is asking about something simple, but then you see a photo and you think - whoa! we have far bigger problems, call your vet!

Photos are great, but they’re not infallible, and they can be very misleading. They don’t tell you the whole story, they show 1 snippet in time from a certain angle.

Trimming advice and balance evaluation is very dangerous when given based on photos, particularly in a group setting.

You end up with a mish mash of a whole bunch of different trim styles giving conflicting advice, which I’m fairly sure only adds to the confusion, rather than helps. (and if I can be just a touch contentious, it tends to be the more extreme trimming styles that are more free with their online trimming advice)

Too often I’ve seen advice given that would result in red stuff leaking out of a foot. I’ve even been offered advice, unsolicited, that would result in harm to a horse!

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About the author

Debs is a practicing Equine Podiatrist with over 15 years experience, author, and educator.

She’s here to show you how to simplify your horse’s management painlessly so you feel in control and have a straightforward system that works for you.

When she’s not working you can find her playing with her own horses, watching geeky sci-fi or baking epic cakes.

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