Why are hoof photos useful for you as the owner? What kind of photos should you take, and how often? In this blog post we talk about the benefits of photographing your horse's hooves regularly, and show you how to take photos that help you track your horse's hoof development. If you are interested in purchasing Flex Boots and would like us to help you determine what size is best for your horse or pony, this blog post is especially useful for you as it shows you what photos we need to see, in order to determine Flex Boots' suitability for your horse or pony.
Benefits of hoof photos
First of all, hoof photos can help you notice things in the hooves, such as flares, medio-lateral imbalances (that means, the inside and outside of the hoof wall are different heights) and growth rings. Especially for an inexperienced eye, it's easier to study a still image than a live hoof. With a photo, you can take all the time you need to study it. And if you're not sure how to identify such issues in a hoof, we recommend this short course that teaches you how to read the horse's hoof.
Hooves develop and change constantly depending on seasons, living conditions, diet, exercise and trimming, and when you see your horse's hooves every day, it's hard to see just how much they change. By taking hoof photos for example every three months, you will be able to review the changes that happen in the hooves, and determine if they are positive changes or negative. This enables you to make informed decisions regarding your horse's care and management.
When are hoof photos useful
Most hoof boot manufacturers, including us, provide free sizing and fitting advice to their customers. To give you the best possible advice, we need to see photos of your horse's hooves, as well as have the width and length measurements of the hooves; because good boot fit isn't just about the measurements, the hoof shape and condition play a big part in whether a boot will fit the hoof or not. So if you are thinking of purchasing hoof boots for your equine partner, knowing how to take clear, good quality hoof photos will go a long way in ensuring you get the sizing right first time around.
How to prepare for good quality hoof photos
As with many things in life, preparation is key to taking good quality hoof photos.
Find an area with a hard surface to take photos on
Taking photos on a surface where the hoof sinks into it, such as grass, is no good. In order to properly see and assess the hoof, it needs to be on a solid surface. If you don't have a concrete surface or similar to use, you can put the hoof on a sturdy wooden board to take the photos.
Clean the hooves thoroughly
The cleaner the hooves, the more details you can see. Make sure the hoof wall, sole and frog are all clean. A wire brush is great for getting the hooves super clean!Just be careful not to brush the sensitive parts of the leg with it. Make sure that the white line and collateral grooves are clean of all dirt.
Make sure your horse is comfortable and happy to stand still
Offer your horse a hay net, or get them to stand next to a buddy, if that helps him/her stand still. If the horse won't stand still for some reason, abort the mission and try to take photos on another day.
Pay attention to lighting
The best weather to take hoof photos is a slightly overcast day, when the sun isn't shining brightly from any direction. If you are taking photos on a sunny day, play with the direction you take the photos on in relation to where the sun shines from, to see how you can get the clearest photos.
What kinds of photos should you take?
It's important that the hoof photos are taken in the same way and from the same angles every time. This way you can compare the photos like-for-like, and get a realistic idea of what is happening in the hooves.
As a bare minimum, a lateral (side) view and a sole view are worth photographing. But to get the most accurate idea of the hooves' condition and proportions, we recommend taking photos from a few other angles too. Below are our suggestion for all the different hoof photo angles, and how you can achieve the most realistic, accurate photos.
For each angle, we have also listed the things that you can assess from the photo.
1. Side view photo
Put the camera on ground level. If you use your phone camera, make sure the phone is turned on the side that has the camera lens, so that the lens is closest to the ground level.
Have the camera approximately 1 metre away from the hoof, and zoom in so that you can see the entire hoof, pastern and lower part of the cannon bone.
Take the photo perpendicular to the hoof, so that you can almost see the inside heel bulb, but not quite.
What can you tell from the (lateral) side view photo?
You can see if the toe is flared, what the dorsal (front) hoof wall angle is like, and what the heel height and angle is.
2. Front view photo
Have the camera on ground level. If you use your phone camera, make sure the phone is turned on the side that has the camera lens, so that the lens is closest to the ground level.
Have the camera approximately 1 metre away from the hoof, and zoom so that you can see the entire hoof and pastern.
Take the photo straight towards the front middle of the hoof.
What can you tell from the front view photo?
You can see if the sides of the hoof are flared, and if the hoof is medio-laterally balanced by seeing if the coronet band is level. You can also see if the hooves are crooked; turned in aka pigeon toed, or turned out aka splay footed.
3. Sole photo
Hold the foot up and aim the camera straight towards the sole. Make sure that your hand if not covering the sole and the whole sole is visible.
Have the camera at the same angle as the sole, so that you're not taking the photo with a tilted camera.
What can you tell from the sole view photo?
This photo angle tells you a lot about a hoof! You can assess the frog health, see if the hoof is balanced on both sides of the hoof and front to back, check where the heels are in relation to the frog and whether the widest part of the hoof is where it should be. You can also assess the health of the white line, and identify flares.
4. Sole oblique photo
Hold the foot up and aim the camera towards the sole at an angle.
Make sure that the whole sole is visible.
What can you tell from the oblique view photo?
This angle is great for checking sole concavity. You can get more information on the heel conformation, and the height of the hoof walls. It's also another view to assess the height and health of the frog.
By the way, if you're wondering what sole concavity is or why it's important, we recommend you read this awesome blog post about hoof concavity!
5. Heel photo
Hold the foot up with toes pointing slightly down, and aim the camera towards the heels in an angle whereby you still see the toe and sole a little bit.
What can you tell from the heel view photo?
This photo isn't necessary for sizing hoof boots, but gives you valuable information about the condition of the heels and frog, and shows any imbalances in the wall height. It's also useful to check that the heels are the same height, and that the soft tissue (heel bulbs) are level with each other.
A quick tip regarding hoof photos
After taking all the photos, it's really easy to get confused about which foot is which. An easy way to keep track of which foot you're photographing is to first take a photo of the whole leg you're about to photograph, then take the photos of that one foot from all the angles listed above, then once you're done take another photo of the whole leg. And only after that, move to the next hoof. This way, when you've taken all the photos, they are in order and you can easily see which hoof is which leg.
Then, edit each photo by labelling it with the hoof name (left front/right hind, etc) and it's also a good idea to write down the date the photos were taken.
We hope you're enjoyed this blog post and it's inspired you to start taking regular photos of your horse's hooves!
If you'd like to learn more about holistic hoof care, these online courses will help you!