I am going to summarise just a few of the principles of the E.L.P.O (Equine Lameness Prevention Organisation) Hoof Evaluation Protocol hopefully giving you a flavour of the protocol and why I support this technique.
The principal of this method comes from much scientific research of self maintaining feet (both wild and domestic horses), this research has been supported anecdotally and following scientific scrutiny. A specific goal of this evaluation protocol is to recognise and treat hoof capsule distortion before these distortions create pathologies which in turn negatively affect performance or result in lameness.
The E.L.P.O protocol gives clear guidance on how the outer hoof structure is related to the inner components and uses static landmarks on the bottom of the foot to maintain a parallel relationship between the front surface of the hoof and the Coffin bone, helping avoid dorsal hoof capsule distortion. Together with this it is equally important to optimise the efficiency of the back part of the hoof (heel, frog, bars) and create a base for support by removing distortions that may cause pain and other pathologies that leading to a toe-first-landing.
Flat and Heel First Landing
Research has supported that a toe first landing is the primary cause of trauma to the coffin joint (shown as DIP joint below), navicular bone and impar & suspensory ligaments.
So the primary focus is supporting and aligning the joints and optimising the shock absorbing upon landing and loading. Gaining a flat or slightly heel first landing and removing hoof capsule distortion will then dramatically reduce the likeliness of lower limb issues such as Navicular Syndrome, heel pain, contracted heels, Impar ligament strain, Suspensory ligament strain, Ring Bone and certain cases or Laminitis and Founder. As a horse owner you can recognise subtle lameness issues or gait faults that can be early indications that hoof distortion maybe prevented. If you notice that your horse is stumbling, forging or interfering then upon closer inspection you may find that your horse has a toe first landing as opposed to a flat or slightly heel first landing (which is optimal). Lameness can be prevented but it means recognising subtle hoof distortions early on.
Should you wish to read the protocol in full click on the link below: