While photos can never fully replace seeing something with your own eyes, they can be a valuable aid in tracking the progress of your horse while it is transitioning from unhealthy to healthy feet.
For natural hoof care providers or owner trimmers wanting to keep a record of progress, a series of hoof photos is a very useful tool.
(please note that the ‘good’ examples are not referring to the quality of the hoof but rather the quality of the photo!)
Progress photos of a foundered horse.
The angle the photo is taken on needs to be consistent, or the photos can be misleading, making short heels appear long, long heels appear short etc.
The quality of the photo is equally important.
Blurry photos are a waste of time, as are photos that are taken too far away.
2 poor quality photos, the one on the left is too dark, the one on the right is partly in shadow and with sun glare on the front of the hoof. Both photos also have grass blocking the view of the hoof.
A photo of a hoof that is muddy or standing in long grass or deep sand is fairly pointless.
To get the best out of your hoof pics you need to get photos that are
The following sequence is a good basis for a series of hoof photos and will provide information while minimising distortion.
This sequence works well for both the horse owner and for natural hoof care practitioners who need to keep photographic records for case studies.
Side, front and sole photos should all have the hoof filling up the camera frame.
Most digital cameras have a close up photo setting or 2.
Set your camera to whatever close up setting you have, and then move the camera as close to the hoof as you can to get a good close up shot.
Don’t use the zoom for close up’s.
You should get a better quality photo by moving the camera towards the hoof.
Side on photos should be taken at right angles to the hoof with the camera lens aiming at the middle of the hoof.
The horse should be standing on level ground, preferably a smooth surface that doesn’t have any grass, or debris between the camera and the hoof.
For practitioners, a small square of plywood carried in the car is handy to place the hoof on if a concrete surface is not available.
Examples of side on photos
Front on photos should be taken with the camera aiming at the middle of the hoof, again, with the camera as close as you can get it to the hoof without the picture becoming blurry.
Try to keep the camera angle and height from the ground consistent here or you will sometimes get a reasonably ‘normal’ looking hoof capsule, then the next time something that is horribly flared looking.
Examples of front on photos
Sole view photos are also best taken as close as possible.
The camera lens should be pointing at the middle of the hoof.
The hoof should be picked out, clean and with the sole either in full sun or full shade, never half and half.
Examples of sole view photos
Photographing the limbs
Taking photos of the limbs can also be of benefit and could give vital clues to the origin of the hoof distortion patterns.
These photos are taken from the front, behind (if it is safe to do so) and both sides - from the chest to the ground and the hindquarter to the ground.
Good limb and whole horse photos depend on the photographer’s ability to contort!
For tall people and small ponies this can be interesting to watch. Likewise, for small photographers and big horses….
The front limbs, be sure to get as close as safely possible to the horse and have the camera aiming at the knee. You will have to crouch down to get this photo on the right angle. Be sure to get the top of the legs, part of the chest and the hooves in the photo.
Examples of photos of front limb photos
The whole horse
The icing on the cake is a great photo of the whole horse.
Properly done, this can give you a huge amount of information.
You may be able to pick up tension areas in the body that could be causing hoof distortion.
To take a useful body shot of the horse it needs to be standing square on a level surface.
The camera lens needs to be pointing at the middle of the horses shoulder.
Yes, the person behind the camera will probably have to squat down again to get the angle just right for this photo – you’ll have to crouch down a lot for the tiny ponies and maybe even stand on a bucket for the bigger horses!
Remember, just angling the camera is not good enough.
You need to have the camera pointing level with the shoulder.
You can make the most beautiful horse look hideous if you get the camera angle wrong….
Examples of whole body shots
For natural hoof care practitioners you are likely to end up with thousands of photos.
If you are trimming for other people make sure you have signed permission to;
Be sure they are labelled in a way that you will remember which horse it was.
Burn your photos to cd or flash drive or external hard drive every now and then to safeguard against losing them all if your computer dies, gets a virus or gets lost, burnt or stolen!
Cd’s don’t last forever but try not to shorten their lifespan further by leaving them in direct sunlight, near a heat source or expose them to extreme temperature changes.
The hind limbs, again, you’ll need to squat down a little to get a good photo of the hind limbs (a lot for ponies and minis ) and aim the camera at the hocks.
Don’t get too close!
This time use your zoom instead, rather than standing in the ‘danger zone’!
Examples of photos of the hind limbs