PERSPECTIVES: Critique and Response

by Matthew Taimuty - Dave Duckett - Gene Ovnicek

published in the ANVIL Magazine, July 1997

Letter from Matthew Taimuty, CJF

Dear Editor,

In reference to the ANVIL Magazine October, 1996 article, "Applying the Equine Digit Support System," by Gene Ovnicek, there are some inherent problems with his methods. I feel obligated to point them out, as they will cause some predictable problems.

First, let me say the principle that this system is based on was developed by Dave Duckett over ten years ago. I am surprised and disappointed that Gene could not see fit to give credit where credit is due. I find this behavior highly unprofessional. I have written several articles based on the Duckett system and have always given him the credit he deserves. Fair is fair, Gene.

Second, there are some serious problems with the biomechanics of this shoe. Gene has the right idea about moving the support and breakover back under the bony column. The problem is that his mapping of the hoof is incorrect. On page 26 of the October, '96 issue, the caption for photograph #3 reads: "Mark the apex of the frog, a point 3/4" behind the apex (which should be the widest point of the foot). . . The widest point of the foot is generally the area to which the bars extend. Radiographically, it will line up under the center of articulation." He is referring to the bridge, a term Duckett coined a long time ago. Gene's mapping of the bridge is incorrect. I'll explain momentarily. Gene goes on to write, "The relationship between the frog and the coffin bone never changes. It is the only true reference. . . ." This is a distorted reference to Duckett's Dot. The Dot is a point 3/8" behind the apex of a trimmed frog and refers to the center of the coffin bone. That is the only true anatomical reference point mappable on the outside of the hoof capsule that never changes. What is the difference between the apex and the Dot? Plenty. Duckett's Dot in its proper context is but one step in the formula Duckett worked out that accurately maps the location of the bridge and thus the center of articulation, which is the coffin joint.

Taken from Prof. William Russell's Book, Scientific Horseshoeing
Image coming soon!
Figure 23, page 97
Scientific Horseshoeing, Reprinted
11th Edition, by Prof. William Russell

For this book, contact Reuel Darling,
17683 Toolhouse Rd., Clovis, CA 93612
Phone: (209) 298-3333
Showing the undersurface of a perfect hoof properly prepared for the shoe with guide lines for leveling and balancing the foot.
A, Center of frog cleft in line with the insertions of front and back tendons, and parallel to their straight line of movement.
B, B, Line through longitudinal center of foot, dividing it into exact halves and indicating middle of heels and front toe.
C, C, Line transversely across center of foot midway through inside and outside quarters. The point of intersection of these lines indicates the normal center of gravity.
D, D, D, D, Intersection lines marking the width of inside and outside toes and heels.
E, E, Branches or forks of the frog on either side of the median cleft.
F, F, Bars on either side of the frog.
G, G, Commisures or grooves between the bar and frog.
H, H, H, H, Line marking height of heels from coronet to base.
I, I, Concave surface of sole.
J, J, J, J, Wall-bearing surface leveled and prepared for the shoe.

If you reference page 28, photo and caption #10, you will see the marks that Gene made on the sole. If you reference the dot as halfway between Gene's "bridge" and the apex of the frog (he measured the whole distance as 3/4" - half that is 3/8"), then extend your dividers to the widest point of the frog, you will have a measurement that is exactly half the length of the entire hoof capsule from toe to heel bulb hairline. Under that midpoint lies the center of the coffin joint. That reference is about 3/8" behind the point Gene marked. Why is that significant? Because the shoe should be centered around the bridge. Gene never mentioned that critical bit of information. The distance between the Dot and the bridge is not constant. It changes with the size and shape of the foot. It will even change on the same foot over time as the foot remodels.

If you further reference the bridge with your calipers, measure to the widest point of the frog (in this case but not all cases, which I'll explain later) and extend that measurement forward, thus dividing the bearing surface of the hoof in halves, you will find the anterior mark just about that black mark, perhaps 3/4" back from the toe. That point is where the breakover should be set. If you draw a line through that point that is perpendicular to the A/P axis of the sole, you will reference the toe pillars. (Clue: they are parallel A/P lines with the buttresses of the heels.) The toe pillars must be supported by the shoe as they are the anterior weight-bearing points of the hoof.

Incidentally, Ovnicek himself used this method of parallel lines and connecting opposite corners in an "X" to mark the bridge in a lecture he gave at the 1994 Laminitis Symposium. I have to wonder why he abandoned his own work that way. Could it be that Duckett used the same system many years earlier? Or that Russell used a similar diagram in 1903? Or is he trying to simplify something that cannot be simplified?

Now look at photo #14 on page 29. The anterior aspect of the shoe is actually behind the proper point of breakover (the black spot is visible in front of the shoe), the breakover is nearly a half inch behind its proper location and the toe pillars are completely unsupported. If this horse is used much at all, the quarters will collapse because they are being asked to support weight they are not designed to support.

If some farriers try this, they will be in for a rude surprise when the quarters blow out. How do I know this? I have had exactly that happen to me when I first tried to use the "four point system" as taught to me by someone other than Duckett.

There are several versions of this system being sold to the horse business these days and all are variations on Duckett's original work. They all suffer the same faults. They do not hold true to the anatomy and biomechanics that make Duckett's system so effective. There are no shortcuts. I have tried them all and had them all fail. I am not alone. There are hundreds of farriers - perhaps thousands - who have tried and are trying these other methods. They fail to get the results promised and end up making horses sore or downright lame. Then a good system gets a bad rap because of misrepresentation.

Now to explain the widest point of the frog. Somewhere, the powers that be in the farrier industry decided that all horses should be trimmed to the widest point of the frog. Most of us tried it for awhile, Gene included. Doug Butler stated it best when he debunked the theory in the July/August, 1996 issue of the American Farriers Journal. In his article, "In Defense of Tradition and Common Sense," he stated: "The idea that every foot should be trimmed to the widest point of the frog doesn't make sense for every foot. Does this refer to a trimmed or untrimmed frog - the ground surface or the portion that joins the periople?" In most cases, trimming to the widest point of the frog will result in a broken back hoof axis, heel bruising and ultimately will lead to underrun heels and a long toe. Again, I state my own experience and that of many other farriers who tried this recent fad.

The first reference I heard to this trimming method was at the 1994 Laminitis Symposium when Grant Moon recommended trimming to the widest point of the frog on horses with crushed, underrun heels, removing damaged horn, then wedging them back up to get proper digital alignment. Did the last portion of this method get lost in the translation?

The bottom line is that biomechanical science can only produce one correct answer. If everybody takes their own angle on the truth, then the truth gets lost. When that happens, who suffers? The horse. Think about it, folks.

Matthew Taimuty, CJF
Colora, Maryland

Letter from Dave Duckett, FWCF

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the letter written to ANVIL Magazine by Matthew Taimuty of Colora, Maryland. By the comments he has made, Mr. Taimuty is obviously an astute and avid reader into theoretical aspects of farrier science. Although I welcome the opportunity to respond to the elements of Mr. Taimuty's letter, this has provided a vehicle for me to express my despondency with the current wave of inaccurate and misleading information that is circulating in our industry. I certainly appreciate your concerns and those of your readers.

I would like to begin by clarifying one major reference that Mr. Taimuty has made regarding the Four Point Trim. Although this system has become recognized in the media through articles and promotional efforts, I wish to clarify that this system is totally separate from that which I have established and taught in the United States since the early '80s. Rick Redden has stated in the past that the Four Point Trim method was based upon my work also, though I have never been consulted on that of which he now promotes. However, it does use elements of my work, specifically the four weight-bearing areas of the foot. I see the confusion in many practitioners' minds between the Four Point Trim and the four weight-bearing areas. At the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium I lectured on my technique which of course included the four weight- bearing points, the Dot, bridge, pillars, etc., and submitted my paper on The External Reference Points of the Equine Hoof.

The concepts of which I teach and promote are totally unique, much different from what traditional farriery has taught. From the onset of my teaching, I have subscribed to the understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the foot. In doing so I have ironed out the wrinkles and concluded that working from its center to the peripheral form is a totally different concept in the teachings of the past and present. Moreover, introducing biomechanics and joint kinematics into this forum of farriery presents a totally different perspective which cannot be disputed.

Recently, too many people are approaching me with negative comments on the Four Point Trim. It is not only distracting but quite disturbing when I have to define these issues and clarify techniques as a prelude to the presentations that I give to horse owners, farriers and veterinarians. Commonly their statements refer to the unsoundness of their animals after they have followed the procedure of the Four Point Trim. Weekly I receive telephone calls from farriers employing the Four Point Trim technique, wanting to know where they have gone wrong, because ultimately they are being blamed for soreness of the horse. Obviously this has been a concern, as readers can see that hoof hardener is not being promoted along with the video.

It's evident to me (and to which Mr. Taimuty has alluded) that many of the current clinicians base their theories and approaches on my work, most popularly the Dot, the bridge, the pillars, four weight-bearing areas and the center of rotation and the center of mass. Few people directly reference my work as the foundation of their theories and procedures; some reference me in their writings, but my name appears in the corner somewhere or is jumbled up with others to diffuse the importance. Mr. Taimuty has specifically addressed one article in your magazine; yet there are articles in other periodicals and promotions that could come into focus, as well. In this modern day, the face of the industry is rapidly changing and with this change, I take note that the majority of clinicians now are the producers or promoters of products.

I would like to believe that everyone's intentions are good, but having to sell a product or an idea, it is commercially important to have a unique approach in the marketing of one's product. Unfortunately, there are too many out there who have manipulated my work (as Mr. Taimuty has pointed out) by changing the names or trying to redefine the position of my external references of the foot in an attempt to create their own identity or, more importantly, to try to skirt around the patent and copyright laws.

It is not my intent to stand in the path of anyone who wishes to expand upon the work that I have done, to write articles associated with the subject matter, or to promote a product that is beneficial to the industry. Those of us who do should be held to a moral, ethical and legal responsibility to comply with the established protocol.

It seems obvious that Mr. Taimuty has concluded that many of the theories that are now being promoted fall short of the claims made by their promoters. It is only a matter of time when farriers and the horse- owning public in general will come to realize the same. Unfortunately, at the same time the industry may begin to lose faith in my work, which is the foundation of all this modern-day thinking.

Mr. Taimuty has referred to Russell and has addressed the negative- thinking people who believe that my work is based upon Russell of 1903 and also that of Oberg of 1919. I can assure the ANVIL Magazine and its readers that I was unaware of such work until Reuel Darling of Clovis, California informed me of the existence of Russell's work the day before I was to give my presentation at the AFA Convention in 1987. At the time this news was somewhat devastating, considering my years of developing criteria in order to gain the geometry of the balanced foot - yet I was proud of the fact that my thinking was on the lines of someone who preceded me 80 years earlier. Russell's work in his day was not only unique but an advance in farriery science. However, there are fundamental differences between my work and that of Russell's. Without writing volumes upon this subject explaining in detail, I submit just a couple of differences for the readers of ANVIL Magazine to ponder. The sketches in Russell's book are of a fairly decent and well-proportioned foot; drawing X's on its base will inevitably produce a center; unfortunately, Russell does not determine what a well- proportioned foot is nor does he offer a procedure on how to obtain one. Further, it is evident that the positions to form the X is based upon the circumference of the foot. As practical farriers know, changing the shape of the foot will also change the position of the X in the middle; hence, the relationship between the X and the landmark of the foot will fluctuate greatly. Oberg has the same approach as Russell; however, he positioned his lines in a different order; yet, he would also have the changing center X.

To reiterate the concept of my work, the procedure which I promote is working from the centers to a peripheral form in order to provide the correct geometry of the hoof. The shoe can then be placed with biomechanical congruency. I have to admit that modern-day science lends the tools that give me the advantage over both Russell and Oberg - for example, taking radiographs and employing the fundamentals of physics. My work has been endorsed more recently by the scientific approach of Doug Leach and Olin Balch - they both conclude that the center of weight-bearing of the foot is the Duckett's Dot. I extend my greatest respect to Professor Russell and David Oberg for their work.

In addition, Mr. Taimuty in his letter has pointed out with dismay (like many of us) the theory of lowering the heels to the widest part of the frog. Clearly, those who advocate this policy most certainly do not understand the biomechanical function of the lower limb or indeed the long-term results of such action. Initially, lowering the heels was intended to present a greater bearing surface for a shoe to render greater posterior support. When questioned, the addition to this theory was to elevate the heels with a wedge pad. As I stand on the sidelines watching this circus pass, I begin to wonder why these people believe that they can impose their ideals upon nature. Quite honestly, when I have to remove good, healthy horn and replace it with a piece of plastic, I shake my head in dismay. Another thought to ponder: How does the wild horse lower its heels? Moreover, if lowering the heels to the widest part of the frog is so advantageous, how do mules and donkeys fare in the light of this misguided theory?

Recently, much has been discussed on the studies of the wild horse and many individuals are basing their theories upon these observations. However, it is a very difficult comparison, because we do not ride or drive the wild horse nor is it kept in the domesticated environment of a stall or paddock. Also there is a stark contrast between the wild horse in the arid climate or mountainous terrain (which has been the focus of everyone's attention) without thought being given to the wild horse of the lower land, such as the Chincoteague Ponies of the East Coast. It is interesting for some to study the wild horse, but we must consider how the environment affects the animal - more importantly for farriers, how it affects its feet. Truthfully, very practical information can be inferred from the wild horse studies.

I would like to thank Mr. Taimuty for his astute and detailed observation of Mr. Ovnicek's article - further, that he was willing to express his frustrations in writing and submit it to ANVIL Magazine. Hopefully, it will encourage others to do the same. I welcome further comments in future issues of the ANVIL.

Dave Duckett, FWCF
Ambler, Pennsylvania

Letter from Gene Ovnicek

Dear Editor,

I would like to thank Matthew Taimuty for the opportunity to help clarify some very important issues that concern me as well as many others in the hoofcare industry. Misunderstandings, second-hand information and jumping to conclusions are not excluded from our trade, and often destroy the potential of seeing the positive aspect of new or improved information and technology. For example, Dave Duckett and his work have been an inspiration to many hoofcare practitioners. His research has been a great contribution for many to help understand hoof balance mysteries and mechanics. As simple as Duckett's work may seem to some, it must be complicated and difficult for others to apply. Old habits and tradition frequently form a barrier for those who try to apply new techniques. It's just human nature and the individual's learning curve at work that make good ideas like Duckett's - and many others - seem worthless and dangerous.

I believe that most farriers (myself included) have a similar passion for knowledge and understanding so that we can better serve the needs of the equine limb. My search for answers led me to study the wild horses over ten years ago. The studies I conducted helped me to understand the self-serving provisions that Mother Nature supplies to the equine digit. Wild horses and their hoof maintenance secrets have been around forever. Others have looked at the wild horse's feet and have been amazed at the consistency and balance by which their health needs are met through their environment and lifestyle. My research involved imprinting the bottom of the feet with a flat, painted board to bring out the highlights of the sole surface of the feral (wild horse) foot. At that time we drew connecting lines on their feet between the imprint marks. We also took several measurements, pictures and notes for each marked foot. I have reproduced drawings of my own from the measurements and photographs I gathered from my research. I never felt comfortable putting my name to the hoof pattern that I had so consistently observed. I was more interested in finding answers than getting recognition for something Mother Nature has made available to everyone. Perhaps if I had known of Dave Duckett or of his work prior to my own research and results, we could have collaborated with each other to better understand the similar conclusions we had both reached. Personally, I think our research elicits a compatible blend of science and nature which offers the equine hoofcare industry a sound source for truth and answers.

The readers must understand that the material I presented at the 1994 Laminitis Symposium consisted of slides taken of the wild horses' feet over six years prior to that lecture. The drawings were intended to duplicate those feet studied, not Duckett's work. If I used terminology that Dave Duckett has coined and used it in that presentation or literature without recognizing him for naming those parts, it's because they appeared to be common farrier terms. As for not mentioning the inaccurately described landmarks of Duckett's, I must respond with the fact that those are my interpretations in a general form of Mother Nature;s design which I documented and do not claim. To my knowledge, I have never referred to Duckett's Dot in any of my lectures or literature as a reference for shoe placement or hoof mapping. My references are taken from the frog apex, not from a point 3/8" behind the apex. The diagonal lines we drew on the live feral feet that connect the toe imprint marks to the heel imprint marks generally intersect in the area Duckett calls the frog bridge, or the area Russell diagrammed years back. I would hope that because of the close relationship of that landmark seen in nature and brought forward by Duckett and Russell, my observations might add credibility to the work of both Duckett and Russell.

I have mentioned Duckett's Dot on occasion, and always in a positive voice, with credit given to Dave for his work. However, in my lectures and in my literature, the references I use with respect to the frog (or tip of the frog and its relationship to P3) are derived from the data I had compiled from my research. The procedures I subscribe to do not attempt to refer to or comply with Duckett's Dot. I do not use Duckett's system for mapping, treating or maintaining horse's hooves, however similar they may seem. The procedures, techniques and products I use are all derived from the wild horse research I conducted and from over 35 years of horseshoeing experience.

The ANVIL Magazine article (October, 1996) "Applying the Equine Digit Support System," was demonstrated on a foot that was pathological and distorted from its natural form. The readers again must be aware of the purpose for which the Equine Digit Support System (EDSS) is used. Situations that require treatment for lower limb pathology such as laminitis and navicular syndrome, associated with hoof deformities, are the primary diseases that are successfully treated using this system. Therefore, shoe placement (specifically, as depicted in that article) can be deceptive without properly knowing the mechanics of the Equine Digit Support System. The EDSS is designed to help overcome hoof distortions and return the hoof to its natural form. During this reconstructive period, it is advisable not to use the horse at high-level disciplines. Once the natural hoof form is attained, conventional Natural Balance principles of hoof preparation and shoe application are used so that the horse can return to its normal routine.

It is obvious that you (Matthew Taimuty) support Mr. Duckett's work and have spent countless hours working to understand it. I would hope that you could spend only a fraction of that time looking at the Natural Balance principles we use to service the needs of the equine limb, preferably from a source with equal experience and dedication. I am as deeply concerned as you are about the misinterpreted issues of hoof preparation and shoe placement coined Four Point procedure. Natural Balance principles of trimming and shoeing are the terms I use to describe my interpretation of servicing the needs of the equine digit, as told to me through my research on wild horses many years ago. I sincerely hope that the information we convey to others will continue to bring the positive results we've received to hundreds of hoofcare practitioners and horse owners. You are welcome to some of those letters and comments if you wish. I feel that bad press on the subject of Four Point procedure can have a negative impact on the principles of Natural Balance. Natural Balance and Four Point procedures do deliver different messages, but are similar in many ways. People often need to see diversity to see clarity. I have learned to expect and accept comments from individuals who are deeply concerned about the well-being of horses they serve, whether they appear negative or positive. The information I am privileged to have received from the wild horse research, as well as ongoing scientific research, may offer the equine hoofcare community a positive step toward understanding simple guidelines for hoof maintenance and the natural life cycle of the equine digit.

I sincerely hope that readers of your letter don't receive the wrong message and conclude that you may not have an open mind and have not checked things out thoroughly. Mr. Duckett knows very well how difficult it can be to influence and change tradition with information that offers the hoofcare industry sound solutions to our devastating hoof problems. Many others have experienced the same traditional barriers in the past. Along with the changes comes everyone's individual interpretation of procedure and application. To count on every practitioner to see the exact picture through your eyes, Mr. Duckett's eyes or my eyes is a lot to expect. Patience with those interested in learning is important, if our motives to assist are honest and just.

Thank you.
Gene Ovnicek
Columbia Falls, Montana

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