How to Better Understand What We We See

2017 Equine Podiatry Notes Written and presented August 2017 by R.F. (Ric) Redden, DVM

Our eyes simply transfer images to the threshold of our brain as only a glimpse of what was actually before us. How we transfer that imprint to deeper thoughts and meaningful perception is unique to each of us at any given time. No one can actually view the world through another's eye therefore our perspective and perception will never be identical to that of others.  However, to enhance communication we must strive to bridge this gap and search for realistic ways to train the eye and process what we see in a communicative fashion so that once we can clearly see the forest we can then start to see the trees the limbs leaves and smallest acorn. Understanding what we see is obtained through years of searching the finest details we can possibly imagine using a disciplined, methodical training protocol. Repetitious exercises that are well tuned and designed to consistently eliminate eye error are required for most everything we excel in.


How to view feet in order to learn the secret message

1. Start with only 2 planes and focus your primary vision on an imaginary laser passing through the sagittal plane of the foot and the transverse plane at a level that is centered midway between the ground and coronary band.


This perspective requires photos taken along these planes as it is not practical or possible to view this plane with the eye. Objects viewed through a lens are identical to what the camera sees not what the person taking the photos think they see. We have all been there and viewed our distorted photos.


It is very important that we practice taking these precise repeatable views in order to process this image over and over, so we start to all see the same level of detail even when viewing the foot from others perspective views. Also, be sure to put all direct light behind you to prevent blackout photos.


2. Once we have captured the most represented perspective of the foot we can further our image /brain transfer by putting what we see on paper. My students often say, "I can't draw" my answer that's because you are only looking instead of seeing. Our pen or pencil will follow the command of our brain as it traces the image that we have perceived. This may be a bit awkward for a spell but improves quickly once the real image gets further across the processing threshold that is considerably different than just seeing.


3. Develop a systemic approach to sketching what you see perfecting it as your eye hand coordination improves.


To do this we must let our eye see specific areas of the foot in a systematic fashion, e.g. dorsal face, coronary band, ground surface, heel and bulbs and pastern plane and alignment relative to the planes of the foot. Repeat the sequence with every foot you observe from the smallest details from this day forth and soon your eye starts to transfer very small details to your brain that before never crossed that line.



4. Break the foot profile down into smaller zones, starting with half then quarter, 1/8 etc.  Just like a zoom view and study what you see, consider the options, healthy areas, pathological or just different from the last feet studied as well as the text book model. Practice drawing with various sized grid patterns overlays.


Feet are just as unique as faces on people or finger prints. Stop and think, do we consider faces pathological or unhealthy simply because they are uniquely different? Of course, not and we must become aware of the healthy unique characteristics of feet and learn to identify the borderline between unhealthy areas and remarkable pathology.


Equine podiatry is as much about farrier knowledge and experience as it is veterinary medicine and the responsibility to the overall health and maintenance falls equally to the respective professions. Sounds simple and straight forward however the efficiency of the collaborative efforts is dependent on the mutual level of knowledge and skills of each professional as they collaborate on podiatry issues. Developing an eye for detailed characteristics is the first step in our pursuit to better understand podiatry principals and is essential for collaborating professional to communicate goals, options and monitor response.


5.  External characteristics of greatest interest

Hoof profile, the angles and planes that can involve the wall surface from coronary band to the ground contact can change every few centimeters and each alteration is there for a reason and considerably different than text book models.


Growth ring patterns toe to heel, medial to lateral describes the history that is a direct influence of the nutrient supply to the tubular and solar papillae. This in turn is directly influenced by the forces within the foot giving meaning to the word mechanics. 


Genetics plays a major role in the basic stereotype of feet however other variables also come into play.  Age, breed, use, nutrition, management, injury and disease all deserve great respect.



Therefore, the tremendous need for us to continuously tune our eye for subtle little clues that can be of greatest value to our discovery exercise should never end.

Recognizing the collaborating professional’s knowledge and skill level for the issue goes a long way to avoid misgivings, poor communication and even poorer results. This can often be confirmed with basic but relatively accurate sketches drawn by each professional that clearly describe what each sees and understands. This common thread is vital to assure success.


Our keen observation is one of our greatest assets. It is one thing to see an object and quite another to understand the many very small details that hold the key to the information we seek.  It is not only our eyes that transfer information to our grey matter, but the summation of our other senses certainly compliments what we see and understand.  Experienced hands that have had hundreds even thousands of feet pass over the many prop receptors located in the finger tips and palms develop a memory for details that otherwise simply cannot compare.  This natural body memory can only be obtained with years of full time farrier experience. We all are creatures of habit and repetition is our go-to learning tool. Experience can be our greatest asset, especially if we are constantly fine tuning our senses for the smallest details.  Nothing hurts us more than a bad experience as it can wreck our confidence level and if we can’t quickly recognize the major flaws and source of our failures it can be tough to give it another try.


I often hear, “I did it just like you said, and it didn’t work.”  This failure is multifaceted.  I may not have transmitted the info properly relative to the frequency of the receiver and taken fo