Friday, April 3, 2015

Steppin' Out: Hooves From An Artistic Perspective Part VII: The Good Foot Part 1

Hi there! We're back to this twelve-part series examining foot quality as it relates to equine sculpture. So far we've looked at its evolution, its biology, and some of the ideas and debates surrounding its structure. In this Part VII then, we're going to start dissecting in detail those qualities that constitute a good foot, as currently conceived, as well as some of the faults we commonly see in sculpture. There's a lot to digest here, of course, so take your time and explore the subject for yourself. At the end of this series will be a listing of the references used to compile all these ideas for that purpose. So enough talklet's go! 

Some Initial Thoughts

The horse is a creature of movement. No other animal can rival his unique combination of strength, speed, size, endurance, trainability, and agility, which is probably why the horse has been so prominent in human history. It may also be why the adage, “no hoof, no horse,” has echoed for centuries. Yet in a twist of irony, we actually know more about the sinking of the RMS Titanic than we do about the equine foot, even after all these eons.

Scientific equine podiatry is relatively new in comparison to the long history shared by horse and human. The field has boomed in recent years thanks to technologies and diagnostic techniques previously unavailable, and the next decade may well prove to be an exciting time for the field as a result.  

It cannot be denied that good feet in the domestic equine population are a rarity. Not only have we operated with an unclear idea of how the foot works, but breeding programs and showing criteria haven't accounted for quality feet adequately enough. How often do we see judges lifting hooves to study the palmar structures? Conventional management practices may also disadvantage the equine foot from the very first day of life, and research suggests many practices common in equine husbandry may be inherently incompatible with the animal’s biology altogether. What’s more, the intense, repetitive and sometimes unnatural performance demands we impose on these animals often push their already compromised feet to the point of failure. Really, it’s a wonder that any domestic horse stays sound at all. 

This isn’t to say that domesticating horses is wrong, but it does suggest that our customary methods for keeping them may require serious re-evaluation. It also implies a special responsibility for equine art; artists are accustomed to duplicating what is seen in life so as the science of equine podiatry and management changes, so should our creative choices. We're accountable for what we choose to recreate. For this reason then, simply studying the feet on a sculpture can reveal a lot about the values and prerogatives of the artist who sculpted them. The paradigm of equine podiatry is shifting and therein lay the clues that can help artists portray more informed visuals.

For this purpose, let’s explore some current ideas of a “good” foot. Remember, however, that the concepts presented here should be regarded as general guidelines. What is considered “good” or “bad” is still evolving as science discovers new data, and is still being debated as scientists interpret that data. 

Cautions for the Artist

Ideas about foot management and structure are hot topics and getting hotter every day. In many ways, a “good” foot remains a subjective ideal because of our incomplete understanding of cause and effect. Ask any scientist, vet, farrier or owner on what is a “good foot” and we're likely to get conflicting criteria.

Also complicating the issue are the relatively small samples taken from very specific situations in many of the studies. Investigative observations are still mostly circumstantial, too. Moreover, studies of domestic feet don’t account for riding methods, with no recognition of how various postures the animal assumes influences foot flight and mechanics. Management is largely ignored as well, since what the subjects are fed or how they’re kept aren't always taken into account. 

Furthermore, many different applications of foot management, even those that use the same information differently, appear to have some measure of success. So, which application is correct? Could it be that anything different from what we’re currently doing is an improvement? 

The essential problem is that science simply hasn’t progressed enough in this field to differentiate between a specific application of information and a still unknown range of possibilities that allow the equine foot to remain sound under various conditions. In short, science still cannot link causal events to make reliable enough predictions that could warrant a new dependable paradigm for all domestic horsesyet. And it may be that each horse should be considered on a per case basis, because as each horse is an individual, so may be his set of feet. Indeed, aren't our feet different from that of others? Don't we have unique problems when trying to fit shoes? It may be the same for horses as well.

Because perhaps the biggest question baffling science is why different groups of horses, managed differently, performing different tasks, and with different kinds of foot structure and management, all exhibit seemingly sound feet. This phenomenon is corroborated, in part, by feral studies because, even in this circumstance the sound equine foot exhibits variation, too, dependent on lifestyle and habitat. This implies that no one set of rules may be applicable, but rather the equine foot could have multiple versions of soundness, whether feral or domestic, which is dependent on individual lifestyle and structure. In short, soundness may exist as a bubble of possibilities rather than one specific example. 

However, that does imply we must reconsider our definition of “sound," especially when we clearly have far more to learn. Tragically, horses are very good at living with and masking pain, and it’s usually not until a mechanical breakdown has occurred that we actually become aware of a problem. In fact, recent studies about pain and horses have found that horses actually hide their pain from their owners! How many "sound" horses are actually in pain then? We don't know, and that's a problem. 

Perhaps for this reason alone, realistic equine artists should consider other perspectives unique to their craft when determining a  “good” foot from a “bad” foot, such as:
  • The biological perspective: Our sculptures are designed to reflect life as accurately as possible. Yet while we’re obliged to sculpt what we see, not everything seen is good for the animal. Careless mimicry of life can lead an artist down questionable creative paths. The profound implication here is that an artist mustn’t only be faithful to life, but faithful to the subject most of all. Yet this only can happen when we're informed. 
  • The artistic perspective: Our sculptures aren’t created by nature, but by our fallible hands. This means our creations are vulnerable to our blind spots, biases or errors. Artistic decisions can easily be distracted away from biology, to fixate too quickly on design or “feel” instead. A conscientious artist, therefore, actively works to minimize these effects to avoid creating visuals that represent harm to the animal in the name of art.
  • The conformational perspective: An artist should consider which conformation ideals she will apply to her sculpture. Yet artists should understand that conformation principles are only general correlations, especially when it comes to the foot, and particularly when conventional thought may be fundamentally flawed. Artists also can’t ignore that plenty of “poorly conformed” horses remain sound while plenty of “ideally conformed” horses are chronically lame. For instance, a classic example is the Thoroughbred Triple Crown Winner, Assault, also called the “Club-footed Comet.” Conformation is vulnerable to fashion, too, which can result in harmful manifestations. The fundamental problem facing the domestic horse in this regard is that people are quick to think they can “improve” upon nature based on their own arbitrary aesthetic, a philosophy artists should weigh carefully in their creative decisions. Absolutely, they should recognize that fashionable ideals of beauty often are inappropriate standards for something that must first be functional. 
How an artist factors in these perspectives will reveal a value system through art, and it can either give one's work authority or compromise it. Most importantly, however, these factors reveal pathways for further personal investigation as science progresses.

Feral feet vs. Domestic feet

Before we can dive into “good” or “bad” qualifications, we need to consider the feral foot. Understanding a baseline provided by nature can help us evaluate the domestic foot with a bit more clarity. Indeed, biologically comparing the feral foot and the domestic foot reveals some startling contrasts that influence how to portray feet in sculpture. We should remember, however, that incorporating these concepts into domestic management is controversial because data is incomplete or not yet wholly understood—or even misapplied. Nevertheless, knowing how feral populations are different from domestic populations can helps us tease out a contextual perspective about the foot.

Feral horses lead very different lifestyles from domestic horsestheir activities, nutrition and terrain are markedly different. For example, a horse kept outside in enough space will take 4,000-6,000 steps per 24 hours whereas a horse in a stall will take only 800 steps per 24 hours (Welz, 2007). Biologically speaking, the horse wasn’t built for a sedentary lifestyle, but was built to roam, and in fact, his foot gets stronger and more balanced the more it’s used. Jaime Jackson observed that feral horses traveled 15-20 miles a day and, likewise, those horses who travel between 5-35 miles a day have feet more consistent in hoof quality and balance than those who are stabled with intermittent exercise (Love, 1998). 

Additionally, blood flow perfusion within the foot is reduced sharply on cement or wood flooring (Welz, 2007), a footing found in stalls or barns. This has implications from birth because common management practices may predispose a horse to a compromised foot through confinement, unnatural rich nutrition, and soft bedding that fails to stimulate a young, developing foot. 

Moreover, feral horses travel over terrain that’s relatively consistent being a regional habitat. The uneven and ungroomed nature of that habitat also tends to bend and distort the entire foot with each step. In contrast, domestic horses usually perform on flat, groomed surfaces that vary wildly such as shavings to pavement to arenas to rubber mats, and all in a single afternoon. 

A domestic horse under saddle must also carry as much as 20% of his body weight on his back with the rider and tack (with 60%-65% of that weight carried by his forehand), which is something feral horses don't experience (Stovall, 1997). Domestic horses also engage in repetitive, intense, and often unnatural forms of performance in the highly competitive arena of equine sport. What feral horse is routinely jumping 6’ fences at high speed, or galloping in tight circles and sliding repeatedly, or pulling a carriage through obstacles? 

Nutrition between feral and domestic populations is dramatically different, too, which appears to have a much bigger impact on foot quality than previously thought. For example, the sugar-rich diets typical of the domestic horse (lush, green grass, fruit, grains, treats, molasses, etc.) along with the feeding of alfalfa (a protein-rich legume) rather than abrasive low-quality grasses (which is the foodstuff the horse was evolved to eat), all work together to compromise the foot (Ramey, 2005). Pete Ramey explains this in an interview, Pete Ramey: The Benefits of Barefoot, with Horse & Rider magazine (2007):

Of greatest concern [in conventional domestic nutrition] is excess sugar in the diet. Modern grasses and hays can fluctuate to over 30 percent sugar. Feeds are usually over 50 percent sugar, with raw grains varying from 50 to 80 percent sugar.

In contrast, native grasses from the sparse rangelands of wild horse country usually peak at 12 percent sugar, and are usually closer to 8 percent. [For more information on this, see Kathryn Watts’] Add this to the “less than natural” amount of movement domestic horses tend to get, and we have a tremendous “sugar plague” in the domestic horse world.

As in humans, the horse’s body produces more insulin to deal with the excess sugar. Recent research published by K.E. Asplin, et. al., in The Veterinary Journal indicates that high insulin levels constantly destroy the attachment of hoof to horse. This is why laminitis is on the rise, and also why it’s so common to see a groove where the white line is supposed to be on most domestic horses.

In addition, feral horses can pick and choose what they need to eat and eat constantly (which their gut is designed to do), whereas domestic horses consume only what we feed them and only during scheduled bulk feedings. 

All of these differences (and perhaps more as they're discovered) can mean that domestic horses may inherently have a difficult time growing a healthy, self-maintaining foot. This may be why domestic feet exhibit a wide range of shape, wear pattern, and alignment, whereas these aspect are the most consistent in feral feet, regardless of region or lifestyle. Also complicating the situation is that many lines of domestic horses have been selectively bred for traits other than foot quality, causing a systematic deterioration of this feature in some lineages.

However, data obtained from feral studies mostly is anecdotal observation, with very little use of blind-study scientific methods. For example, while feral horses with bad feet haven’t been observed, this could simply mean these animals were selected out before observation. Therefore, we don’t know how a good foot can go bad, or how a bad foot can be made good again under feral conditions. To do so, we would need to take large, differing samples of feral and domestic horses and switch their lifestyles and track the results, which would have to include dissection and histological and chemical analyses. Yet a study of this scope hasn’t been done (and for ethical reasons, who would want to?) and so we’re forced to rely largely on circumstantial evidence. 

Similarly, feral observations are derived from comparatively small samples from one predominant region of the United States (the Western U.S), which mostly is characterized by dry, abrasive footing. Observations also are made only during a specific time frame and don’t account for random events or seasonal changes. Preferably, larger and more diverse population samples living within different habitats could be studied, and over a long period of time to track developments in order to derive more predictable conclusions.

Nonetheless, observation of captured feral horses managed like domestic horses, even under the most ideal of natural conditions possible in captivity, quickly appear to develop many pathologies characteristic of domestic feet in as early as six weeks (Ramey, 2005). This suggests that (1) feral horses aren’t a genetically superior population when it comes to foot quality, and (2) at least some of the anecdotal observations and conclusions may be valid.

Regardless, it’s becoming clear that even the feral foot lacks one correct “cookie-cutter” form, but instead has several variations dependent on habitat and lifestyle (Bowker, 2003, Ramey, 2006). For example, both feral and domestic feet living in soft, moist or marshy habitats (such as the Camarque horse) have very different feet from those adapted to desert terrain (Stovall, 2002). The high, arid desert regions tend to produce feet with short, worn walls and deeply vaulted soles, while the soft, wet habitats tend to produce feet with slightly less vault and flared walls that chip away to keep the hoof at the correct length (Ramey, 2005). However, all these various types appear to have five important commonalities: 
  • They land heel-first.
  • The foot is fully developed both externally and internally.
  • The bony column is aligned.
  • The foot is balanced.
  • The top of the hoof capsule is oriented at, or just below, the extensor process of the coffin bone.
Subsequently, these could be the baseline hallmarks of a “quality” foot, but which tend to be absent or insufficient in the domestic population. This suggests that concepts learned from feral studies may bear serious consideration even if the stereotypical “desert foot” cannot be applied to all situations. Even so, there hasn’t been a systematic link made between feral horses and barefoot domestic horses, since self-maintaining barefoot domestic horses often don’t participate in feral studies. Aren’t these feet equally important for deepening our understanding of equine podiatry, especially since they prosper within the domestic environment? 

Moreover, much of the “revolutionary” information derived from feral studies isn’t necessarily breaking news. For instance, the principles proposed by Dave Duckett FWCF have been around for some time, which presents a unique perspective. Therefore, it’s unclear whether the contrasts between the feral foot and existing theory actually are materially different, or if random human error is the source of the apparent divergence. Indeed, it’s one thing to be taught a principle and another entirely to apply it, especially when dealing with the multi-faceted aspects of equine management and a mechanism as adaptable and responsive as the equine foot. Any sound idea applied incorrectly can cause an undesirable result. 

Along these lines, it’s difficult to account for practitioners who misapply the concepts learned from feral studies, too. Knowing “just enough to be dangerous,” but not enough to complete a competent feral trim tends to reinforce a “barefoot backlash” since blame gets assigned to the concept rather than to the application. People are quick to forget that every profession is blessed by those who are skilled, insightful and informed, and cursed by those who are not, and farrier science is no different. What’s curious, however, is that it's sometimes considered normal for a horse  to go “off” after a conventional dressing, yet when a horse goes “off” after a barefoot approach, retribution is swift and decisive against the entire concept. This kind of hypocrisy prejudices people against new concepts that could improve their horse’s feet and well-being.

A misapplication of “heel first” landings is a classic example. As discussed previously, it appears the equine foot was designed to land heel-first. The catch, however, is that the interior foot must be fully developed to accommodate this landing, which many domestic horses lack, and as a result, often have general tenderness in the posterior of the foot. In response, many farriers have been trained to leave the heel long to “protect” these sensitive. Compound this with the common misinterpretation of the “short-toed feral trim” and the result is usually a long heel-short toe structure, which creates painful, choppy gaits and rapid lameness (Nicholls, 2004).

This unconscious series of mistakes (and others) is perhaps the primary reason why “feral trims” meet such resistance in the sport world. Yet if “feral trim” concepts were correctly applied and integrated into better management programs, and the foot given time to make the adjustment, what feral trims tend to do is increase stride length, soundness and performance (and biomechanical studies appear to support these claims) (Nicholls, 2004). We need to understand that rehabilitating years of systemic hoof deterioration won’t happen with one trim, especially one poorly executed. As science improves our understanding of both the foot and equine management, and formalized training results in more consistent applications, such options may gain favor, and perhaps dominate sports in coming decades. 

Furthermore, we should recognize the undercurrents as they apply to equine podiatry, too. The elitist and eugenics-driven Victorian influence on how we regard domestic animals is still strong (Derry, 2003), compelling breeders to make choices more for form than function. Yet if there’s any domestic animal least compatible with this approach, it’s the horse! We cannot overlook the underlying disdain within certain circles for all things “feral” within a horse industry currently obsessed with “purebred.” One consequence is an automatic aversion to a feral trim for prejudicial reasons, as though a feral trim “wasn’t good enough” for the elite, purebred show horses. Plus, the belief that we have to improve nature through artifice for higher levels of performance is still quite strong. Not only is it human nature to favor gimmicks for a winning edge, but also entire industries, reputations and professions can be founded on this concept, making it difficult to diffuse when these interests have so much to lose if the paradigm shifts.

We also should remember that what modern competition demands of the horse is unnatural. Not only did nature not intend for a rider on the horse’s back, but also the movements we impose on the horse tend to be imposed repetitive motions, many of which have become exaggerated as a by-product of competition. The extreme example is the difference between the natural gait of a Tennessee Walking Horse and the “Big Lick." 

Also, exacerbating the problem is this common human failing: A general inability to practice honest self-evaluation before assigning blame. The result is a tendency to blame other things rather than oneself, or on a broader level, to blame everything other than the tradition we’ve bought into collectively. In other words, soundness problems that arise are “nature’s fault” and not our fault, and so all we have to do is simply fix nature rather than alter our practices. For instance, a common complaint in dressage circles is that a feral trim causes their long-strided, floating Warmbloods to adopt the choppy gaits of Mustangs (Nicholls, 2004), but without ever considering that it’s their riding technique, conditioning, management or misapplied trim that’s the cause. It also rarely occurs to them that perhaps the entire modern competitive dressage paradigm is incorrect, as the prevalence of false collection and rollkur tends to imply. As a result, many sport horses, especially dressage horses, exist in a perpetual state of lameness to some degree (Ramey, 2006, Nicholls, 2004). 

We also should understand that conventional theory has a tendency to dismiss a holistic interpretation of the equine foot, and instead has a propensity for piece-mealing it into simplistic terms (much like modern human medicine). For instance, research suggests that the wall plays a much lesser role in weight-bearing than previously thought, pointing more to a role of a protective “toe nail” rather than a loading mechanism (Welz, 2007, LaPierre 2004). Furthermore, that the laminae do not function as a “sling of support” for the bony column as convention teaches, but is intended primarily to grow tubules for the hoof wall and sole (Welz, 2007). Taken together, what the new data implies is that it’s the symbiotic workings of the frog, bars, sole and internal mechanisms of the foot that actually bear weight, absorb impact and redistribute energy (Welz, 2007). Yet, predictably, this idea is a difficult “sell” in conventional circles because so much of traditional farriery relies entirely on the concept that the wall is the primary weight-bearing structure, as the mere presence of a shoe demonstrates. 

In addition, biomechanical studies corroborate many findings from feral studies, and are suggesting that many conventional trimming and shoeing practices are wrong. For instance, it’s common belief in dressage circles that long hooves with oversized shoes (to “balance” the foot) create longer strides. For argument’s sake, let’s ignore the fact that this assertion is based on the same kind of anecdotal, circumstantial evidence for which feral foot studies are criticized, but what we can’t ignore, however, are the biomechanical studies that routinely prove that this kind of foot actually produces the opposite effect, and which usually leads to cumulative injury, as well (Clayton, 2001). The implication here is that a properly applied feral trim would actually lengthen stride and improve the quality of the gaits. 

Moreover, traditional management practices that favor confinement, rich foods, and soft footing are rarely questioned because these practices are firmly entrenched, even when they're contradictory to the animal’s biology. Indeed, the infrastructure that supports modern horse care on limited acreage is now so systemic, many horses probably never will have the opportunity to roam or graze as nature intended. Understandably, however, it’s difficult to convince owners who have invested in valuable horses to dispense with their expensive and space-efficient stall system instead of turning them loose on open suitable acreage to roam and develop a proper and self-maintaining foot. 

Fortunately, new findings are being discovered in equine podiatry that may provide clearer paradigms for some workable compromises for the domestic population. To that end, the study of feral feet has been invaluable by providing a window into the unadulterated workings of the equine foot, opening up new pathways of understanding of this complex, unique, and ancient mechanism. And we should take heed. In an article in the American Farriers Journal (vol. 26, Nov. 2000), Most Of Your Income Comes From Shoeing Lame, But Still Used Horses, the author states that of the estimated 122 million domesticated equines (in 2000), only 10% can be thought of as sound and healthy-footed, while another 10% can be thought of as completely lame. This means that a staggering 80% of all domestic equines are lame to some degree, yet are still used. As artists, if this situation is true, we should remember it when we make our creative choices. Even many of our anatomy references are flawed. Indeed, in the popular anatomical book, An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists (often referred to as "that Ellenberger book"), the depicted feet are contracted.

It may be that strategic intervention through trimming and/or shoeing may remain necessary in the domestic population to compensate for the unnatural state of affairs, but it’s the nature of that intervention that’s being debatedand these debates often can become quite heated. Opponents usually assert that the lifestyles between feral and domestic horses are irreparably different nor is there a reliable demonstration that a feral foot is any more efficient than a domestic foot. What this position fails to do, however, is define what is an “efficient” equine foot. If conventional methodology tolerates potentially 80% of its patients being lame, is this a credible definition of “efficient?” Properly applied feral principles also haven’t had a fair shot in the full scope of equine domestic life, so to capriciously assume they cannot apply is dubious, particularly when proper applications have demonstrated success and even superiority over traditional methods. Conventional thought also fails to advocate tangible solutions to management practices that have proven to be problematic, but in many ways, relies on them to continue.

In contrast, feral trim proponents often find novel solutions to domestic management, such as Jaime Jackson’s “tracking” method described in the book, Paddock Paradise, in which fencing is used to create 30’ wide tracks around the perimeter of the property or paddock area, and scattered hay is used to entice the horses to walk laps throughout the day. Over time, horses begin to walk the tracks without the enticement of food rather than standing around all day (Ramey, 2007).

Despite the debates, what the study of feral feet has provided is an idea of what is normal, rather than what is common. This is an important distinction because so many feet in the domestic population are abnormal. While it’s certainly not a good idea to jump onto the feral bandwagon without prudence, it’s also not a good idea to close one’s mind to the possibilities, even if that means rattling the cage of conventional theory. It’s hoped that with more research, conventional wisdom can reevaluate its strategies more earnestly. Properly applied feral principles do tend to improve unhealthy feet otherwise failed by traditional practices, and so consistently that an increasing number of professionals frustrated with conventional methods are now employing applications inspired by the feral foot, even on their high performance horses, and with great success (Nicholls, 2004). Indeed, Emma Hindle and her promotion of barefoot dressage horses may be the new face of equine sport management. As Astrid Appels writes in her article, Ambitious Emma Hindle Bags Double Victory at CDIO, Saumur (2004): 

The suppleness with which Hindle’s horses moved in Saumur was remarkable. Both Diamond Hit and Wie Weltmeyer bounced off the ground striding with confidence. The secret to this power and rhythm in her horses is the fact that they wear no shoes. “The experiences I’ve had riding without shoes is unbelievable,” Hindle explained. “Three years ago Wally had a problem after one shoeing, so we wanted to see how he did without them. Since then, we’ve taken them off for three months in winter and put them back on for the shows. This year we decided to keep them off and I think it’s brilliant.” Praising her farrier Erwin Zimmermann for doing a superb job trimming her horses’ hooves, Hindle claimed that a horse moves best without shoes. “Like everyone else I thought a horse needed shoes, but they aren’t born with shoes on,” she joked.

While it can be argued that certain performance disciplines aren’t served well with a bare foot (such as reining, in which a foot without sliding shoes is too efficient a brake and therefore unable to achieve winning slides), it also can be argued that shoes may not be the only answer. For example, special boots developed for these disciplines could provide the equine athlete the best of both worlds (Ramey, 2007) (and which offers the possibility of interesting sculptural options for artists). In fact, Pete Ramey relates in his article with Horse & Rider, Pete Ramey: The Benefits of Barefoot (2007):

Also of great importance, the boot manufacturers are really stepping up to the challenge, and hoof-boot quality has come a long way in just the last year. These folks want to provide the ‘21st Century Horseshoe,’ and if they, as an industry, continue improving boot models and providing professionals and horse owners with better and better tools to work with, they’ll accomplish that goal.

As Pete Ramey further states in his 2007 interview with Horse & Rider magazine:

New research continues to back up what the horses have already shown us. Asplin’s laminitis/insulin study; Dr. Bowker’s studies on blood flow, energy dissipation, foot development and peripheral loading; and Kathryn Watts’ studies on grass, feed and forage all point to the fact that it is time for change in feeding, boarding and hoof care.

Sum Up

This on-going revolution in equine management is of direct relevance to artwork, by not only offering new options in portraying this animal, but also new ways to conceptualize what is responsible creative depiction. 

Now one may wonder why the feral foot has such a prominent role in this series. Well, aside from the lessons it teaches, artists just don’t sculpt shod domestic horses. We sculpt barefoot domestic horses and feral and wild horses, too! Therefore, we need to know the principles and variations to create accurate sculptures. 

One may also wonder why any of this “backstory” is relevant to sculpture, which certainly is a good question. Here’s the thinga responsible equine artist is aware and informed in a way that helps her to remain biologically-centered. In turn, this will help the eye become resistant to human-imposed artifice that may not be in the animal’s best interest. For an artist to create responsibly, we first need to know what represents a sound and healthy condition to be able to identify those feet and duplicate them properly in sculpture.

We can advocate for this animal through out art work, and one of the best ways is to recreate healthy feet in our sculptures. We also add narrative and authority by mimicking hooves adapted to certain lifestyles, as might be appropriate for a specific, situational piece. Indeed, being able to make informed decisions lends confidence to our artistic choices.

In Part VIII, we're going to continue our exploration of the good foot, so in the meantime, keep puttin' one foot in front of the other!

"The doer alone learneth." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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