This is Tony reporting from the Hoof Seminar on April 11, 2015. I am sure this will be a multi-part blog since I doubt I will be able to get all the information typed up without hitting the food bowl at least once so stay tuned if I stop mid-sentence. I will be back after refreshments….
Let’s start with the very true saying: “No Hoof No Horse.” Much like “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” this saying sticks around because it is so true. Our horse’s take off, land, turn, and stand on their feet. And it’s a pretty tiny foot on the end of a long stick so little changes make huge differences!
A bit of anatomy will help us all get our bearings for some good discussion later. The lower leg is made up of the cannon bone, sesamoids, long pastern, short pastern, navicular bone, and coffin bone. The most important thing to remember here is that we are manipulating the hoof since that’s the part we can change but it has to align with all those bone and tendons and ligaments above.
Moving on to alignment. Tires on your car have to be aligned a certain way so they wear evenly. Hooves aren’t much different. By following certain guidelines the hoof will fly through the air, land, and take off again in perfect alignment with the rest of the limb above, the other three legs, and the big body it’s moving along. Think about it: a horse trotting creates 1,500 pounds of pressure and that’s at the trot! It’s really important to get alignment right.
OK starting with the view from side…….A line drawn down the front of the hoof should lay against the entire hoof wall and front of pastern. A line drawn down from the center of the fetlock joint should lay against the heel bulbs. In a perfect world the fetlock and hoof wall line would intersect at the middle of the fetlock joint but that is where the word guideline comes in.
Now pick up your horse’s foot. When it is freshly trimmed the heels should be at the widest point of the frog. This is really, really, really important. Many of us where taught that heel should never be taken off. Like many things we heard in our youth, things changed. The heels must be at the widest point of the frog. Next draw a line across the widest part of the foot and a line at the toe. Half the foot should be in front of the widest point and half behind.
Draw a line down the center of the foot long ways and half the foot should be to the outside, half to the inside.
Set the foot back down and look at it from the front. A line drawn down the center of the hoof should divide the hoof in half with 50% to the inside, 50% to the outside.
Hold your horse’s hoof up and let it hang from your hand. Draw a line down the center of the heels and again this should divide the hoof in half. This line should also be perpendicular to a line drawn across the heels where they will meet the ground. I hope you are noticing a pattern here. The foot should be symmetrical!
Notice none of this involved touching the sole with a hoof knife! By allowing our horses to form all the sole they want we help them keep good cushion beneath their coffin bone! Horses will naturally wear off any sole they don’t need so we don’t have to do that for them.
All this work has set us up for a discussion about the perfect break over, which is our real goal but you will have to wait until next week since I hear the full food bowl and clean litter box calling. Stay tuned. I will finish writing soon!