Breaking Out the Quarters

There's been a bit of worry from many about the hooves breaking apart at the quarters after removing shoes and trimming up for barefooted life. 

I want to reassure everyone that this is common. Very common. 

Mainly because the hooves are trimmed 'flat' for shoe application. With shoes the hooves are peripherally loading. The walls at the quarters, when trimmed for shoeing, are left at the height where the shoe will fit flat against the hoof. This means that with hooves that have any sort of arch to the quarters will have longer walls at the quarters. 

Think of it this way -- you have a very strong arch in your foot. When you stand with full weight on your feet, your arches in your feet lower only slightly ... there remains a good arch and space between your feet and the floor. 

With horses, most horses have a bit of an arch to their coffin bones. The hoof capsule should grow and mimic the shape of the coffin bone. But -- in order to apply shoes tightly to the hoof, they must have a flat surface to the wall to which to nail the shoe. 

The bottom of the coffin bone is not flat. 

It is arched. That's why we like to see concavity to the hoof. 

So, in leaving long quarters and not trimming to the shape of the sole when removing shoes, nature is going to do her own trimming job.

She's going to cause the weight on the quarters to break them out and trim them down 'properly'. 

It's part of the restoration process. 

It's as simple as that. 

Most of the time when hoof wall chips it is because mother nature is simply doing her job. The hoof is being 'naturally' formed to its optimal shape. No, it doesn't look pretty for shows and such but its 'natural' ... and actually is a good 'landmark' for how short the walls should be trimmed IN MOST CASES. Not always. One can never say never and never say always when dealing with horses and/or their hooves. 

The simple 'fix' to this is just to trim the walls to follow the natural flow of the sole. leave just a 'bead' of hoof wall length and then, bevel the hoof wall at a 45* angle from heel to heel. As the hoof is loaded with weight on a solid, hard surface, the horn will compress to form a nice, thick, callus which is part of the protection of the natural hoof. 

Here we see instructions from on how to trim the wall for shoeing. See how the beveled wall is labeled "wrong" ... the instructed way to trim the hoofwall is marked on the flat of the wall "correct".  This is not the correct way to trim the hoof for the barefooted horse. This allows for leverage to be placed on the distal edge of the wall, itself, which will leverage the wall, over time, from the foot and cause separation at the white line and chipping of the hooves. 




Here we see how the wall is beveled at a 45* angle from just outside the white line to the distal edge of the hoofwall. The inner dotted red line indicates the inside edge of the hoof callus and breakover point.  Can you picture in your mind how a hoof traveling over hard, abrasive surface would wear naturally this way?

Again, try to visualize, in your mind's eye, how the hoof lifts off from the ground. Put the visualization in slow motion ...  I found this on you tube and it clearly shows the motion of the hoof as it leaves the ground:

Spend some time watching your horses hooves and how they move ... how they land and then lift off from the ground. 

What do YOU see? 















Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:
Gwen also offer Home Study courses for those who wish to further their education on various aspects of the 'natural' horse (including Natural Hoofcare 101). Please go here:
 PENZANCE Equine Integrative Educational Center

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