Do Your Horse's Hooves "Measure Up"?

Well, now that we've gone through the Understanding the Equine Foot series I thought maybe some refresher on reading the hooves might be apropos. 

Let's see how your horse's hooves measure up! 

Here in (a PENZANCE Equine Integrative Solutions site) you can find a couple of articles on "Landmarks of the Equine Hoof" and "Where, Oh Where, Is the P3?" which will help you assess your horses' hooves for balance and overall health. 

I wanted to add a couple of other Landmarks that can help to visually determine what might be needed to improve your horse's soundness and way of going. 


The above photo is not a 'new' landmark but let's start here anyway. 

Ideally we want to see everything line up nicely from the P2/P1  (top circled joint) on down to the ground. Adjusting toe height and heel height will affect those angles. 

Looks pretty good, right?  Hang on ... all's not well in these hooves yet. 

Looking from this angle, one can easily see the growth rings on these hooves (marked in green below) and the shape of the periople (in blue).  Take a good look. What do you see?  Do you see straight angled hoof growth rings?  A uniform thickness of periople? The hoof growth rings are curved towards the back of the hoof and the periople is thicker to the ground level in the heel region than in the toe region.  So, nope to both questions.  So what does this mean? 

Here's a hoof that is in almost perfect form and function below: (photo from Hoof Explorer)

Can you see the uniformity of the periople?  And the growth rings are straight lines and do not curve downward at the back of the foot. 

Now take a look at this one: 

Tell me - what do you see? 

The heel is being pulled forward; the growth rings are indicating that. There is no heel buttress left in this hoof (see the Understanding the Equine Foot video series if you're not familiar with this already) as the periople at the back of the hoof is indicating. 

What has happened to the digital cushion in this foot? 

the digital cushion is totally displaced and can't even begin to do its shock absorbing job;

This means  It also means the frog is in pretty poor form, also. 

What has happened to the sole on this hoof?   I shudder to think. Suffice to say that it has been stretched thin and isn't even close to 1/2" thick!  

Now .. here's another landmark which is imperative to understand: 

Look at the tubules of this hoof capsule. The red is pulling the foot all forward and binding up the foot inside the capsule in this one; the green is what the foot SHOULD look like: 

Even though the periople/coronary band seems to be 'straight', look at the direction of the tubules of the capsule (red lines) ... Look especially at the heel ... there is no heel buttress here. It has been trimmed out with repeated lowering of the heels. Again, the green lines indicate what the (approx) angles of the tubules SHOULD be and where the heel should be on this foot. 

Here's the illustrated tubules on the hoof above: 

So, how to fix these things?  Well, to start, learn to understand the anatomy of the foot inside the capsule (see link above to the video series) ... and then learn how the foot functions before even thinking of taking up a rasp or pair of nippers. 

If you're already a 'professional' trimmer but are having some issues with soundness when it appears the horse *should* be sound, take a look at these landmarks. The ones in the link in the first paragraph and then these illustrations. 

If you're a trainer or horse owner and having challenges with the horse's hooves, take a good hard look at the exterior landmarks. Compare to what you see here. 

In order for the horse to move correctly and soundly over ALL TERRAIN, even the rockiest terrain, it HAS to have correct FOOT form inside the capsule. Trimming the hooves to a set series of numbers (i.e. 30* hairline angle; x amount of mm of heel; trim to the periople (HORRORS! The periople is ever changing) ... etc. etc.) just does not cut it ... learn to read the "hoof-in-hand" on the "horse-in-hand".   


Learning how to use the trim tools is the easy part!  Learning how the equine hoof is formed inside and out and the function of the healthy hoof is the hard part. 

The hoof talks to us ... maybe not in verbal words but it shouts volumes when its not comfortable. And whispers sweet nothings to us when totally healthy and sound. 

If you're challenged with some unwanted behaviors from your horse, the first place to look is the hooves. Just think of when your feet hurt!  You get pretty grouchy and oppositional, I bet! 

So, once again ... take a look at your horse's hooves. Then come on back to me and talk with me about them. We can go into detail with regard to your horse personally.  And ... 

I can help you get your horse going over hard ground and rocky terrain just as if he were wearing construction boots! 

OH, and PS ... during the rehab time you might want to consider getting some boots for your horse ... Scoot Boots, of course!  The more your horse moves, the faster the healing takes place in *most* situations. 


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 including The 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 20 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. You can email to Gwen -- or telephone in the US (239)-573-9687. For further information please click here:





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