On Hoof and Limb

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While most trimmers and farriers really concentrate of HOOVES, one has to seriously consider the relationship between all the parts of the foot to the lower limb and the rest of the body.

When lameness is apparent the determination of cause needs to be evaluated - what came first - hooves in poor form and function causing lower limb issues or limbs and other parts of the body causing poor hoof growth form?

It is important to understand that there is far more than just 'Hoof Parts" that make up the equine hoof and foot; "foot" being that which is protected by the outer capsule (hoof).

This is a study that would take far longer and much more space than what is allowed in a mere blog post to go into depth. However, I wanted to just bring this to the attention of those of you who are perhaps facing challenges with your horses' hooves.

Let's take a look at the anatomy of the lower forelimb and hindlimb:


You can easily see from the above illustration that there is far more taking place than simple hoof mechanics for the locomotion of the horse. The lower limb is also, of course, connected to the rest of the limb and body ... and, yes, it all works together.

When one part of the body isn't functioning at peak or is injured then it is going to affect the whole horse and, particularly, the hooves. Why?  Because "it all lands in the hooves." The hooves, their natural growth, horn texture, color and even the temperature of the hooves all tell a story of the rest of the body in one way or another.

So which comes first?  An issue with the body or issue with the hooves? 

That is the million dollar question when a hoof injury or imbalance is not easily perceived upon examination.

Below we see and solid, well put together horse with good angles of the shoulder to the pastern to the dorsal hoof wall of the front hoof:


Now, very briefly stated, should said horse have an injury or muscle issue of the right hip, the left shoulder would not be at this perfect angle but would be imbalanced. This, in turn, would cause the hoof to also grow imbalanced. (and to add insult to injury, if the trimmer or farrier try to 'match' the dorsal hoof wall of the front hoof to the angle of the should then it REALLY would get out of balance. The trim can, and does, affect the angle of the shoulder!) If the hip were damaged permanently then the hoof MUST be tended to accordingly and not necessarily be 'fixed' to perfect hoof form because that permanent injury will cause the diagonal shoulder to be "off" in terms of 'perfect angling'. On the other hand, if the hip is an acute situation that will resolve itself over time then it is imperative that the hoof be trimmed for perfect balance in order for the shoulder to be in correct angle which will, in turn, help the hip to remediate into its perfect health.

Does that make sense? 

The same applies to any other part of the body that may be injured that will cause the diagonal leg or hoof to compensate for the injury.

Another illustration below shows the 3rds ratio of a well-balanced horse:

Now, just imagine, if you will, a contraction of the left gluteus and think of how that will throw those angles all off of the entire stance and movement of the horse. Or, a spasm of the left pectoral muscle: 

Contraction of these muscles leads to the muscle pulling a tendon, which in turn pulls a bone. Moving a bone results in either flexing or extending a joint. Which affects the movement which affects the balance of the hooves.

I think you're getting the picture. So, hopefully there would never be a time when you would have to really examine and assess your horse's unsoundness BUT ... if there is I hope you will remember this and if there is no logical HOOF reason then remember to take a look at the WHOLE horse -- and see what's up that is affecting the movement of your horse.



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 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in NE Connecticut and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com




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