Continuing on with our 'pasture trim vs. natural trim' of horses's hooves, we're going to take a look at the 'Toe Rocker" today.
"Toe Rocker" is a term that is not very familiar to most farriers unless they happen to follow Gene Ovincek's method of trimming the "Natural Balance" trim. And mostly, it is not a familiar term or method to many natural hoof trimmers, either. I've studied most of the hoof masters and, while not embracing all of what is taught by each one, I've managed to scoff up the really good 'stuff' that can be used in a variety of hoofcare situations. The Toe Rocker is one such technique that I've found particularly useful and tremendously helpful in thousands of cases.
The interesting thimg is that while Gene Ovincek might have coined the 'formal method' of rockering the toes, the originator of the toe rocker is, truly, the horses' hooves themselves.
Prior to brief description I must caution -- the toe rocker is not to be used on foundered, thin soled or laminitic hooves. Rockering the toe does remove sole callus and if the sole is already thinned out and stressed then one does not want to further jeopardize the hoof integrity.
OK ... so, let's take a look at a 'pasture trim' where, as we've already learned, files the hoof flat. You can see the long toe, the high heels and the flat sole from toe to heel.
Now look at a 'natural trim' to see the differences:
You can see where the toe has been taken back (in red), beveled at 45* angle and then ... there's a bit of a 10 - 15* degree 'toe rocker' applied. The heels have also been taken down to a more acceptable height. In real life I would be more apt to take the heels down even further but for illustration's sake, let's stick to the toe rocker here.
Do you see how the breakover is affected? The breakover is the last part of the horse's hoof to leave the ground when the hoof is lifting off the ground. If left right at the toe of the hoof the wall is leveraged and, just as if your fingernail would be pulled away from the nail bed if continuous pressure/leverage were applied, the same happens to the equine hoof wall ... it becomes stressed, stretched and eventually the laminae will tear away from the foot entirely causing white line separation or, maybe even, white line disease or lamintis. (among other issues).
When bringing the toes back, administering a 45* bevel of the wall and then a slight 10* - 15* toe rocker, the breakover is brought back so it lies directly under the coffin bone. Right where it belongs - as 'nature' intended it to be.
The circumflex artery is positioned right around the edge of the coffin bone so if the breakover is 'delayed' with long toes, then it's not just the integrity of the laminae that is in danger but also the circulation of the entire foot. The pressure from the weight of the horse on the edge of the coffin bone affects the circumflex artery - thus, affecting the flow of the blood to the rest of the hoof. You can clearly see in the image below how it feeds into the laminae from around the foot.
So, let's further define the 'toe rocker' of the hoof. By the way -- I don't want to forget, the toe rocker is generally just trimmed on the front hooves; not the rears. *Sometimes* one might rocker the toes in the rear but that's an individual hoof/horse judgment call that is dictated by the situation of the 'hoof-in-hand' on the 'horse-in-hand'.
OK, looking at the bottom of the hoof (solar view) if you were to imagine a clock face then you would see 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions. The following 'Parts of the Hoof" diagram shows the breakover and the bluish area that designates the toe rocker area.
That is the area which is rockered after the rest of the toe is taken back, the 45* bevel of the wall is administered and all else is tended. Just a slight 10 or 15 degree angle from the breakover point at the tip of the coffin bone to the edge of the wall is rasped. Most horses will form their own rocker if all else is in place.
In the pasture trim, of course, we've stated that the hoof is rasped flat, usually has longer toes, and, as such, one will frequently see old blood staining in the wall as the walls are trimmed down from the insult to the laminae. This is just one of the visible insults to the hoof whereas in a healthy, natural hoof, the capsule will be tight all round, won't have the excess leverages and pressure on the foot inside the capsule and the way of going of the horse will be at optimal performance.
For more info on trimming the natural hoof and learning through home-study go to PENZANCE NATURAL HOOFCARE on your PC. Or, simply, comment below!
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: www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf
Thanks Gwenyth for your answer!
RE: Not rockering the toes of the rear hooves — well, the rear hooves should be sharp-edged because they’re the ones that “dig in” to move the horse forward. Need a keen edge to “catch” the ground for traction! ;) There are always exceptions depending upon the hooves and horse but for the most part, we leave that edge for grip/traction.
Thanks for explaining! The pics and the diagram are great! Why do you recommend not to rocker the rear toes? Does it affect the balance? Would be interesting to know!
Yes! There’s ALWAYS something to learn from every hoof. Thanks for sharing and I’m so glad you guys are enjoying the blog posts. :) — Gwen
Great site to read, I have been doing barefoot trimming for years on my horses, I always knew about rocker toes but now I see it done officially and that is great.
Thank you for this valuable information, I try to keep my pony’s feet in shape between trims and am always keen to learn about the correct way to trim. It seem there is more to learn and take on board all the time – have shared this on my fb page . Regards.