Today I want to discuss the quarters of the hoof and why they are so relevant to healthy hooves.
We discussed, previously, how the hoof capsule is a protective, mirrored covering for the inside foot.
And we've discussed how the conventional pasture trim will leave the hoof flat rather than allowing for the natural concavity of a healthy hoof:
So what difference does it all make?
Well, let’s look at hoof mechanism and what happens to the quarters when the hoof is being loaded.
The healthy equine hoof will land a tad on the lateral heel first then heel and center. The hoof expands laterally during this loading and that includes the quarters. Strong, healthy quarters help the bars and the heels to support from over expansion of the hoof. BUT … a hoof that is rasped flat won’t be able to fully expand because there is nowhere for the quarters to go when flat! An arched quarter will descend downward and laterally until flat on the ground surface. But if the foot is already rasped flat … well, you see what I’m getting at? This lack of ability to expand affects the overall health and mechanism of the hoof in many ways.
As James Welz, "The Horses Hoof", so aptly explains it -- "A hoof wall that expands outward promotes bone building compression and release stimulation to the coffin bone, and reduces bone-destroying shear. “Shear” in this case would be movement of the hoof wall parallel to the parietal surface of the coffin bone. This type of movement is known to destroy bone. Compression and release would be, in this case, movement of the hoof wall away from the parietal surface of the coffin bone on weight-bearing and back toward the coffin bone upon lifting the foot. Expansion of the wall stretches the laminar corium, assists in blood circulation, and helps to dissipate shock."
The lack of expansion will also negatively affect blood circulation to the foot as well as damage the sensitive laminar corium and the parietal surface of the coffin bone at the quarters.
From experience I would also note that lack of an arch to the quarters (one that is ‘natural’ to the individual hoof – never ‘carve’ an artificial arch to the quarters of a hoof – that causes damage as well!) would also cause thinning of the sole from the excessive force of the decent of the limb onto the sole that is lacking ‘give’ from the quarters.
My mentor, Marjorie Smith, used to explain this arch of the quarters in this manner ... take an orange and slice it straight in half then press down on it on a table or counter. What happens to the orange? The skin of the orange will crack and split to allow for the pressure downward. But, if you cut a 'curve' to the orange then there will be allowance for the downward pressure and the skin/orange won't be so apt to split and tear.
Does this make sense?
Let's look at some xrays comparing a healthy quartered hoof to a flat rasped hoof.
This first xray shows a nicely arched quarter to match the shape of the foot inside. So now imagine putting weight downward and you can 'see' how there is room for expansion and downward descent of the foot.
Now, look at this xray and imagine what happens when that hoof is loaded: (this is an xray of a hoof with a fractured coffin bone so its going to look a bit different from a healthy hoof) ...
You can just imagine that when that foot descends it's just not going to have the mechanism of a healthy, arched hoof capsule. Can you see that?
I'm not picking on farriers here -- there is a good reason why they rasp the foot flat and that is for the application of shoes! But, we're discussing healthy, bare hooves ... a different critter altogether.
I welcome discussion and comments. I hope I have made this explanation more clear than a bowl full of mud for you!
You can always reach me by EMAIL or check out my website, www.barefoottrim.com and if you're interested in furthering your education on Natural Hooves then check out the home study course I have: www.integrativehorsecourses.com I'd love to work with you. :)