The Apex of the Hoof

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Today I want to write about the APEX of the hoof. 

The Apex is another landmark that can be used to determine several things about the overall well-being of the hoof but first one must know, exactly, what the Apex is! 

Simply put, the apex is the tip of the frog. 

That being said, however, the apex is not always clear. "How come?", you ask ... 

Let's take a look. 

Illustration Copyright Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate

OK .. so you see the circled area at the tip of the frog that is colored dark red and labelled "APEX" ... THAT is the apex. 

Lets see what it looks like on a well-balanced hoof: 

So, with this well trimmed hoof one can see that the true apex is just under the tip of the frog. The circled area is rougher and cracked a bit ... where the yellow dot is indicates the deepest part of the concavity of the hoof. 

In the photo above you can see how there is deep concavity at the apex of the frog. This is a wonderful, healthy, strong hoof. 

Now, why is that important? Well, a couple of reasons. 

The edge of the coffin bone is thinner than the rest of the bone. This means inordinate pressure on that slight edge can damage it. About and inch or so anterior (towards the toe) to the TRUE apex is where the edge of the coffin bone lies in the foot and where the break-over should be established with a SLIGHT rocker to that 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock area across the hoof. (Do NOT do this 'rocker' of 10* or so on a laminitic or foundered horse!)  

Now look at this long toed hoof: (on left side ... note how long the frog has stretched!!!)  Photo Fair Use - Google

Do you see how the frog was trimmed back in the photo on the right?  

So, what can we tell about a hoof JUST from the apex and why is it so important? 

Well, there's one BIG advantage of learning to 'read' the frog apex. Ideally, the hoof is going to have at LEAST 1/2" or more of LIVE SOLE. Remember - the LIVE sole is TERMINAL. This means the tubules grow to just 1/2" and then stop and begin to curl up on themselves upon loading of the hoof to form a protective callus.

How can we tell how thick the sole REALLY is?

It's easy and, in my experiences, this method of reading the apex and hoof have been pretty spot on with x-rays that were taken of the hoof proving measurements. 


FIND THE TRUE APEX OF THE FROG ... then take a rasp, lay it across the toe and measure into the apex. To that number you'll ADD 1/2" ... the total measurement is where you'll find the coffin bone in the foot. The same method can be applied to the heels (using the collateral grooves just by the seat of corn) to find out, very closely, where the back of the coffin bone lies and how thick the sole is back by the heels. Using those measurements and looking at the angle of the collateral grooves can also give you a pretty solid idea of the angle and position of the coffin bone in the foot. 

 The 2nd use for finding the true apex of the hoof is to approximate where the P3/coffin bone toe lies in the capsule for the purpose of trimming back the toes. The distal edge of the coffin bone rests about 3/4 - 1" anterior of the apex (going towards the toe) ... THAT is where the front edge of your coffin bone lies in the hoof and this is your landmark for the break-over point. I use my thumb to measure the approximate inch ... and another thumb's width in front of the edge of the coffin bone is where the distal edge of the toe capsule should be. 

Photo Illustration PENZANCE Equine Integrative Solutions

Illustration Copyright Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate.
All Rights Reserved. 

So many times we see the area around the apex of frog being trimmed away. That area is the thinnest, repeat - the thinnest - area of the sole. See where the P3 is (gray shaded area) in the illustration above? That is the sole area that needs to be left alone except to maybe peel off exfoliating pieces that are even easily removed by hand. Do NOT try or, allow your trimmer to try, to force "concavity" by knifing out this area. Again, if there are peeling pieces or little chunks that come right off easily, fine -- take them off but do NOT 'carve out concavity' in this area. Doing so is just asking for a sore horse. 

OK, so there you have it. That is the "Apex" of the Equine Hoof. 

A commentary was made on an article online that states,

"D---k P. and I recently attended a veterinarian/farrier conference given by Gene Ovnicek at Rochester Equine Clinic in Rochester, New Hampshire. The seminar focused on the new balance trimming (Four-Point Trim). This method of trimming stems from research done on wild horses. When wild horses’ feet were evaluated, it was consistently observed that one-third of the length of the solar surface of the foot was anterior to (toward the toe) a spot just behind the apex of the frog and two-thirds of the length was posterior to (behind) this point. It was also observed that these horses had thick, callused soles; that the toe was rolled, with the breakover point about an inch in front of the frog and that the heel of the foot usually extended back to the widest part of the frog. 

These are characteristics we would all like to see on the feet of our domestic horses. While our horses don’t generally live with the same footing conditions as wild horses, many of the principles of this study may be applied to their feet."

While I may not adhere to the "Four-Point Trim" method of trimming hooves (although I never say never when it comes to horses and their hooves), I do hold to the information stated above about the Apex of the frog. This is good information and should be heeded. 

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 hoof care 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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