The First Focus

I hope this new year finds you all happy and safe from all the New Year's celebrations! We had a quiet one since I was laid up with a nasty cold. But that's OK ... I'm breathing and alive. And - here.

So, I felt strongly about answering a question that recently came through one of the hoof groups of which I follow - I was going to answer there but then I thought this information is stuff that ALL horseowners need to know ... so ... 

Question -- A gal had started trimming a horse with a long history of lameness. Xrays had confirmed some rotation in the worst foot - the degree was not mentioned. The trimmer trimmed to balance but the horse was worse after the trim and after "cleaning out some seedy toe". Stated that both fronts had flares that left the hoove soles bearing weight. The hooves were also stated to be significantly different in size.

The trimmers question was ... what to focus on to get the feet to grow more evenly?

My thoughts --

This isn't JUST a trimming situation - this is a WHOLE HORSE situation. Hooves, as described, cannot be 'fixed' simply with trimming. Cracks, flares, overgrown hooves, while can mainly be caused from lack of timely hoofcare, the quality of the horn of the hooves also contribute to the overall poor state of the hooves. And, the quality is determined by many factors. 

It was not stated as to what caused the 'long history of lameness' or the founder so we don't really have any idea of what the horse has been through. There's no mention of the diet, the exercise, the husbandry or the environment in which the horse lives. There was also no mention if there was a former injury to the horse that may have caused hoof issues through imbalances of the body or if, maybe, mechanical injury to the hooves or a hoof, itself. These ALL contribute to well or ill health of hooves. They ALL contribute.

Of course, if the horse is a rescue then none of this information may ever reach the new owner in which case the hoofcare provider has to play Sherlock and ferret out the 'fix' with limited input with as much intuitiveness as skill.

A good hoofcare provider, though, is going to be able to assume a few things simply from looking at the state of the hooves upon the initial examination. A good hoof provider will also look at the balance of not just the hooves but the whole body, as well.

Is the horse evenly muscled?
Does the horse stride out in balance?
Does the horse paddle or wing during movement?
How is the tail held during movement and how does it 'fall' when the horse comes to a halt?
Are there any uneven patches of coat where the coat seems more coarse than another area?
What is the quality of the coat and mane and tail?
Is the mane balanced the way it should be on the horse's neck?
Is the horse 'bobbing' his head?
If so, on which foot?
Do the hips rise evenly with each stride? 
Do the hooves land heel first?
How much heel is on the hooves?
How long are the toes?
What is the quality of the frog?
What is the quality of the horn of the hooves?
Are there any rings on the hooves?
Soft spots?
Are there any scars on the body or legs?
And more.

These are all tell-tale signs that a good hoofcare provider is going to automatically take in upon initial examination of the horse that is exhibiting hoof issues.
Even a horse with healthy hooves should be examined as such in order to get the WHOLE picture of the WHOLE horse.

WHOLE HORSE examination also looks into the diet of the horse.

What does the horse eat and how much per day?
How much water does the horse drink?
Is the horse allowed out to graze?
What is in the pasture for vegetation?
Or is the horse kept in a dry lot?
What kind of hay is the horse fed and how much per day?
What supplements does the horse get and how often?

A meme I just recently saw stated, "A healthy outside begins with a healthy inside."
Well, that goes along hand-in-hand (or hoof-in-hoof) with my mantra -

"What goes in, grows out."

So that is the FIRST place to start. That would be 'the first focus'.

After the needs of the "outside" of the whole horse are addressed then one can work on the hooves. Without seeing the hooves in question I would not venture forth to comment as to, specifically, what needed to be done to them.

The hoof is part of a whole ... so depending on what is noticed about the body, the coat, the diet, and everything else then one can pretty accurately assess what is needed for the particular hooves on that particular horse. Suffice to say that a solid, "balanced" trim, according to the need of EACH, individual hoof needs to take place by a knowledgeable and skilled hoofcare practitioner - One who knows her or his equine hoof anatomy inside-out and can trim according to the anatomy AND the physiology of the individual hoof.

I would strongly urge horse owners to learn as much as they can of CORRECT hoof anatomy & physiology as well as what constitutes a 'balanced trim'. Keep in mind that fads come in and go out; specific 'methods' of trimming are touted all over the internet and among different trainers and hoofcare providers. The only TRUE expert on hooves is the horse itself. YOUR HORSE. Study the way your horse moves. Study the way the hooves land and function. Study the muscular structure of your horse. Study so you would be able to spot when your horse is "off". Each horse is unique. Each hoof is unique. Watch hoof dissections on youtube to see what makes up the equine digit. (This is a channel on youtube that I consider to be one of the top educational hoof channels on the web today - 

Learn to know your horse's hooves as well as you know the back of your own hand. In order for the best care to be given to your horse there must be a team to work together ... owner, farrier/trimmer and horse. That's the team. If pathological hooves are an issue then adding your veterinarian health care provider into the team is a must. 

The more owners know about how to keep their horses sound and healthy, the better off the horses will be. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Stay tuned for a great year of educational hoof posts and more! Right here on



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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