The Hairline Tells It All ...

Lyle “Bergy” Bergeleen wrote a book. It’s called, “The Hairline Tells It All”. I read it way back when it first came out and embraced it full hilt. … The Hairline.  And I ain’t talkin’ about the hair on our heads! (Or, lack thereof) … I’m talking about the hairline on the horse’s hoof … where horn meets hair.

It truly does talk to us.

It tells us ‘things’ … like where there’re undue pressures exerted on the hoof wall or the sole, or, if the hoof is balanced medio-laterally (side to side). It can indicate a sinking hoof. It can tell us how the coffin bone is angled IN the foot where we can’t see with our own eyes. It can speak of prior injuries and tell us how the tubules in the hoof are growing. It can tell us if an abscess is brewing or a hoof is going laminitic.

Yep, the hairline tells it all.

And, all it takes to ‘listen’ to the hairline is to view from the ground level. Yep – from on the ground.  When lying flat on the ground in front of the horse (be cautious – of course we all know that horses can be unpredictable but in all the years I worked on horses I’ve never had one step on my head! I’ve had them spook and jump OVER me but still – be CAREFUL!) and take a good look at the hairline. Even when viewing from slightly ‘above’, you’ll be able to see if the hairline is parallel with the level plane of the ground.


 Is it parallel to the level ground without any deviations up or down or any ‘waves’ or ‘dips’? 

If parallel to the ground that tells you that the hoof is well balanced medio-laterally. You can, also, view the length of the wall on either side of the hoof from the hairline down to the ground. Both sides should be equal in length.


You see, the hairline is malleable. It is easily affected by pressure from underneath the hoof. If there is a spot on the sole that perhaps needs to be skimmed down it will tell you in the hairline as there will be a slight ‘wave’.  If you follow a ‘line’ from the center of the ‘wave’ in the hairline down to the ground you may be able to see that the wall, right there, is a tad longer than it should be OR … look under the hoof at the sole and see if perhaps there is a high spot in the sole.  

If the hairline is higher on one side of the hoof or the other  then you know that you have excess wall or heel on the side that is elevated. In the case of this illustration, the right side of the hoof is higher than the left.


I think the hardest thing for trimmers to see is the DIAGONAL IMBALANCE … A Diagonal imbalance is when one heel will be taller than the other and the diagonal toe quarter will also be higher than the other quarter. The hairline may look to be perfectly parallel to the ground when viewed from above but then, when on the ground viewing it at plane level then one can see the hairline is ‘tilted’ .  

Diagonal Imbalance is a complicated topic but if you want to learn more about it you can read more here:   You'll have to read this on a PC as I've yet to finish converting my website, over to a mobile-friendly format. But the illustration, I hope, is clear. 

Mostly, if you've heard about a 'diagonal imbalance' from someone then that person has either been a PENZANCE student or has heard the information from a PENZANCE student.  This is not a widely understood imbalance of the equine hoof and most do not recognize it unless they've studied with me.  It take a good eye and someone to clearly explain it for complete understanding. Unfortunately, because of this, many hooves continue on in the same growth pattern of diagonal issues until serious imbalances cause lameness. 

Understanding the hairline can absolutely help the horse owner to recognize and PREVENT hoof lamenesses before they occur. 

I hope you all will inspect your horses' hooves after reading this and let me know what you see! 






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:



“A” having more arc than “B” is the way almost all long pastern bones are formed and is not a good indication of imbalance. You can look at any DP Radiograph and see it.

Jenn February 26, 2017

Do you have a regular eb last or newsletter I can subscribe to??

Carol Retzer February 25, 2017

Any tips on viewing the hairline on a horse that has lots of feathering?

Tina February 24, 2017

To Tascha — ha ha I don’t see F either, but the letters are white and maybe we aren’t seeing it?

Trish September 20, 2016

I’m trying to buy the revised Hoof Talk books on Amazon. I need hard copies or iPad download, I don’t have a kindle.
Will they be available??

Lori Cabana September 11, 2016

Good article! I had never thought of lying on the ground to inspect the hairline but of course it would make things more obvious!!

Catharine Kintoff September 11, 2016

Am i the only one who doesn’t see (F)??? lol Definitely looking at his hairline more closely tomorrow!

Tascha September 10, 2016

Hi Tracey — could be conformational. Could be how the rider is balanced. Could be mild subluxations in the neck or atlas … could be a number of different things. :) That’s where good ferreting comes in and where experience really counts. :)

Gwenyth Santagate July 20, 2016

Hi Bergy! Long time no speak!

For the sake of simplicity here, and since I was focusing on the hairline, I didn’t go into detail about other ‘landmarks’ that I use to balance the individual hooves. And yes, absolutely, the heels may not be the same height on a correctly balanced hoof. But that’s where, as I said, the other landmarks come into play. I’ll get to that in a future post.

Thanks so much for your input!

Gwenyth Santagate July 19, 2016

My question is what if after the fresh trim all is balanced but soon after the foot wears itself into this “diagonal imbalance” situation. Isn’t that a conformational issue?

Tracey DeJong July 16, 2016

Where can we buy this book? I went to and it shows there are no more printed. Thanks.

Paige Snyder July 16, 2016

Thank you for your post. I love positive reinforcement and ways to verify.

Nancy Lane July 15, 2016

Fantastic information, need a pocket guide with illustrations and pictures please .
Where can I find your book ?

Lesha Pierson July 14, 2016

Thanks for very kind words! One hugh misunderstanding still remains in the equine industry concerning medial lateral balance. Heels are rarely equal in length when " maturely balanced! Amazon just launched our HoofTalk books which have been revised mainly to clear up this issue ! Enjoy Bergy

Lyle (Bergy) Bergeleen July 14, 2016

This should be taught in all should g schools. Somewhere somehow. The ball is being dropped.

Renae July 13, 2016

This should be taught in all should g schools. Somewhere somehow. The ball is being dropped.

Renae July 13, 2016

Thanks for showing and telling me about this. I have studied hooves for many years and have noticed some of these things but never cease to learn more. Hope you will keep this free info as everyone needs it for their horse health.

Betty Jones July 12, 2016

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