Thursday, 24 November 2011

All about a balanced hoof

This is a post I've been wanting to put up for a while but  - like a lot of things - its taken quite a long time to put what is very nice and clear when looking at a horse into words that make sense when there are no visual aids other than a few photos.  So here goes, and if you want clarification on anything that I haven't made clear, just shout ;-)

First off, what IS a balanced hoof?  Well (within this blog, at least!),  a balanced hoof means only one thing: a hoof which is balanced for that particular limb on that particular horse.  This means of course that hoof balance is unlikely to be the same for 2 horses - in fact its unlikely to be the same for 2 limbs on the same horse, given that horses, like people, are asymmetric.

There is (IMO) no way of evaluating hoof balance by using reference points or angles which are external to the horse.  I explained a bit more about why this is the case in an earlier post:

You can however get a very good idea of whether the hoof is balanced for the horse by assessing the horse's conformation, particularly the limbs, and by looking at the hoof capsule.
This is obviously a hoof which is under inappropriate stress and which cannot currently support the horse correctly.

Its important to remember that although the hoof wall looks solid and unyielding, its actually quite a malleable, plastic material.  Think of a glacier - looks like a dense wall of ice but is constantly moving and responding to pressure - and a hoof is similar - always trying to support the limb in the most effective way.
The same hoof from the sole gives us more of a clue as to what is happening.  Drawing a line down the hoof highlights the fact that each half is completely different.  The lateral side (on the right of the photo) has a shallow central sulcus and the sole is level with the hoof wall.  On the medial side there is a much deeper collateral groove and long hoof wall above the sole.  Basically this is a hoof which  - internally - is on a tilt, hence the distortions in the hoof capsule.  It wants to be level, and the hoof capsule wants to be supportive but at the moment there are too many stresses between the internal and external structures.

I'll be posting more on hoof balance soon - there is masses to put up and this is only the first instalment!


Anonymous said...

A very useful post - can't wait to see and read more!

Heila said...

Please keep going, I'm learning so much from your blog.

Val said...

Very interesting. I am taken by the large, healthy-looking frog. I expect to see a sick frog attached to a less than healthy hoof, but I guess those do not always go together. Thanks for explaining the dramatic differences in lateral and medial structure. It would be nice to see them in 3D, but 2D is still a worthwhile learning media!