Home | About the Hoof | Boots | Books | Links | About Me | Contact Me
It is not uncommon for each of your horse's hooves to be shaped differently. Diet, environment, conformation, genetics, joint and muscle comfort all play a part in the appearance and condition of the hoof.

Reading the external signs given by the hoof, and understanding what is happening internally is fundamental to trimming the hoof to stimulate the foot toward healing and good health. Trimming at regular intervals is essential to the healing process.
Natural trimming will help your horse move correctly and comfortably; correct movement will help your horse develop a strong, healthy hoof.

The hoof is highly adaptable reacting to dietary and environmental stimulus, including nippers and rasp; making it possible for natural hoof care to help foundered, laminitic, and navicular horses grow healthy hooves.

Trimming alone however will not solve the problems of laminitis and founder. These conditions are metabolic and need to be addressed from the inside out; trimming will only address the mechanical aspects of the healing process.

Jenny, a sweet foundered burro. Long heels, short toe. It was difficult for Jenny to grow a well connected hoof wall.

Jenny six months later, on a grass hay diet, much more comfortable.

Annie a gentle pony recovering from founder and seedy toe.

Each hoof is designed to support hundreds of pounds and withstand the impact forces associated with movement. In order to do this the hoof has the amazing ability to flex. Hoof mechanism is the manner in which the hoof absorbs and releases the energy of impact.

As the hoof strikes the ground the heels and quarters expand, the pastern descends onto the digital cushion which expands against the lateral cartilage expanding the quarters further. The outer hoof wall acts like a coil spring; it contains the energy released from within, during the loading and unloading phases of each step.

The bars lock the entire mechanism together, while also providing support. On a healthy bare hoof both the bars and the sole will callous.

Merlin, a very special guy

The frog plays a very important role in the proper function of the hoof. The frog is the first structure to make contact with the ground on a horse making a healthy heel first landing. The blood in the frog is also used for energy dissipation. However the warm moist tissue of the frog is a target for bacteria; care must be taken to treat any fungus infection of the frog quickly. When trimming the frog I consider hygiene, pain relief, bacteria, and sensitivity in the back of the foot.

Argo's frog fungus treated by soaking the hoof in a Borax solution with Calendula and Tea Tree oils.

The lateral cartilage is like a sling that holds the digital cushion. The digital cushion sits above the frog between the lateral cartilages. Stimulation of the frog helps to develop the fibrous material of the digital cushion.

The lateral cartilage, paper thin at birth, develops to about one inch thick; it is strengthened by flexion, the hoof twisting front to back and side to side. If not stimulated the correct tissues such as the digital cushion are unable to become stronger and properly dissipate impact energy upon hitting the ground. All tissues will dissipate energy if forced to; but if they are not designed for that function hoof problems can result.

In studying navicular horses, Dr. James Rooney found that due to chronic improper loading of the foot; i.e. the hoof landing toe first as opposed to the more natural heel first landing, damage is done to the deep digital flexor tendon then to the navicular bone which is absorbing energy in a manner it was not designed to do.

At birth, microscopically, all four hooves are the same. It is the foals' movement, the pressure & release to the frog that stimulates growth changing the digital cushion from fat to fibro cartilage.

Argo and Baby, Beautiful two month old foal hooves

With the application of a steel shoe the hoof mechanism is severely restricted. While a shoe is commonly considered a protective device, it may also be considered a preventative device. A shoe prevents the hoof wall from wearing, as well as preventing the frog and sole from necessary ground contact. The hoof wall continues to grow under the shoe; this growth and the powerful flexing action of the hoof can loosen the nails, resulting in a broken hoof wall and a lost shoe.

Neglected bare foot horse rescued at last