A Degenerate Hoof

Before I get into any detail in this entry, I must make it clear that there are different viewpoints in all equine disciplines. It is by no means my intention to disqualify the activities of my riding school nor the actions of the farrier operating there; any comments I make are personal opinions and observations and may well be contrary to those of my colleagues.

Our old BWN horse (he is now 20) suffers from “bad hooves”. One of my colleagues has known him since he was 5 and says that his hooves have always been like that. Typically this is a horse that is tended to by a traditional farrier and consequently his hooves are “trimmed” in the traditional manner as a precursor to shoeing. However, as is our policy at the riding school, his hind hooves are not shod – a measure taken to reduce any injuries that may be caused by a kick.

So let’s look at those hind hooves first. Under the circumstances, they are not too bad; good they are not, but at least they show some conformity to a natural hoof. As one might expect, being “cut off” rather than being given a natural trim has left them vulnerable to splitting and splintering. Happily this is something that can easily be corrected particularly if the trim is finished of with a decent “Mustang Roll”. The Mustang Roll has the effect of rounding off the sharp edges of the hoof and in particular reducing contact between the outer hoof wall and the ground.
The hoof wall is actually two layers: a hard outer layer whose function is solely one of protection, and a softer inner layer which is load-bearing and is actually intended to take the weight of the horse. It is this inner layer that should make contact with the ground rather than the more brittle outer layer – the layer that so easily chips, splinters and splits.

Moving on to the front hooves; the left-fore is much like the rear two, albeit shod. The right-fore is a disaster area. The hoof is somewhat soft but at the same time displays a tendency to be brittle and see chunks shear off. The toe is very long and the heel is seemingly run under. This has been artificially corrected with an “orthopædic” shoe – the heel is raised to “correct” the rather lengthy toe and run under heel. Studying the form of the sole, we see that in actual fact, the toe is not only too long from front to back, but protrudes too far out from the sole. By shortening this excess of toe, the foot angle would be reduced (or rather, more accurately, increased) and the heel would be much less run under. Additionally, by removing the shoes the hoof would be given a chance to harden up and become more resistant to damage, albeit with some necessary adaptation time.

Now just the chance to put this all into practice…

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