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Posts Tagged ‘The Essential Hoof Book’

In caring for your horse’s feet, you not only want to see how the left and right halves of the foot are balanced, you also want to evaluate the hoof’s front-to-back balance. We call this dorsopalmar balance when we’re talking about the front feet, and dorsoplantar balance when we’re talking about the hind. You may also see the term anterior/posterior balance, which is the same for both front and hind feet. Farriers and veterinarians may refer to this in shorthand as “DP balance” or “AP balance.”

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The foot on the left has poor dorsopalmer balance (DP), with much
more mass ahead of the widest part of the foot (blue line) than behind it
(green line). The foot on the right has nearly perfect DP balance.

What you ideally want to see is a foot with approximately 2/3 of its mass in the back of the foot, behind the true apex of the frog (usually located about 1/2 inch behind the front point of the frog), and 1/3 ahead of the apex. This also equates to a foot that has about 50% of its mass both ahead and behind the axis of rotation of the coffin bone, a point which corresponds to the widest part of the foot. A foot with these general proportions accomplishes two very important things. First, the foot will have a strong base of support, with the hoof set up well under the bony column of the leg, maximizing the hoof’s ability to bear weight and dissipate impact forces. Second, good DP balance allows for a point of breakover that puts minimal strain to the joints and soft tissues.

When the front part of the foot is longer than the back part, this is called dorsopalmar or dorsoplantar imbalance. An alarming number of domestic horses have this kind of imbalance, which most frequently takes the form of long-toe/low-heel syndrome. When a foot has this conformation, breakover will be delayed, which can cause a variety of problems for the horse.

 

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Your horse needs you to care about his feet.

Hands-On Exercise

To check out your horse’s feet for front-to-back balance, find the widest point of the foot, then draw a line across it with a marker. Next, measure from that line to the very back point of the heels that touch the ground and jot that measurement down. Lastly, measure from the line forward to the point of breakover (POB), which is the most forward point where the hoof would contact the ground if standing on a flat surface. If there is any bevel in the shoe or toe, the POB is the spot where the bevel starts.

Now compare your measurements. If you find that your horse has more mass in the front part of the foot, talk to your hoof-care provider about it. If he or she is not concerned, it might be advisable to get a second opinion from another provider or your veterinarian. Repeat this exercise on all four feet. You can also use your measurements to compare the left front to the right front, and the left hind to the right hind. Note any disparities and discuss them with your hoof-care provider as well.

THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK by Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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ESSHOOF-HERE-FB

Did you know the hoof-pastern axis is how the angle of the dorsal wall of the horse’s hoof compares to the angle of the pastern bone? According to horsewoman Susan Kauffmann and certified trimmer Christina Cline in their brand new guide THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK, ideally, these two will be parallel to one another.

“This means that a horse with more upright pasterns overall will have more upright hoof angles than a horse with more sloping pasterns, whose feet should echo that degree of slope,” they say. “It also means that the hind feet will usually be slightly more upright than the front, as the hind pasterns of most horses are a bit more upright than the front.”

When the dorsal wall and the pastern don’t line up, people say that the hoof-pastern axis is “broken.”

“It can be broken back or it can be broken forward,” explain Kauffmann and Cline. “Either way, if you spot a broken axis on your horse, it is definitely something you want to discuss with your hoof-care professional and possibly your vet. In many instances, adjustments in trimming and/or shoeing can improve hoof-pastern alignment, such as a hoof with tall, overgrown heels causing a broken-forward axis, or a long toe and low heel causing a broken-back axis. However, there are cases where the misalignment of angles is permanent, such as a club foot on a mature horse, where it isn’t going to be possible to achieve the ideal, and trying to force a ‘better’ angle onto such a foot can potentially cause harm.”

Evaluating your horse’s hoof-pastern axis can give you important information about his trim and conformation, and possibly help you to head off problems that could result if something is amiss. Here’s how Kauffmann and Cline tell us how to do it in THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK:

1  To get a correct read on your horse’s hoof-pastern axis, make sure the horse is standing on firm, level ground. It is also extremely important that the horse is standing square, which means all four feet are placed so that the cannon bones are perpendicular to the ground and the feet are weighted evenly. This allows you to see the true relation of the pastern angle to the hoof. If the horse is not standing square, his joints will flex to some degree, giving you an inaccurate reading of the hoof-pastern axis.

 

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Normal hoof-pastern axis (A); broken-forward axis (B); broken-back axis (C).

2  Once your horse is standing square (it may be helpful to have someone helping to keep him that way), move to the side, crouch down at a low angle, and take a look at how the front of the hoof wall lines up with the middle of the pastern. You might want to take a photo and draw some lines on it for easier assessment. If you see a broken-back or broken-forward angle, discuss it with your hoof-care provider and/or vet at the next opportunity.

 

For more hands-on activities that can help your horse stay healthy and happy from the ground up, check out THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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