Regular Horse Hoof Care Will Help To Avoid Equine Hoof Problems

Good and regular Horse Hoof Care is one of the most important things in horse care. Learn how to achieve optimum horse hoof health and avoid hoof problems in your horse.

No Hoof, No Horse!

I am sure you have heard this saying a million times before and you are probably tired of it. But it is so true! A horse with bad hoof health will have problems and will not perform at its best, it might even be lame.

The problem is that most horse owners and even vets and other hoof care professionals don't know what a healthy hoof looks like. What they look at every day is unfortunately deformed and unhealthy but because this is so common it is perceived as being normal.

Normal and common though does not mean healthy. Often these deformities are not even recognized as being the cause of performance problems and lameness.

But what is a healthy hoof? What does it look like?

To help your understanding of what a healthy hoof should look like I want to show you some hoof pictures of my Connemara mare and some pictures of deformed and unhealthy hooves in comparison.

hoof care, solar aspect of a healthy hoof

This hoof picture shows the solar aspect of a hind foot.

The frog is wide and healthy without any infection and a well developed central sulcus. The heels have a nice purchase and are back near the widest part of the frog. The sole shows a nice concavity and the hoof wall is well developed.

You can see a healthy inner wall (the white line) that forms a matrix with the outer hoof wall (black line).

The Golden Line (also called White Line) is tight and healthy.

The Bars are straight with a good proportion of inner and outer hoof wall.

healthy hoof medial view

This hoof picture shows the lateral view of the above hind foot.

The hoof walls are straight and show no flare, growth rings or chipping.

Do your horse's hooves look more like this?

This hoof picture is a near fore of a Warmblood mare that had been in shoes with conventional hoof care.

The frogs are weak with some infection.

Sole is thin with no concavity.

The hoof capsule has migrated forward and the heels are under-run. The heels are thin without any purchase area.

The hoof wall is thin and brittle and mainly only outer wall, there is hardly any inner wall. The Golden Line is dirty with some infection and not as tight as you would like to see it.

The Bars are weak, a bit laid over and mainly only outer wall.

This mare is very tender over stones and hard surfaces but if given some time, correct trimming and light exercise on soft ground improvements will happen.

unhealthy hoof, lateral view

This is the lateral view of the above hoof.

The toe is flared. The hoof wall is chipped and there are some growth rings.

unhealthy hoof with flare

This hoof picture from the front shows flared hoof wall, chipping and growth rings.

In Applied Equine Podiatry we call this Deformed Hoof Syndrome. If you look closely the majority of horses have some form of deformation of their hooves. This is not even a very extreme example.

The problem is that we are so used to looking at deformed feet, we think they are normal!

These deformities will lead to pathologies like navicular problems, abscess, hoof cracks, ringbone, sidebone, sheared heels, bruising, pedal osteitis, White Line Disease, thrush, thin walls, etc,...

Most horse owners, particularly ones owning shod horses, have to deal with some of these problems at some stage. If you had, did you get a satisfactory answer from your vet or farrier as to why this occured?

Was the answer just: Oh, the horse just has bad feet!

I would suggest, you don't just accept an answer like that! There is much more to it, believe me!

Most of these equine hoof problems will never occur if the horse always had ideal hoof care and a properly balanced foot. A healthy barefoot hoof deals effectively with kinetic energy. In effect it utilizes and dissipates the energies that are created throughout the stride of the horse.

In an unhealthy or shod foot these protective mechanisms are out of equilibrium. Kinetic energy doesn't just dissapear. As a result other structures like tendons, ligaments, cartilage, etc. that were never meant to deal with these forces are getting damaged. Therefore this will lead to the above mentioned pathologies.

Applied Equine Podiatry (AEP) is in my opinion the most advanced and logical approach I have come across in equine hoof care. My horses have overcome problems like hoof cracks and abscesses in a fairly short time after changeing to AEP practices.

running horses

The result is: I have three sound and happy horses!

Are you thinking about taking your horse shoeless?

This is an important decision. You need to consider some things before you take your horse out of shoes!

  • You need to be willing to learn about barefoot hoof care. It means taking over responsibilities!
  • If your horse has been in shoes, he might have some deformities/pathologies that will need time to heal. Your horse might need some time "off" to transition.
  • You might need to do some handwalking with your horse in therapeutic pads or on hard surfaces.

So, Shoes or no Shoes? Read on here to learn why your horse will benefit from being a barefoot horse.

You might also be interested in these pages...

Horse Health

Horse Behavior

Horse Training

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Anja Koch, DAEP
Applied Equine Podiatry
Caherciveen, Co. Kerry, Ireland
087-280 98 66