The holistic approach to hoof care could mean barefoot trimming to some; for others it may mean learning more than a layman’s understanding of conformation and farrier science. Without this information, a new horse owner is destined to rely on the advice of others when choosing a farrier, or knowing if that farrier is doing what is correct for his or her horse.
To accurately evaluate natural hoof angle and lateral balance of a well-trimmed horse, the horse must be in a straight, square and relaxed position. This is generally referred to as “squaring up” the horse. The head positioning needs to be straightforward; any turning of the head to one side or another can influence weight bearing. Each leg must be taking its equal share of weight.
Picture a line drawn from the nose along the top of the neck and continuing across the backbone to the tail. To achieve a straight line on your horse may take some cross-tie training. The most basic training any horse owner can do is to teach the horse with slight prompting of movement of the haunch or shoulder that encourages the horse to stand straight for proper evaluation. The more attention an owner spends toward straightness in the daily handling of the horse, the easier it will be to evaluate balance over the life of the horse.
In evaluating hoof angle, conformation is the main consideration. When the front legs are standing side by side it is easy to assess from a profile perspective if the pastern angles of the two front feet are the same. The horse of a long shoulder angle that takes a long stride, such as that of the thoroughbred race horse, should have a low hoof angle, and a corresponding pastern angle. The horse with a sharp slope of the shoulder, such as the classic Paso Fino, would be less able to extend its gait, but in need of an easier breakover, so the hoof would be trimmed to a much higher angle.
You know that you have the proper natural angle when the leg and hoof stand below the shoulder like a plum bob, and the bone column of the front legs are in proper alignment.
The lateral balance can be viewed by standing far enough behind the horse that you can view the heels of each hoof. When standing square, the medial and lateral heels of each hoof should appear equal. The lateral balance is the hardest for the farrier to master. It can take a good bit of time to develop an eye for determining if the plane of the hoof is perpendicular to the line of the bone column of the leg. A gage was created for this purpose, called a Finnegan gage, which is used by many farriers, but I believe it is worth the time to acquire an eye.
When you lift a front leg (as you would when cleaning the hoof before riding), instead of holding the hoof itself, grasp the leg by the cannon bone area and allow the joints below that point to fall open by gravity. Then align your eyes with the plane of the hoof and imagine a T, where the plane of the bottom of the hoof is the top of the T, and the bone column is the straight line that is perpendicular to it. A farrier has to develop a trained eye to be able to evaluate many different horses, but the owner only has to know what is right for his or her horse or horses to identify lateral balance.
NUTRITION FOR THE SOLE
Nutrition plays a large role in achieving sole growth. When fresh water blue-green algae, with sea minerals for assimilation of nutrients, is added to the horse’s diet, distal hoof growth can be quite dynamic. Although sometimes a slower process, I have received reports of the same results achieved by barefoot trimmers.
Fresh water blue-green algae, from Klamath Lake, Oregon, is the best I’ve found. Crystalloid Electrolyte Sea Minerals are added to THE PERFECT HORSE® to assist your horse in the assimilation of up to 97% of the rich nutrients available in the pure fresh water blue-green algae.
Whether your horse is shod or barefoot, balancing with a proper trim establishes the foundation for bone alignment. Nutrition is the key to providing enough quality hoof material to make needed changes.
Wayne Blevins is a former farrier and founder of E3Live For Horses, www.e3liveforhorses.com