Hoof in General: Front hooves should be round
in shape and be able to be divided into thirds with 2/3 of the ground
contact behind the widest part of the foot and 1/3 ahead of the
widest part of the foot to the point of breakover. Rear hooves
should be more oval shaped. Front hooves hold 60% of the
horses total weight when static whereas the rears hold 40% and are
meant to be able to dig in for quick take-off at which time weight
shifts to rear.
The hooves should be balanced medially-laterally (side to
side). That is, if drawing an imaginary line from the heel to
the toe right down the middle of the hoof, the two sides should be the
same. Not one side higher than the other or thinner than the other but
both unilaterally the same.
The same applies when viewing the hoof from the front. If an imaginary
line is drawn straight down the middle of the pastern through the hoof,
both sides should be equal and balanced.
Ideally, the hoof wall
should be the same thickness all the way around the hoof and never left
long enough to be weight-bearing by itself. In healthy, whole hooves,
if one were to draw an imaginary shape continuing from the toe callous
around the hoof this wide area would look like a "natural" shoe on the
horse and be almost uniformly weight bearing as on a flat plane with
the walls of the hooves blending smoothly and tightly into the sole.
This is called the sole callous. The slight arched area in the quarters
that are not flat on the ground allow for expansion of the hoof on
loading. Here is an actual photograph depicting this.
This hoof has not yet been
trimmed but clearly shows the thick hoofwall with no
separations or dirt between the wall and the sole. The hoof sole is one
solid unit. The frog, however, is showing pathological issues and is
not representative of a healthy frog. The hoof is clearly in need of a
major correct trim. The heels are too long so the frog does not receive
any ground contact. This causes contracted heels which are evident in
the above photo.
When looking at the horse while hooves are on
the ground, the same applies for uniformity as it does when looking at
the hooves from a solar view.
This is a front hoof
newly trimmed after removing shoes. The heels were left longer than
ideal because the heels were so long before trimming that to trim down
to ideal height would have made the horse sore. Subsequent trims every
couple of weeks for a month or so will get the heels down to ideal
height. Notice, though, the angles of the hoof wall being the same
angle as the coronary and the pastern. The toe is nice and short and
the hoof has no irregularities. This hoof does not show much arch to
the quarters as it is a horse that is kept on soft ground. A horse that
is kept on hard ground would exhibit more arching.
Hooves should be smooth-walled
showing no ridges or rings around the hoof. Neither should there be any
chips, dings or other evidence of pathologies or injuries.
The coronary band hairline
should be a straight line when viewed from the side
with no bumps or waves. The angle of the coronary hairline, when viewed
from the side, should be close to 30 degrees (31 - 33*) to ground
level. This allows the coffin bone inside the hoof capsule to rest
nearly at ground level. Notice the
slight wave in the hoof arrowed whereas the hairline on the other hoof
is straight. The placement of the wave on this hairline is
indicative of bars that are left too long and a slight pressure point
on the hoof wall.
The frogs should be wide
across the back of the hoof with a nice, calloused, smooth appearance.
(Note: horses kept on wet or soft ground will have a more rubbery,
pliant type frog.) When the hoof is weight bearing the frog should be
in ground contact. There should be no slits or crevices in the frog
which would indicate pathologies.
The bulbs of the heels
should be uniform in size and
The photo above shows comments on a REAR hoof. Notice the nice, full
frog and heel. It's evenly shaped on both sides.
The yellow line along the frog crevice show that the line
of the hoof from apex of frog to the sides of the heel bulbs is correct
for a fully functioning barefoot hoof.
You can also see the outline of where the hoof naturally
falls at the toe. This is a rear hoof so the toe is NOT rockered at all
and the overall shape is more oval than the front.
In motion at a walk, the horse should be able
to be clearly viewed as landing HEEL FIRST with no
pronounced "kir-chunking" of the fetlock joint. Long toes on a horse do
not allow for this movement. Toes that are left too long will delay the
breakover and cause the toes to wear down from the underside faster
than the heel will wear down thus causing imbalances that set up a
whole gamut of other issues.
There should be no discoloration of
the sole of the hoof indicating bruising, bleeding or
other injuries. The sole, itself, should be approximately 1/2 -
3/4" thick. With a traditional pasture trim, this sole is generally
pared away leaving minimized protection for the P3. The sole grows at
the rate of about 1/4" a month. Therefore, when a horse's sole is pared
down to less than a 1/4 of an inch, as is frequently the case with
pasture trims, it will take at least 3 months for that sole to grow
back to full thickness and then another month or two to form a strong,
thick callused protection. One would expect a horse to be tender on the
sole until it is grown back and calloused.
The hooves, in general, should be wide
and suitable for the weight and size of the horse. One can expect
that the hooves may grow 1 - 2 sizes after being de-shod and trimmed
properly for maximum hoof function.
When viewing the hoof "plane" (sole) from
above there should be a flat plane with no ridges, bumps or uneven
plane. The toe should have a neat "rocker" at a 10 to 15 degree angle
from about a thumbs width in front of the frog apex to the outside toe
When viewing from the side, the quarters
should be nicely arched so the hoof ground contact points are clearly
on either side of the toe and at the heels. When standing, one should
be able to slip a piece of paper directly under the toe and then on
either side of the hoof.
The hoof wall should be nicely rolled all the
way around. The extent of the roll will be directly influenced by the
type of ground the horse walks on regularly. Soft ground will not wear
the walls round as much as hard-rocky ground and hooves on soft ground
need more traction to prevent slipping. Hooves on rocky ground will
naturally be "flatter" in the sole than horses that live on soft
HEELS approximately 1/8TH above the
live sole at the buttress.
Individual hooves will vary as to ideal heel height for that individual
horse. This photo shows proper heel length. Notice that while in
a non-weight bearing position the frog is just touching at ground
level. This is excellent. When the horse loads that hoof (steps on it),
the frog will then be touching the ground and bearing the weight of the
step to allow the circulatory pump action of the frog to be effective
as well as allow for maximum shock absorbency and dissipation of