NB Hoof Care Corner - Issue #2

Welcome back to the Natural Balance Hoof Care Corner.  We finished up last time posing the question of whether your horse lands toe-first, flat or heel-first.  The idea behind watching a horse walk and determining how they engage the ground is not a new concept, but there is very little information out there about what it means, what to look for, or why it is even important.  Although there are many facets to studying how the horse travels and how they come into the ground, we will start simply by just discussing the actually hoof landing phase and making the determination of toe-first, flat or heel-first.

Most seasoned horsemen and women understand the concept of trimming or shoeing to align the pastern bones in the lower limb.  This is best done with X-Rays, but is usually done visually by looking for a parallel relationship between the front of the hoof wall and the front of the pastern, and is done with the horse standing still.  And although it is important to align the pastern in a static state (when the horse is standing), it is probably more crucial for the pastern bones to be aligned at the moment when the forces are the greatest, which is when the foot comes into the ground. (Figure 1)  Therefore, shoeing or trimming the foot to encourage a desired foot engagement into the ground should take precedence over a visual assessment while the foot is in a static state.  Again, we will discuss this more later.



Many people consider a flat landing to be desired, and in some horses it is all that is possible and for many it is certainly sufficient to maintain soundness.  A slight heel-first landing (Figure 1A) is proven to be the most beneficial for the following reasons:

     - It ensures that the pastern joints will be aligned during landing and initial weight bearing.

     - It ensures that the horse has reached its maximum length of stride (can you reach further by landing on your toe or your heel?)

     - It helps to facilitate good foot function by engaging the frog, which helps to support the Navicular bone and the soft tissue around the DIP (coffin) joint.

A toe-first landing (Figure 1B) on the other hand can lead to:

     - A subluxation of the short pastern bone in the coffin joint, which puts pressure on the Navicular bone and the surround soft tissue (meaning the pastern joints do not align during landing and initial weight bearing).

     - It limits the horse’s length-of-stride and range of motion.

     - It causes an unnatural vibration in the foot that can lead to soft tissue damage and possibly changes to the Navicular bone.

     - It is an indication by many veterinarians that a horse is Grade 1 lame.

See you next issue.

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