6yo with very contracted feet. I cropped the toes off so we can just focus on the heels and bulbs. Note the distorted bulb line, the central sulcus pushed very high and narrow, and the medio-lateral heel angles very shallow. On the right, greatly improved hoof morphology and a horse with a much better loading pattern and muscle tone. Done over 24 trims.
This dissection shows how the collateral groove is distorted upwards into the hoof (yellow line left). In relation to that you can see how long and incorrectly proportioned the bar is. The green line shows how the bar should run and where the bottom of the collateral groove should be. The yellow line is too close to the DDFT and the Navicular Bone and the full bar blocks the horn movement in that area. The result: horse with heel pain. Barefoot trimming should work towards the green line to get the horse comfortable again. This means one has to trim for change, not maintenance in a case like this.
On the left the front hooves of a 3yo pony. Very significantly distorted feet and an uncomfortable pony. On the right, the same fronts about a year later. Much improved hooves and the comfortable pony is now going to pony club. It’s very easy to forget what the starting point was.
We often get requests to assist with hoof boot fitting based on hoof measurements. When those measurements are in such a way that the hoof is longer than wide, aka Length > Width, then this is usually relatively straight forward since the boots are designed to accommodate such a hoof.
Longer than wide
The hoof often gets likened to a slanted, truncated cone. A cone would project a circle to the ground, however, since we are talking a bout a slanted cone that meets with a horizontal surface (the ground), the projection is oblong, it is slightly longer than wide. In most cases also the coronet is slightly longer than wide. These are attributes of a healthy hoofcapsule.
Wider than Long
While we have boots that accommodate a hoof with Width = Length, the problem arises when Width > Length. This would result in the length requiring one size of the boot while the width would need another size, sometimes differing by two boot sizes. Since the boots are usually longer than wide, there would be a gap in the toe and the boot will twist in the best case, or worse, they come off and get damaged.
Here are common scenarios why the hoof presents wider than long:
The length measurement is incorrect. Often as a result of the heels being too long or very underrun and then the heel buttress gets measured at the wrong location. Once measured correctly, the hoof measures longer than wide and the fitting should be relatively easy.
- The hoof has quarter-flare present. This is by far the most common scenario. One can see the flare by looking at the hoof from the front and compare the coronet contour with the contour at the bottom. If flare is present, the line along the hoof connecting the coronet and the bottom will appear curved or has a distinct “kink” in it (see red dotted line below). If that line was running straight (yellow dotted line below), the hoof would be less wide and usually would measure longer than wide, or at least as wide than long. For those proportions it is easier again to find a fitting boot.
- There are situations where the hoof is indeed wider than long, but that is usually linked with more severe situations that usually involve substantial loss of parts of the pedal bone. Usually, boot modifications are needed to get something that fits well. Please seek the advice of someone who is trained for that type of pathology.
The flare as described above often cannot be completely rasped off in one go as there is simply too much of it present. In those cases, project a line from the coronet to the base where the hoof would finish if there was no flare. Then address the flare to that line in the bottom third of the hoof. Keep repeating this every two weeks until the flare has grown out.
Areas where the coronet is pushed high will need further relief at the hoof wall below the coronet distortion, so that the coronet can “relax”.
It should be the goal of Barefoot Hoofcare to improve the health of the hooves. Hoof boots are a great tool to assist with this, but advise against using boots as a crutch to mask up underlying problems.
See here for some more transition examples.
By Thorsten Kaiser, Institute for Barefoot Equine Management
On the Barefoot journey with our horse, many of us have asked the question: Are we still Barefoot if we use hoof boots? The answer is not a simple yes or no, however. This article will clarify the different aspects to consider.
When we look around and see the hooves of successful barefoot horses, we see tough hooves that have nice concavity, tough frogs, no white-line issues, and strong hoof walls – they just look great. Those horses seem to be confident and sure-footed over any terrain without any hoof protection. However, in many cases those hooves have not always been so healthy. In order to get where they are now, they had to go through two phases: Transitioning and Conditioning.
In the Transitioning phase the unhealthy hoof, stimulated through movement and a style of trimming that restores hoof function, will change to a healthy situation and grow stronger. The photos show the comparison of a hoof at the beginning and end of transition. At the start the hooves display flare in the hoof wall, underslung heels, bars that are long and pushed forward over the sole, distorted/curved coronet, thin soles, poor concavity, and contracted heels. All these symptoms are the result of incorrect lever forces acting on the hoof, causing distortion and reduced horn quality and quantity. Simply applying a hoof boot to this situation without addressing the underlying problems will not lead to long-term success. While correct trimming aims to remove those lever forces, the horse needs time to heal and grow a healthy hoof. In response, the horse moves carefully and sensitively over slightly rough or lumpy terrain. The horse, in order to control the impact and loading of the sensitive parts of the hoof, often chooses a toe-first landing over the desired heel-first landing of a sound horse. These incorrect impact forces have negative effects, directly, to the hoof suspension and, peripherally, to muscles that get used unnaturally which add to the horse’s discomfort.
Properly fitted hoof boots create a firm but yielding environment with no lumps and bumps that can cause excess pressure to the transitioning hoof. The horse quickly gains confidence in putting the foot down and using it correctly. As a result, you get a happier horse that moves more correctly and therefore transitions to a healthier hoof a lot faster. You also get a happier horse owner who now will ride the horse more often, and the increased movement will also speed up the Transition to Barefoot. At the end of the Transitioning phase we have a horse that has developed healthy hooves and is sound on the terrain it lives on.
In order to get the horse sound over gravel roads, rocky tracks, riverbeds, etc. it now has to go through the Conditioning phase. This means gradual and consistent exposure to these types of grounds so the hooves have a chance to get tougher. Ultimately, the goal is to ride your horse over a variety of terrain without any hoof protection. However, depending on where you live and how much time you have for riding, it may not be possible to truly condition the hooves properly for the rougher terrain. In this case the use of hoof boots will allow you to access more challenging terrain without compromising the important heel-first landing.
Hoof boots, when used in conjunction with trimming that restores proper hoof function, can be a helpful tool to speed along the Transitioning phase and can be essential to keeping healthy hooves moving over rougher terrain when Conditioning is not possible.
Proper boot fit is very important to your success. Feel free to contact us as we can point you in the right direction.