Horseshoes & Performance

08/22/2017

Whatever our discipline, we want our horses to enjoy their work & to be able to perform at their very best. Despite the array of horseshoes available, lameness is still one of the top issues affecting horses, with many of these stemming from hoof-related causes. The hoof's precision design has an enormous impact on how the horse moves, how do horseshoes affect the hoof & the horse's movement?   

We can all appreciate the importance of comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Even these are often a relief to remove when we get home after a long day. But imagine having to wear shoes 24 hours a day, every day, while performing varying degrees of exercise. Wouldn't you want to wear the very best fitting shoes that support your feet to move in the most balanced, natural way?  

Imagine wearing a shoe that restricts your foot's natural movement. How would this affect the way that you walk? And what about running, or jumping over obstacles? This analogy helps us understand something very important that we can transfer onto how shoes affect our horses, & shed some light into practical ways we can help our horses overcome some of these challenges. 

The Correct Phase of Stride

This image shows the human phase of stride. Unlike horses, whose hooves are designed to land flat for even weight distribution, our heel lands first. When we prepare to take the next step, shown as the 'Propulsive phase' in the above image, we use the ball of the foot, the area behind the big toe, to push off & propell ourselves forward. This 'take-off' point is known as the Point of Breakover, or the Breakover Point, & is as crucial to our horses as it is to us in determining a balanced stride.

The Horse's Breakover Point

Vital for Balanced Movement

For the horse, the point of breakover is at the tip of the toe. But the correct toe length is crucial in enabling this precise area to be correctly utilised. If too long, the toe can be compared to us wearing a shoe that is too long - with each step you'd have to compensate for the imbalance. Running would alter the way your body moves as the imbalance impacts your entire body. Compared to wearing running shoes, the amount of energy expenditure is enormous, with excessive strain & stress on your muscles & joints.
When a horse's toe is the correct length, as the heel lifts off the ground, the toe can roll smoothly with minimal pressure. The hoof then lifts with optimum momentum, allowing the horse to move forwards in an efficient & evenly balanced way. 

How Toe Length Changes Inbetween Re-Shoeing

Even when the horse is correctly trimmed & shod, with the toe the correct length to enable the correct point of breakover, during the common 6-week interval between being re-shod (or re-trimmed with barefoot horses), the toe will have grown a considerable amount (approx. 1/4 - 1/2 inch per month), altering the breakover point. 

Side Effects of an Imbalanced Hoof
This alteration can cause a cascade of unwanted side effects which can impede performance & increase the risk of lameness, including:

  1. Hoof Lands Heel First
    Because a long toe causes an imbalance in the stride, it affects how the hoof lands with each step. One of the most common effects is causing the hoof, which should land flat for even weight distribution, to land heel first.
    Consussion of the heels can result, with heel pain being one of the causes of lameness. 
  2. Compromised Frog
    One of the effects of contracted heels is the narrowing of the frog. The frog plays the crucial role of absorbing shock, to protect the pedal bone, tendons, joints & ligaments from concussion. A compromised frog, or a frog that is prevented from coming in contact with the ground, is unable to absorb shock efficiently & aid circulation. 
  3. Thin Soles
    Another frequent cause of lameness, thin soles can become painful & reduce the ability to support & protect the pedal bone. A sole that is not adequately or evenly weight-bearing is prone to thinning, bruising (leading to abscesses), & potentially collapsing, linked to rotation of the pedal bone.
  4. Hoof Wall Weakness / Cracks
    Designed to be a strong protective wall, imbalanced landing of the hoof or excessing hoof wall length can weaken it & lead to cracks, flares or stress fractures. 

    "As horse owners, how do we help our horses to have a naturally balanced hoof all of the time?" 

The Self-Trimming Toe

For a Consistent Point of Breakover

Our Shoes
Optimum Support

Having studied how the hooves of wild horses maintain the ideal toe length consistently, our shoe was designed to be able to help our horses do the same. The solution was simple, design a shoe with a bevelled toe, replicating the natural point of breakover & enabling the hoof to roll at the toe, eliminating excess pressure & strain that can lead to compromised performance & lameness.
This rolling action allows the toe to self-trim & maintain the correct length, so that even when your horse is due to be re-shod, you can rest assured that his stride has not been compromised from an elongated toe. 
The shoe also supports other vital elements of the hoof:

  1. Thicker Soles -  healthier regeneration for improved comfort & protection.
  2. Functioning Frog - frog enabled to absorb shock & support circulation
  3. Stronger Hoof Wall - eliminates excess pressure to enable stronger growth
  4. Wider Heels - hoof landing flat eliminates heel concussion

See the difference our shoes can make for you & your horse, & let your horse experience a shoe that supports a lighter & more balanced stride.