The Vital Healthy Hoof

07/27/2017

Cytek
Cytek

Nature designed the hoof to perfection; as horse owners, our job is to ensure that any intervention with the hoof works to support this without impeding the function of the hoof. 

Let's have a look at the primary hoof components, all of which act as a unified system which is dynamic in nature, meaning it has an in-build flexibility that comes into play every time the horse lifts or puts weight down into the hoof.

  1. The Protective External Structures
    Hoof Wall - Made up of 2 layers: The stronger Outer Wall provides protection against the elements & is made up of tubules that act like micro spings. The softer, more pliable Inner Wall acts as a connective layer that allows the internal structures to move whilst reducing the amount of shock. The hoof wall has a minimal weight-bearing capacity & should not exceed the length of the sole as the excess weight can cause damage as seen in flares & cracks.
    Sole - Providing a thick & solid under-layer of protection that connects to the hoof wall via the White Line. It is a primary weight-bearing structure of the hoof, sharing this with the frog & the hoof wall where it meets the sole. A properly weight-bearing sole will grow to be thick & strong to protect the internal structures, primarily the pedal / coffin bone.
    White Line - The white line is a thin visible layer between the hoof wall & the sole. It is the sensitive & insensitive laminae that have grown past the pedal bone to become the insensitive white line. White line disease or seedy toe can develop when the hoof wall is too long, the excess weight placed on the wall can cause it to distort & stretch the white line which can then allow bacteria to thrive.
    Frog - This flexible tissue is a vital weight-bearing part of the hoof, acting as a shock absorber to protect the internal hoof, tendons, ligaments & joints. It also integral to healthy circulation, providing vital blood supply to the internal elements.
    Bars - An extention of the hoof wall, providing structural support & aiding circulation.
  2. The Sensitive Internal Structures
    Laminae - These are 2 interlocking layers of the sensitive & insentitive laminae, which connect the inner hoof wall to the pedal / coffin bone. Holding the pedal bone in place, they provide flexion for the internal movement when the hoof contracts or expands during a stride. Mechanical laminitis is inflammation of the laminae, which can be caused when the hoof wall grows too long & bears too much weight, causing strain & inlfammation on the laminae.
    Pedal / Coffin Bone - Central to the entire hoof is the pedal bone, a dense bone rich in blood vessels that is held in place & connected to the hoof wall via the laminae. The underside of the bone is covered with 'solar corium' which produces the material for the sole. Behind, the bone is attached cartilage that makes up the back of the hoof. Tendons & ligaments are also securely anchored to the bone.
    Navicular Bone - This small bone plays a vital role in the function & protection of the pedal bone & tendons.
    Digital Cushion - Situated between the frog & the back of the pedal bone to provide essential shock absorption. In a hoof where the sole & frog are not functioning with weight-bearing, the digital cushion can become atrophied.


The Shoe that Supports the Hoof

For a structure as refined & complex as the hoof, a horseshoe must work in harmony with each element of the hoof in oder to allow the hoof to function optimally.

  1. The Shape of the Shoe:
    Circular - The round shape of the shoe promotes a more natural, round hoof shape so that the expansion & contraction of the moving hoof functions at its peak. The increased circultation this provides works to improve the health of both the internal & external structures of the hoof.
    Width - The extra width of our shoes provides increased support of the sole & hoof wall, enabling even weight distribution between the hoof wall, sole & frog, so that all 3 of these weight-bearing structures can function together & any excess weight from the hoof wall is removed.
    Depth - Between the shoe & the sole is a specifically designed gap that allows sediment to fill the area for a natural & even contact. This promotes a strong, thick sole that works with the functioning frog to protect the pedal bone & optimise circulation.
    Bevelled Toe - This enables the natural rolling action of the hoof when the horse moves, eliminating all excess pressure from the toe that can otherwise stress the hoof wall & connecting laminae. By bringing the toe back to its natural compact length, the correct stride can be achieved which leads to a more even, balanced gait & greatly reduced strain on the muscles, tendons & joints.

The Barefoot Hoof

For a natural trim, the Facet trim replicates the natural wild hoof so that all of the different elements of the hoof function as well as they are designed to.

  1. Balanced Weight Bearing - The hoof wall is trimmed to be in line with the sole for even weight distribution. This allows for the hoof wall to strengthen, the sole to become stronger & thicker, & the frog to become fully functional.
  2. Hoof Wall - The hoof wall is specifically angled at varying degrees to meet the needs of each hoof. The toe is precisely angled to enable the natural rolling action of the hoof, eliminating excess pressure at the toe & enabling a more even gait & balanced stride.
  3. Functioning Hoof - The benefits of a more compact, balanced hoof are visible after the very first trim. Depending on the needs of each horse, over time the overall health of the hoof become more apparent, including:
    A thicker, stronger hoof wall.
    A rounder, more compact hoof shape.
    A thicker, stronger sole. 
    A functioning frog.

In Closing

For many horse owners, hoof problems such as cracks, flares, separation of the white line, mechanical laminitis, thrush, navicular syndrome & lameness can be a persistent issue. Hoof imbalances can also affect the horse's gait, contributing to increased stumbling, overreaching or brushing. 

Thankfully, when we restore the natural function of the hoof where the hoof shape is restored & each integral aspect of the hoof performs healthily again, many of the common issues so prevalent today can be remedied.