"The hoof of the domestic horse is not a simple structure as many may think. It is comprised of many parts performing different functions. It really is the base of the horse. If you don't have a healthy hoof, you don't have a horse. There are many ideas concerning the best way to shoe or trim a horse. Some good and some not. The real fact is that one technique cannot be used for all horses. Horse hoof shapes vary widely as does the conformation of the hoof. Environment, nutrition, genetics, and usage all greatly affect the horse hoof.
It is not possible to trim every hoof to the same angle. The pastern angle of horses is very different from horse to horse and can be different on the same horse. Horses should, almost always be trimmed to their pastern angle. A 45 degree trim on all horses is not sufficient. Neither is any other degree. One horse may be trimmed to a 52 degree angle while another trimmmed to 50. Anyone that claims that a certain degree trim is good for all horses is misinformed.
"Mustang rolls" are not good for all horses. The intent of the mustang roll is to achieve greater breakover without the use of shoes. Horses with elongated toes and thick hoofwall at the toe can benefit from the mustang roll. Horses with shorter toes and/or thin hoofwalls can be injured by the mustang roll. A mustang roll on a thin-walled horse can and will reduce the integrity of the hoofwall at the toe. This can cause bruises, abscesses, and hoof wall seperation.
All horses cannot go barefoot. Its a proven fact, I am sorry if you don't believe it. Many horses can go barefoot, some cannot. Horses are shod for many reasons, but a primary is protection. The thickness and density of the sole of the horses hoof varies as much as the shape. There are treatments possible for some thin or soft soled horses besides shoes, but even then, many require shoes. Anyone that says that all horses can go barefoot has not seen enough horses.
The frog of the horses foot is vital to a healthy hoof. An ideal frog hits the ground with every step of the horse. This provides for blood circulation through the hoof and throughout the entire horse. A horse with heels that are too long cannot achieve frog contact with the ground. This not only reduces the health of the hoof, but the entire horse. It can also cause many lamenesses including joint pain. Necrotic or bad parts of the frog should be trimmed away to keep the frog healthy. The frog is also highly susceptible to thrush and should be cleaned regularly. The commisures, grooves on either side of the frog, should also be cleaned and trimmed to allow the hoof to "self-slean" so that thrush cannot gain a hold in the frog.
Bruises are common to unshod horses. If you pick up the foot of a barefoot horse and clean it out, you will likely see at least one bruise. Many are not painful and cause no problems. However, bruises can and do form into abscesses and can be severe. Those horizontal cracks you see on the top of the hoof wall are where abscesses have burst through the hoofwall. Some can go untreated, many cannot. It is wise to make routine checks for sole bruising and feel for increased heat at the bruise and above the bruise.
Long, red horizontal bruises, particularly at the heels, are signs of a condition called "negative palmar/plantar angle." Plamar angle being the front feet, Plantar angle being the hind. This condition is where the coffin bone inside the foot has rotated upward. This condition has many causes, but is treatable, often with shoes and wedges, often with only adequate trimming or a change of saddle placement. The performance of the horse can be greatly inhibited by a negative palmar or plantar angle. Many horses that consistently stumble or clip have this condition.
More of this later. If you need trimming or shoeing or have questions about your horses feet, give me a call or text.