Benefits of a toe? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 12-10-2018, 10:14 PM Thread Starter
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Benefits of a toe?

Does a horse need a certain amount of toe?

Notes for this discussion. I manage a barn of forty horses of varying breeds and activity levels. All but one is barefoot and we are working towards making him barefoot. The horses stay on 60+ acres of pasture with a creek. There is minimal rock other than the creek area and we have trouble with mud during certain times of year. This farrier has trimmed our horses for 10+ years and has not always trimmed this way. It has been more progressive over the last 2-4 years. Horses are trimmed every 6-8 weeks depending on needs.

I am working with a farrier who likes to square off all of my horses feet. They are more so squared in the front, but there is some squaring in the hind. His reasoning for taking off the toe is to back up the break over point to make it closer to the middle/ heel of the frog. He says a hoof with a toe puts the break over point just in front of the frog and puts more pressure than necessary on the horse's tendons, making them more prone to injury. He also says by taking the toe back that he can change the angle of the coffin bone to help reduce the risk of navicular disease and increase the longevity of the horse.

I have been trying to do research online to better understand the anatomy behind what he is doing and how it may possibly be helping or hurting the horses. But my search results have yielded very little hard data referencing the importance of keeping a toe on a horse and not lopping it off. To my understanding, which I admit is limited when it comes to feet, a horse's hoof should be shaped similarly to the hairline. I will also admit that I do not completely understand the "break over point" that he talks about nor it's importance. I have asked for him to explain it further, but it hasn't made it any clearer. Any insight or help is greatly appreciated.

I have attached some "reference photos" but they were not originally taken with this purpose in mind so I apologize for their quality and angles. I will work on getting better photos. If nothing else, he will be coming this week so I can get pictures before and after a trim.
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post #2 of 28 Old 12-11-2018, 10:01 PM Thread Starter
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A few more reference photos of one of the horses that I believe was trimmed either 17 days ago or 24 days ago. I can't remember off the top of my head which rotation this gelding is in. This horse is 15.2 hh, about 1,100 lbs, and consistently goes lame for two weeks after trim. Delving further into research, my best guess is that the farrier is trying to do the 4 point trim or something similar?

My true dilemma is that more often than not, the horses he trims go lame for one day up to two weeks. We have one horse that came into the barn back in August. The first time he trimmed her she was lame for a week/2 weeks. The second time he trimmed her, she has stayed lame. It has been 7 weeks. When she came to us, she was perfectly sound.

Until I have hard facts as to what is causing the continual lameness, my supervisor will not entertain the idea that the farrier is causing the lameness issues. Farrier work is in no way my area of expertise, but I'm trying to learn everything I can to try to get our horses back to functioning rather than gimping. I've kept a log of what horses have gone lame after a trim for the last year. But until I can point out what specifically he might be doing to cause the lameness, my words fall on deaf ears. And if it is not the farrier work, then I am at a loss as to why these horses may be going lame so consistently after being trimmed.
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post #3 of 28 Old 12-14-2018, 01:58 AM
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Horse needs the whole hoof to walk. Rolling the toe is one thing, taking the sharp edge off and making it a smoother breakover, but if he's squaring off the toes completely I'd think that would cause more forces on the quarters and make them flare out
@loosie she'll give the best explanation though..
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post #4 of 28 Old 12-14-2018, 02:39 AM
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Some years ago my farrier went on a course and came back with this 'square toe' trim and shoeing.

One horse I had, a very big mover, was walking as if he was lame on both fronts, he was trotting with a pony length stride a d stumbling a lot.

What had happened was that with the toe so far back the breakover was coming far to quickly causing a shortened stride and what felt like lameness on both fronts.

Evidently this started after a US farrier saw mustangs with very squared off toes and thought this was a 'natural' trim. What was not taken into consideration was that it had been a hard winter and toes became squared because of them digging through snow and ice to get to food.
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post #5 of 28 Old 12-15-2018, 06:26 PM
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Good on you for asking! If there is something that is in the best interest of ALL horses, ALL of the time, it is owners(or managers) learning what's what for themselves, so they can make more informed decisions, be more proactive with their management. To that end, I started a thread ages ago, which you will find in the link in my signature line. The other link there is for taking good hoof pics, if you'd like to post any more for specific opinion.

Specifically with regard to front-to-back hoof balance & correct 'breakover points' etc, you can't go past lamenessprevention.org. Study that website completely. Then study it again. There's also Breakover & https://barehoofcare.com/wp/wp-conte...Breakover1.pdf ... as 2 more great sources of info, on breakover & all else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by strawhat View Post
Horses are trimmed every 6-8 weeks depending on needs.
This is generally speaking, not frequent enough for most horses - 4-6 weekly is generally best, to *keep* hooves in good, functional form rather than allow them to overgrow significantly between trims. Allowing them to overgrow will allow them to distort & crack, as well as not necessarily functioning well.

Quote:
I am working with a farrier who likes to square off all of my horses feet. ...He says a hoof with a toe puts the break over point just in front of the frog and puts more pressure than necessary on the horse's tendons, making them more prone to injury. He also says by taking the toe back that he can change the angle of the coffin bone to help reduce the risk of navicular disease and increase the longevity of the horse.
Horses don't naturally have square feet. But I think it depends what you mean by 'squaring'. None of the horses in your first post appear to have square feet...

Yes, *correct* toe/breakover length(which should be approx 1" max(av) in front of frog apex) *& hoof balance generally* will indeed reduce tendon, ligament & joint strain. No it's not true that keeping the toes back where they should be will change P3 angles - for that, heel height and other factors also need to be taken into account. But to keep the toes back will reduce undue pressure on toe laminae & better allow toe walls to stay tightly attached & parallel to the dorsal aspect of P3.
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Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #6 of 28 Old 12-15-2018, 06:41 PM
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...And after looking at your second post hoof pics... Yep, I'd say that's too 'squared'. Not because the toes have been *necessarily* taken too far(couldn't say just from those pics, without proper 'mapping') But because the rest of the foot hasn't been appropriately addressed. Namely the quarters have been left long & 'stretched'. Appears the heels may have been quite high, frog is weak & the point of the frog may also have been stretched forward in a 'founder strap' on that horse.

When you look at the ELPO stuff... I'm not sold on the '4 pillars' idea, and I think that may be at the route of the 'squaring' without addressing the quarters. Horses do naturally move forward in relatively straight fashion a lot of the time, & do far less hard & fast turns, of their own accord. But they DO move in different directions & ways, not just forward, so the feet need to 'breakover' appropriately all round, not just at the toe.
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Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #7 of 28 Old 12-15-2018, 07:26 PM
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Healthy hooves are not square, and the hoof wall follows the shape of the healthy sole.

What I believe has happened with some farriers is that they read the study on horse hoof patterns in Mustangs that shows horses with healthy hooves bear weight in a square pattern, with two points in the heel and two points in the "pillar" area.

Those four dots seen in this diagram (Gene Ovnicek) are the weight bearing points of the hoof, and the points of breakover in front. Making the hoof square based on those points ignores the hoof wall altogether, which as seen in the diagram is round.


Based on the research, Ovnicek made the Natural Balance horse shoe, which has a square breakover as those natural hooves do, but a round outer shape.


Creating a square hoof wall is taking the concept of how horses bear weight and applying it wrongly.
It is very important to have the breakover in the correct place but then keeping the hoof wall round. Making the wall square in the toe will move the "pillar" weight bearing areas outward onto the hoof wall instead of in the front of the sole where they are supposed to be.
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post #8 of 28 Old 12-15-2018, 07:55 PM
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This is what I think is wrong with the trim:


Here is a picture of a hoof that has properly removed the breakover back in the front of the hoof while maintaining a round shape. This hoof will retain sole depth (notice sole has not been trimmed down around the edges to make it exactly even with the hoof wall, which is only appropriate if necessary for shoeing).
The weight bearing area in the front will be on the sole at the pillar area, and the hoof will break over just in front of that.
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post #9 of 28 Old 12-15-2018, 11:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for the responses! They have been extremely helpful and really clarified a lot of what I have been reading over the last week!
@loosie I have read through the lameness prevention website once now and will go back and reread it again. Some of it definitely went over my head the first time but it is making more sense the more I read it and other articles. I'm glad I'm coming up on some holiday time as I now have quite a bit of learning to do and I look forward to it.
A little more background on the 6-8 week trim schedule. I work for a nonprofit so I am constantly battling cost and correctness. Sadly it is more cost effective on the business part to keep the horses at 8 weeks unless there is a "need" to trim at 4 or 6 weeks. "Need" being lameness or corrective farrier work. IE a standard bred with extremely overgrown feet and underslung heels is on a 4 week schedule currently but he will eventually go to a 6 week, then an 8 week if my supervisor thinks he can get away with it. I do know how the 8 weeks can hurt a horse, but those who manage see it as just going a "little long." In an ideal world, our horses would be on the 4-6 week but I work with what I have. Getting swapped over to a proper diet and testing our hay has been enough of a battle. I'm working little by little toward the best care possible.

@gottatrot Thank you for taking the time to post photos and break down individual parts of one of the photos I posted. I'm a visual learner and that helps me greatly! To clarify some, with the weight baring area moved outward creating the stress and flare, could this also make a horse more prone to develop white line? There is a disturbing number of horses that have white line in the quarter section of the hoof. To couple with this, there are many that also have holes in specifically their right front hoof. Would it plausible that this is due to the lost sole depth or would it be more from the concussive force of stumbling that @Foxhunter described. Or maybe a combination of both? The horse in that particular photo does have an extremely short stride and is know to drag his feet, stumble, and have extremely sore shoulders and withers. According to the farrier, there is no reason for the horse in that reference photo to go lame after a trim.

I was able to grab some before and after photos of the horses trimmed on Thursday. With that said, I did what I could while taking photos and tried to mimic the reference photos that I had seen in many different forum posts on here and in articles. After looking at loosie's links, I know I can do better. Though I have do feel like I have learned a lot just from looking at the photos without having to think about what is going on around me. There are several things that have raised more questions in looking through these photos. One is that I believe the farrier is taking off the bar of the hoof. There seems to be no "ridge" in that area. It is just as smooth and flat as the rest of the sole. Two is that many of our horses do not have a smooth sole. Instead it is bumpy and "cavernous" like a canyon. I'm not quite sure the best way to describe it, but hopefully the attached reference photos will help. Three is that many of our horses don't seem to be well balanced in general. Lower on one side of the hoof than another, the medial side of the toe having more "point", and the widest part of the hoof being to far forward to what mapping would suggest is ideal. If anyone could either confirm or correct me would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I'm trying to absorb an entire farrier course over just a few days.

The posted photos are front view, left foot, right foot. The top photos are before, the bottom are after. I decided to also include photos from the side as it seems like a lot of foot was taken off all the way around on this particular horse. But maybe that is just part of him going 8 weeks and having a need to be taken down that far. I don't feel I have enough knowledge or experience to really make an informed decision on that yet though. As another note, in the before photos I hosed off the feet. In the after, I took them as the farrier finished with the horse but did not hose or give a deep clean like I had before (other than to pick some left over dirt from the collateral groove). I do have photos of six different horses, but I'm not sure if that would be overkill posting or if there is an efficient way to post all of them.
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post #10 of 28 Old 12-16-2018, 07:38 PM
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Good pics! But even with the best pics, you need to appreciate that we can't get the whole picture, enough to really judge specifics well. Not to mention differences of opinion, knowledge, etc. So take anything we say as 'food for thought' not ever hard & fast judgements or such.

I do like that he hasn't touched the sole and he appreciates the importance of keeping toes back. But looks to me like he has 'backed up' toe vertically, right to the outer sole. In a 'stretched' foot it may well be necessary to take the entire wall width, back to the laminae, but not, it appears, necessary on these feets which already seem to have nice, short toes. So again, too much at the toe it seems, without bevelling from the ground, and without addressing quarters being stretched. Or the seedy cracks in the second foot pictured. I would have nicked them out, maybe opened up a bit more, & in bevelling stretched toe quarters, would also have greatly lessened mechanical pressure acting against the region of the crack. As an owner/manager, I'd be treating the cracks daily with antiseptic too.

Appears he hasn't addressed the back of the foot well - appears heels may be a bit high and bars should not be left so long generally, even if heels need to be a bit high. He has also pared the frog back, removing any callous that was developing. Unnecessarily & unhelpfully. As with the sole, frog should be left alone to develop thickly & become calloused wherever possible. There are exceptions, but generally I'd only trim flappy or infected bits of frog.
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Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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