Know Hoof – Know Horse

by Claudia Garner

Most horse owners and horse lovers know a lot about horse colors, riding styles, saddle fit and some major health concerns with horses. Most everyone connected with horses knows about laminitis and founder of the hoof, and there is a lot of discussion about the relationship between nutrition and founder and often the admonishment “don’t let your horse out on grass or he will founder” is heard. When a horse becomes uneven or lame, the guess work begins. The radiographs taken do not show everything that can go wrong, and they are open to interpretation, which requires a lot of in-depth knowledge about the hoof, a chapter that is usually only mentioned in passing in veterinarian colleges or not taught at all.

A well functioning hoof looks the same on every horse, no matter what the breed. Management often leads to undesirable changes: foals not trimmed from the beginning and living on soft ground, not enough movement on too soft footing, not understanding what correct hoof form is supposed to look like and therefore not understanding the importance of correct hoof care, etc.

This hoof below is reasonably correct:

A hoof needs to have the same height all around, the one below does not.  Look at it from the front:

And from the back:

Pick it up and look at the hoof from that perspective:

These imbalances will influence the ligaments and other soft tissues in the hoof and they will, over time, lead to un-eveness and lameness. It is not a matter of “if”, but of “when”.

Often the connections between an uneven hoof and a problem higher up is not made. But when you have the inside (medial) wall of a hind hoof high, you often have wobbly hocks and this leads eventually to spavin.

A horse with an inside high wall and long toe on the front will paddle and eventually exhibit high ringbone, as the ligaments on the outside of the pastern joint are highly stressed and break down. The constant inflammation of the ligament will lead to a “fraying”. As the body leaves no empty spaces, it will calcify the empty spaces in the frays, this calcification is then diagnosed as ringbone. The laminae (connection between the coffin bone and the hoof wall) will also be stressed. Laminitis, founder (rotation)  does not only happen in the front of the hoof, but on the sides as well.

Now you will hear often that these imbalances cannot be changed. But they can. Bone has a significant amount of plasticity, which means it can and will change over time. Expert frequent trimming can and will take care of the even most severe cases.

But unbalances in the hoof mean so much more.

In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the balance of the life forces is extremely important. The entire body is regulated by energy channels, named meridians. This is true for all living beings, but here we are most concerned about the horses. There are some excellent hands-on courses taught by Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow (Guide to Equine Acupressure), as well as Diana Thompson (Acupressure Point Charts for Horses) about helping horses with acupressure.

Dr. Allen Schoen writes about acupuncture in his book: Veterinary Acupuncture

This is a very complex course of study, but here I would like to share with you what I have learned from the studies with Dr. Hiltrud Strasser, Germany (Handbuch der Huforthopaedie) and Are Thorensen CMV, Norway (Homeopathy and Acupuncture).

A level 30° hairline usually (but not always) means that the coffin bone is ground parallel. Even more important: only when the hoof capsule has the correct balance front to back, does the force exerted upon weight bearing provide equal loading and distribution onto the coronet band, coffin bone and hoof capsule.

The energy-flow throughout the body is stimulated by the meridians. An interruption of the energy flow leads inevitably to problems in the major organs. The end points of the meridians, the so called ting-points, lie just above the coronet band and require correct stimulation to allow energy to flow evenly throughout the body. Any imbalance in the hoof, may this be front to back (anterior-posterior) or side to side (medio-lateral) will under- or over-stimulate these meridian end points.


For a better understanding, have a look at the diagrams below.

Front Hoof:

TH (Triple Heather) 1 – Laminitis, side bone, ringbone, hoof injury, inflammation of bulbs of heel and coronary band,colic, throat problems, convulsions, fever

SI (Small Intestine) 9 – Shoulder pain, rheumatism and arthritis of forelimb

HT (Heart) 9 – Inflammation of heel, laminitis, sidebone

PC (Pericardium) 9 – Laminitis and navicular, rheumatism of forelimb, arthritis of fetlock and carpal joints, tendinitis

LU (Lung) 11 – Immunostimulation, sore throat, respiratory failure, pain in pastern, laminitis, sidebone, bulb inflammation

LI (Large Intestine) 1 – Like PC 9 plus fever, pharyngitis, emergency point

Hind Hoof:

St (Stomach) 45 – Laminitis, ringbone, sidebone, navicular, all hoof problems, colic, stifle problems

GB (Gall Bladder) 44 – Laminitis, arthritis, hock problems

BL (Bladder) 67 – Laminitis, arthritis, ringbone, sidebone, navicular, bladder control, back and hock problems

KI (Kidney) 1 – Shock, high fever, heel pain

SP (Spleen) 1 – Laminitis, arthritis

Liv (Liver) 1 – Laminitis, sidebone

In a correctly balanced hoof, these meridian points will be stimulated with every step. In a pathological situation, the horse owner and hoof care practitioner can stimulate these points through acupressure or with a photonic torch (a red light device). This is especially important when you think how much time a horse spends standing on his hooves, and every step he takes on an unbalanced hoof will over- or under-stimulate the meridian end points.

Interested in learning more about hoof care? Please visit Hoof

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