We Ride Sport and Trail Magazine October 2018 - Page 46

BAREFOOT

BOOTED

By Carole Herder

President of Cavallo Horse & Rider

The Trusted Authority in barefoot

and booting.

If you would like to send us your horse’s hoof measurements, we would be happy to help you choose the best size and style. Please call Cavallo Customer Service at 1-877-818-0037 or email info@cavallo-inc.com.

THE SIMPLE HOOF

Part 3: The Cone – Nature’s Gift to the Hoof

&

46 / Sport and Trail Magazine

What we look at and see is generally what we comment on. We also judge, compare and argue about our interpretation of it. How we describe and define our rulings about the health, shape, conformation, angles, widths and lengths of the hoof is most often dogmatic opinion. I have yet to discover the convincingly ideal hoof shape overall. It is by no means a matter of one-fits-all. Every horse is different.

Much has changed in our ideas of right and wrong over the years. Consider this as an invitation to release some of our previous interpretations and open our sense of observation to a fully functioning hoof, as opposed to trying to imagine an ideal hoof shape. One thing we can agree on is that, in the realm of horses’ feet, we often don’t agree. The good thing about moving forward is that views and opinions can be released just as quickly as they are formed. As one of my favorite mentors, Deepak Chopra says, “don’t let the wake drive the boat”.

In the last article, we discussed disease of the hoof and outlined the various structural components. Structure is set in bone. Anatomy is difficult to change. Anatomical laws apply to the structures, no matter what; while shape and conformation can change with every trim.

Mechanical laws apply to living structure, especially where movement is involved. From a hoof perspective, for example, the health of the laminae attaching the coffin bone to the hoof wall is an extremely important contributor to the horse’s overall health, well-being, strength and function. The shape and appearance of the hoof, on the other hand, is a factor to be considered as very important, yet flexible. We alter this to align with our current perceptions of the perfect foot. And yet understanding that things change with different towns, countries, farriers, breeds and of course, times is our only way of readily absorbing new information.

What does not change is the necessary biomechanical function of the hoof to absorb shock, to flex and pump blood and to carry the horse far and fast as he flees for his life. Of course, he is no longer required to flee from the woolly mammoth, but 50 million years of evolution does not just dissolve. To this day, our horses are prey animals. Their primary defense is to run. For horses, a healthy hoof means survival.

So how do we keep the biomechanics of the hoof in top form?

One of our biggest challenges we face is the confusion when our horses become lame.

What does not change is the necessary biomechanical function of the hoof to absorb shock, to flex and pump blood and to carry the horse far and fast as he flees for his life. Of course, he is no longer required to flee from the woolly mammoth, but 50 million years of evolution does not just dissolve. To this day, our horses are prey animals. Their primary defense is to run. For horses, a healthy hoof means survival.

So how do we keep the biomechanics of the hoof in top form?

Consider hooves from both the internal and external, as they do not function independently. They are a three-dimensional structure. Although the internal structures can and do change in response to nourishment, varying terrain, health challenges and other stressors, it takes a long time. With a hoof knife and a rasp, we can change the look, angles, flares, and length almost instantly. Beware that if this is not properly executed, your horse will pay the price. Not promptly corrected, any inadequate treatment of the external hoof will cause internal problems.

We have learned that one critical component of the hoof’s strength lies in keeping with the optimal functioning of a basic geometric shape. This shape is a basic asymmetrical cone, where the length at the toe is longer than the length at the back. From teepees to the Eiffel Tower to volcanoes - cone shapes are strong. The wider load bearing radius at ground level supports the narrowing load above. The larger circumference shape at ground level closely matches the smaller shape at the coronet band. Furthermore, this proper cone shape encourages an arch that reaches across the hoof at the base, from one side to the other, helping to create the equality imperative concavity of the sole. Like a bridge, arches tolerate significant weight. The structural arch is affected by the work of the farrier and the trim. The unaddressed contributing problems most often seen are underslung heels, badly balanced flares and too-long toes.

As the weight of the horse descends, the ground radius of the hoof cone should expand to accept the load. If the walls are too steep, or the cone is imbalanced, or the hoof is shaped as a cylinder or a tube; this miraculous weight bearing function is thwarted. If this erroneous tube shape continues too long, problems most certainly develop.

Unlike the Eiffel tower, the anatomy of a cone shaped hoof is designed to be biomechanically active. One may wonder why the brilliance of nature would leave the hoof’s solar radius unfinished. The circle or oval shape is incomplete. It stops at the heels and turns forward toward the toe creating the bars of the hoof. Not only do the bars add additional support, but the separation at the heels allow for an expansion unrestricted by an otherwise complete circumference. This is the natural weight bearing function the hoof performs perfectly when not constrained by the metal shoe.