As horse owners, there are a few knowledge pieces that are worthy to keep stashed in our minds for a particular situation or in the case that a riding buddy might be in need. A couple of great examples of these emergency kit references include Rebecca’s blog, The Basics of Taking Your Horse’s Vitals-How and Why and Digital Pulse – Not Just for the Disco. A fun exercise to practice at home is determining if your horse’s hoof is balanced. All you need is a ruler and a permanent marker.
Remember, your hoof care practitioner has the first-hand knowledge and experience regarding your horse's hoof. If something doesn’t seem analogous in your findings, please discuss with your farrier or trimmer. Different hoof care professionals have different methods of determining the medial/lateral and anterior/posterior balance of a horse’s hoof. The style below has served to be accurate on most occasions and it’s a fun tool to have in the box.
In this simplified version, for both the medial/lateral (side-to-side) and the anterior/posterior (front-to-back), we will be looking at the solar (bottom) view of the hoof. Here’s some basic anatomy that’s helpful to reference for this blog:
Let’s start with medial/lateral balance. Lay your ruler flat from the dimple of the central sulcus and keep it parallel with the true center of the frog. I mention the true center because some frogs may curve or slant a bit toward the apex, but if you stay on the track of the actual midpoint, you’ll have the correct results. Trace the edge of your ruler with a permanent marker.
Next, edge your ruler along the posterior part of the hoof to connect the points between the buttresses of the heels. Trace with your marker.
When you remove your marker and ruler, a 90 degree angle should exist between the lines that you have drawn. A hoof with heel imbalance may look more like this:
For the anterior/posterior balance check, you will need to know the true apex of the frog. Some hooves that haven’t had the excess outgrowth of the frog exfoliated and trimmed off in a while may be a bit more challenging to find the true apex. For most hooves, the apex is clearly marked by the peak of the frog about 2/3 of the way toward the toe of the hoof from a solar view.
Once you have marked your apex, align your ruler from toe to heel along this point. Measure back approximately one inch from the frog apex. Mark this spot on either side of the frog in the collateral grooves. This should be the true midpoint of your horse’s hoof. Draw a line perpendicularly across the hoof.
To check your results, this should also be the widest point of the hoof from side to side. Another confirmation that you’ve got the correct spot is by running your thumbs along the collateral grooves. Close your eyes if it helps. You should feel a small hump, or wave, or swelling in the area of the hoof shown below. This anatomical feature is called the bar swells.
You’ve now clearly identified the true center of your horse’s hoof. This marks where the center of rotation of your horse’s internal hoof structure is. Your markings reflect where the center of P3, or the coffin bone, rests within the hoof capsule.
So now what? Ideally, 50% off the hoof is anterior of this line indicating the center of rotation and 50% is posterior to the line. Measure from the midline forward to the toe callus. Make note of this measurement. Measure from the midline back to the heel buttress. Compare to your first measurement of the anterior portion of the hoof. They should be similar dimensions. In this case, the hoof in hand is well balanced in reference to the position of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule.
Call your favorite EasyCare customer service representative for any extra tips. We've mapped hooves, too! Check it out by reading EasyCare Durango Mapping Hooves and Bringing it Home - Hoof Mapping Applied. Next time your trimmer visits, he or she will be impressed with your inquisitiveness of the equine hoof.
As one of the customer service representatives, I am happy to help get your horse into the right boots. I promote holistic methods of equine care and will assist you with finding the perfect fit for horse and rider.