Would you like to impress your trimmer? A fun exercise to try at home is determining if your horse’s hoof is balanced. All you need is a ruler and a permanent marker.
Hoof care professionals have different methods of determining the medial/lateral and anterior/posterior balance of a horse’s hoof. The approach described below has served to be accurate on most occasions, and it’s a great tool to have in your toolbox. Keep in mind, though, that hoof care professionals have first-hand knowledge, education, and experience when it comes to the horse’s hoof. If something doesn’t seem analogous in your findings, please discuss it with your farrier or trimmer.
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 a basic anatomy diagram that will be helpful to reference as you continue reading.Let’s start with medial/lateral balance. Lay your ruler flat across the dimple of the central sulcus, and keep it parallel with the true center of the frog. I mention the true center of the frog 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 more accurate results. Trace the edge of your ruler with a permanent marker. You should now have a straight line connecting the heel to the toe.
Next, edge your ruler along the posterior part of the hoof to connect the points between the buttresses of the heel. This is likely the widest point of the frog. Trace this line with your marker. When you remove your marker and ruler, a 90-degree angle should exist between the lines that you have drawn.
For the anterior/posterior balance check, you will need to know the true apex of the frog, just as we needed to identify the true center of the frog in the previous step. It may be more challenging to find the true apex in frogs that are overgrown or have not been maintained well. For most hooves, the apex is clearly marked by the peak of the frog, usually about 2/3 of the way toward the toe when visualizing the hoof from its 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. This should be the true midpoint of your horse’s hoof. Draw a line perpendicularly across the hoof. Circle each side of the frog to make a reference point for this spot within the collateral grooves.
To check your results, the mid-line should 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, wave, or swelling in the areas you have circled within the collateral grooves. These anatomical features are called the bar swells.
If you’ve done all of the above, you’ve now identified the true center of your horse’s hoof. This point marks the center of rotation of your horse’s internal hoof structure. Your markings reflect where the center of P3, or the coffin bone, rests within the hoof capsule.
What does this mean? Ideally, 50% off the hoof is anterior, or behind, this line and 50% is posterior, or in front of, this line. Measure from the mid-line forward to the toe callus. Make note of this measurement. Measure from the mid-line 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.
Submitted by Mariah Reeves, EasyCare Sales Representative for Veterinarians and Hoof Care Practitioners