Healing The Damaged Horse | A Diagnostic Tool - The Hooves

Rocks in a pasture can be scary.

Stones can get into hooves.

A wrong landing can cause bruising and abscesses.

A rock covered in ice can bring a horse down to his knees.


I love my rocks.

Rocks should be half buried everywhere!

A natural wear and tear helps file or break off over long hooves.

But for so many of us, for so many years, we believed that our horses would be so much better off, without rocks.  So we have been busy digging them out.  Removing them everywhere and now there is only soft dirt and it is the horses that suffer for that.

Nature meant for them to clamber through deep mud, to clamber through mountain passes littered with granite, to pass through a desert, the rough sand filing down hooves without the intervention of human hand.  

His hooves were designed to last him a lifetime of travelling endless miles to find the next enticing mouthful of rich green grass or to escape the predator waiting with fang and claw to take him down.

Once we understand that the movement of the horse is what shapes the hoof of the horse in much the same way our bodies are shaped by our posture, by the extent of the work we do to create reach through stretching or shaping of our body through hard work and exercise, we now realize the hooves are just a reflection of what is happening in the horse's body.

And so we face a challenge.

A horse trained incorrectly with unhealthy body patterns will have hooves shaped to support that pattern.

To change the shape of the hooves for what they should look like as a good pattern before changing the pattern on the body though would be as if we put heels on a horse who had no idea how to move in those heels.  The imbalance causing stress on the horse's joints and skeleton.  Muscles in no way prepared for this change in the structure of their feet.  We change their feet but still old patterns of movement still exist in the body.  But these feet don't match.  Causing not change but strain.

We need to change the pattern of the body, the degree to which that change is occurring should be the only arbiter of what degree of change should take place in the hoof structure, shape and angles today.  The hoof needs to match what is here.  We always need to look at the horse as a holistic whole.  To match angle to angle, throughout.  Never dividing, separating what happens in one part of the body from another.

The challenge a bit of a chicken and the egg thing.  Which should come first body and movement or the hooves?

In time the hooves will always catch up with the body.  That is how the horses have been designed by nature.  By hundreds of thousands of years of existence.

But that is not to say that a horse given movement back again wouldn't benefit with a little help.  But perhaps that is our challenge as well.  How little can we do?  

Can we value that the diagnostic value of the hoof enough to not demand perfection?  Can we value the diagnostic value of the shape and angle fo the hoof enough to understand that this is not ours to solve, but the horses?  Can we understand that less is always better than more no matter how much we struggle with what we perceive as damaging to the horse?

His hoof is his, for a reason.  It is important to find the reason and then knowing that correct what needs to change so that the hoof can be healthy and support what is happening in the horse's body.

To keep a horse in the same pattern while creating a falseness in the hoof by slashing and hacking away at what is, is to give the horse feet that are not in tune with what his body is doing.  Causing joint and back problems because we are trying to change one without changing the other.


The concept that we need to trim hooves to help the horse move better is intrinsic in the equestrian culture.  A knowledgeable farrier worth his weight in gold for his knowledge on how to adjust angles, to correct hooves that are misaligned to create better movement in the horse.

All of this based on a concept that the hooves make the movement.

One is almost tempted to cry BS!  

The idea that with careful snipping here and there that we will change how the horse moves is just plain silly.  If not a little preposterous.  The hooves don't make the movement. Movement makes the hooves and not realizing that we eliminate one of the best diagnostic tools that we have available. 

Think about this for a moment.  

If our changes in the hooves changed the way the horse moved then we wouldn't need the farrier to come back, again and again and again to correct and change angles, the movement corrected the hooves would be correct and we would eliminate the need for a farrier.

More than this we need to accept that every horse is an individual.   Not carbon copies.  Each horse having a different conformation, different movement, is it so hard to accept that this means that their hooves will be different as well.  Each unique.

Also, we need to accept that they are not perfect and that there may be reasons why their ankles and hence hooves take a different direction.

The hooves are a diagnostic tool.  Designed and shaped by the way the horse moves, by the ground that he covers.

When the hooves change shape, angle, direction because of how the horse moves and not because he is forced to by hacking away at this feet, that is when we know we are getting it right. 

But we must be careful and remember to accept there may be reasons that you are unaware of that this horse has certain needs that are made with a different angle.