General: Front hooves should be round in shape and be able to be
divided into thirds with 2/3 of the ground contact behind the widest part of
the foot and 1/3 ahead of the widest part of the foot to the point of breakover.
Rear hooves should be more oval shaped. Front hooves hold 60%
of the horses total weight when static whereas the rears hold 40% and are meant
to be able to dig in for quick take-off at which time weight shifts to rear.
The hooves should be balanced medially-laterally (side to
side). That is, if drawing an imaginary line from the heel to the toe
right down the middle of the hoof, the two sides should be the same. Not one
side higher than the other or thinner than the other but both unilaterally the
The same applies when viewing the hoof from the front. If an imaginary
line is drawn straight down the middle of the pastern through the hoof, both
sides should be equal and balanced.
Ideally, the hoof wall should be the same
thickness all the way around the hoof and never left long enough to be
weight-bearing by itself. In healthy, whole hooves, if one were to draw an
imaginary shape continuing from the toe callous around the hoof this wide area
would look like a "natural" shoe on the horse and be almost uniformly weight
bearing as on a flat plane with the walls of the hooves blending smoothly and
tightly into the sole. This is called the sole callous. The slight arched area
in the quarters that are not flat on the ground allow for expansion of the hoof
This hoof has not
yet been trimmed but clearly shows the thick hoofwall with no
separations or dirt between the wall and the sole. The hoof sole is one solid
unit. The frog, however, is showing pathological issues and is not
representative of a healthy frog. The hoof is clearly in need of a major correct
trim. The heels are too long so the frog does not receive any ground contact.
This causes contracted heels which are evident in the above photo.
When looking at the horse while hooves are on the ground, the same
applies for uniformity as it does when looking at the hooves from a solar view.
This is a front hoof newly trimmed after removing
shoes. The heels were left longer than ideal because the heels were so long
before trimming that to trim down to ideal height would have made the horse
sore. Subsequent trims every couple of weeks for a month or so will get the
heels down to ideal height. Notice, though, the angles of the hoof wall being
the same angle as the coronary and the pastern. The toe is nice and short and
the hoof has no irregularities. This hoof does not show much arch to the
quarters as it is a horse that is kept on soft ground. A horse that is kept on
hard ground would exhibit more arching.
Hooves should be smooth-walled showing no
ridges or rings around the hoof. Neither should there be any chips, dings or
other evidence of pathologies or injuries.
The coronary band hairline should be a
straight line when viewed from the side with no bumps or waves.
The angle of the coronary hairline, when viewed from the side, should be close
to 30 degrees (22 - 28*) to ground level. This allows the coffin bone inside the
hoof capsule to rest nearly at ground level. Notice the slight
wave in the hoof arrowed whereas the hairline on the other hoof is straight.
The placement of the wave on this hairline is indicative of bars that are left
too long and a slight pressure point on the hoof wall.
The frogs should be wide across the back of the
hoof with a nice, calloused, smooth appearance. (Note: horses kept on wet or
soft ground will have a more rubbery, pliant type frog.) When the hoof is weight
bearing the frog should be in ground contact. There should be no slits or
crevices in the frog which would indicate pathologies.
The bulbs of the heels should be uniform in size
The photo above shows comments on a REAR hoof. Notice the
nice, full frog and heel. It's evenly shaped on both sides.
The yellow line along the frog crevice show that the line of the hoof from
apex of frog to the sides of the heel bulbs is correct for a fully functioning
You can also see the outline of where the hoof naturally falls at the toe.
This is a rear hoof so the toe is NOT rockered at all and the overall shape is
more oval than the front.
In motion at a walk, the horse should be able to be clearly viewed
as landing HEEL FIRST with no pronounced "kir-chunking" of the
fetlock joint. Long toes on a horse do not allow for this movement. Toes that
are left too long will delay the breakover and cause the toes to wear down from
the underside faster than the heel will wear down thus causing imbalances that
set up a whole gamut of other issues.
There should be no discoloration of the sole of the hoof
indicating bruising, bleeding or other injuries. The sole, itself, should be
approximately 1/2 - 3/4" thick. With a traditional pasture trim, this sole is
generally pared away leaving minimized protection for the P3. The sole grows at
the rate of about 1/4" a month. Therefore, when a horse's sole is pared down to
less than a 1/4 of an inch, as is frequently the case with pasture trims, it
will take at least 3 months for that sole to grow back to full thickness and
then another month or two to form a strong, thick callused protection. One would
expect a horse to be tender on the sole until it is grown back and calloused.
The hooves, in general, should be wide and suitable for the
weight and size of the horse. One can expect that the hooves may grow 1 - 2
sizes after being de-shod and trimmed properly for maximum hoof function.
When viewing the hoof "plane" (sole) from above there should be a
flat plane with no ridges, bumps or uneven plane. The toe should have a neat
"rocker" at a 10 to 15 degree angle from about a thumbs width in front of the
frog apex to the outside toe wall.
When viewing from the side, the quarters should be nicely arched
so the hoof ground contact points are clearly on either side of the toe and at
the heels. When standing, one should be able to slip a piece of paper directly
under the toe and then on either side of the hoof.
The hoof wall should be nicely rolled all the way around. The
extent of the roll will be directly influenced by the type of ground the horse
walks on regularly. Soft ground will not wear the walls round as much as
hard-rocky ground and hooves on soft ground need more traction to prevent
slipping. Hooves on rocky ground will naturally be "flatter" in the sole than
horses that live on soft ground.
HEELS approximately 1/8TH above the live sole at the buttress.
Individual hooves will vary as to ideal heel
height for that individual horse. This photo shows proper heel length. Notice
that while in a non-weight bearing position the frog is just touching at ground
level. This is excellent. When the horse loads that hoof (steps on it), the frog
will then be touching the ground and bearing the weight of the step to allow the
circulatory pump action of the frog to be effective as well as allow for maximum
shock absorbency and dissipation of energy.