The Faults & Problems of Horse Hoof Conformation …
Horse hoof conformation is the result of over 50 million years of equine evolution.
But surprisingly both wild and domesticated horses share a similar hoof shape and function.
The modern day conformation of the horse hoof is a result of the progressive evolutionary loss of digits I, II, IV and V of the basal pentadactyl limb, with resulting changes in bones, joints and the hoof capsule.
This resulting conformation allows a strong heavy body to move with high speed on any ground but most efficiently on open, hard, flat areas like prairies and deserts.
The Shod Horse Hoof …
If your horse is shod you must ensure your horse or pony maintains a healthy balanced hoof and foot and that it is shod every 4-6 weeks. If your horse or pony is unshod (if it is a youngster or not used for ridden work) it should have a trim and leveling about every 8-10 weeks.
Your farrier should be qualified and registered, and should advertise this fact. It is illegal for anyone other than a registered farrier to shoe or trim your horses feet.
In the UK: The farrier should have one of the following qualifications, the FWCF being the most highly skilled:
- DipWCF (Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers)
- AWCF (Associateship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers)
- FWCF (Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers)
You must also ensure your horses feet are picked out using a hoof pick at least once a day, to remove any stones, mud and dirt and to check that shoes are in good condition. Keeping feet clean and dry wherever possible helps prevent problems, however a weekly 15 minute soak will help moisturise the hoof.
The un-Shod or Barefoot Horse Hoof …
Fans of the barefoot horse claim that hoof strength can be completely restored to domesticated horses if appropriate trimming and living conditions are applied. So much so that horseshoes will no longer be required for almost any horse.
The hooves of barefoot horses and ponies, and especially those that live on pasture, tend to be well-shaped, with wide, healthy frogs and good concavity of sole, and made of tough, good-looking horn. These horses are rarely lame and the horses are sure-footed and will go confidently on any footing, even over rocks.
However, you cannot simply remove your horses shoes and ride it, you must still consult a qualified farrier to ensure proper barefoot trimming and allow your horse time to develop strength in the hoof wall and sole.
There are also many other considerations, which we will try to cover separately, depending on the type of ridden work you will do with your horse.