When it comes to assessing your horse’s conformation and how to get the best out of him, his hooves are the best place to start.
Managing your horse for any level of athletic career requires a team approach, and one of the most important members of this team is the farrier.
Dr Kathryn Nankervis and osteopath Liz Launder from the Equine Therapy Centre at Hartpury University assess the ups and downs of foot balance.
Every movement your horse makes is influenced by how his foot interacts with the ground. To stay sound while we place our physical demands on them, his feet need to be in the best shape, balance and health.
Physical therapy throughout a horse’s life should be aimed at optimising static and dynamic posture, of which the foot-ground interaction is one of the most influential parts.
The jury is still out on what constitutes the ‘ideal’ foot balance. For example, recent research has shown that most horses don’t meet the ideal in terms of hoof parallelism.
Shoeing management tips
Ensure your horse is shod regularly. Many imbalance issues are helped by moving to a shorter shoeing cycle, say, every five weeks instead of six, especially for issues such as toe in and toe out, which are exacerbated with increased foot length.
Help your farrier by ensuring they have good facilities to work with – well lit, with a flat, secure surface to watch your horse move. Farriers spend a lot of time looking at horses in walk, observing the foot landing, flight and break-over.
In horses with marked food imbalance or lameness, x-rays of the feet can give the farrier more information about what’s going on inside the hoof.
Don’t just ride your horse on an arena surface all the time – riding on roads and on turf are also important.
Quality of the hoof horn and the structure of the hoof go hand in hand. If you can avoid areas of peak loading and spread the forces throughout the hoof, you are more likely to get healthy horn growing through.
For more about balance and hoof anomalies read the full article in issue 454.
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