Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

The great debate: How heavy is too heavy?

Presented by Larissa W. Cox, M.Sc. Applied Equine Science

The great weight debate:  How heavy is too heavy? 


While most healthy horses can easily carry a rider and saddle, they do have their limits.  How much weight can a horse comfortably carry?  It’s a difficult question and one that science can only provide some guidance.  There isn’t a simple formula as there are just too many variables in the equation, many of them are quite subjective Read the rest of this entry »




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No Hoof, No Horse: How does the hoof grow?

In previous articles, we discussed the external and internal structures of the hoof.  By understanding the structures of the horse’s hoof, we can understand how the hoof grows.  The rate and the quality of growth, much like our own fingernails, varies and while we don’t depend on our “claws” for survival, horse do depend on their hooves.

imagesCLE7FSL0 Read the rest of this entry »

No Hoof, No Horse: Internal Structure

In our last article, we discussed the exterior structures of the hoof.  Today we will be discussing the internal structures of the hoof.  There are two and a half bones inside the hoof:   the Pedal bone, the Navicular bone and the bottom half of the Short Pastern bone.   

Internal Hoof Structure

Internal Hoof Structure

Read the rest of this entry »

No Hoof, No Horse: External Structure

The horse’s hoof is a miracle of engineering.  The off structures which operate in balance with each other to form the hoof capsule is capable of withstanding huge forces while protecting to the sensitive structures beneath.  In this article, Tack and Talk will help you understand more about the hoof, an incredible structure.

The outer structures of the hoof, consist of: 


The external structures of the hoof

The external structures of the hoof

Sole:  This is the area inside the white line, not including the barns and frog.  The primary function of the sole is to protect the sensitive structures beneath the sole.  However, it also provides support, sharing some of the weight of the horse with the hoof wall. 

White Line:  It is commonly referred as the white line, but this can be misleading not only because it’s yellowish, but also because it is next to the white inner wall of the hoof.  A more accurate description of the white line was commonly used in the 1800s described as the Golden Line.  The purpose of this Golden Line, is to join the sole to the inner wall of the hoof, and to seal off the border of the pedal bone protecting it from bacterial infiltration.  Aiding with traction by creating a shallow crease at the bottom of the hoof which then fills with dirt.    

Inner Wall:  This is usually white, unlike the outer wall which doesn’t contain any pigment.  This is far more pliable than the outer wall due to a higher ration of inter-tubular horn which binds the tubules together.  The primary purpose of the outer wall is to store and release energy during the different phases of the stride to help propel the horse.  Also, it provides protection from the structures within, regulating moisture ingress and egress.  A healthy outer wall will be slightly thicker at the toe and will have no growth rings or cracks. 

Bar:  This is an extension of the hoof wall which runs along the side of the frog, ending about half way along the frog.  The purpose is to control the movement of the back of the hoof, adding strength to the heel area and protecting it from distortion.  The bar should have a high ratio of pliable inner wall to ensure it can move correctly as the heel moves. 

Angle of the Bar:  Also, known as the heel.  Designed to receive the initial impact of the horse’s stride, a healthy angle of the bar consists mainly of pliable inner wall, so that it can dissipate excess shock.  The Angle of the bar plays a very important role in supporting the weight of the horse and it is very important that it remains correctly balanced. 

Collateral Groove:  Is the groove that runs along either side of the frog.  

Frog:  One of the most important, but often neglected structures of the horse’s hoof.  It needs to be wide and substantial and made up of a thick, leathery material.  An unhealthy frog is open to infection when left untreated can lead to lameness.  The frog works in conjunction with the coronary band, the bars and the sole to provide resistance to distortion of the hoof capsule during the stride.  Pressure placed upon the frog directly influences the health of the digital cushion above it.  The frog allows independent movement at the heels as the horse lands on uneven ground.  Also, it plays a part in protecting the sensitive structure beneath, providing traction and assisting in circulation and shock absorption.      

Coronary Band:  A very tough structure which sits on top of the hoof wall.  It has two very important functions.  One, it produces the tubules of the outer wall and second it is very strong and acts as a band of support to add strength to the internal hoof structures as the hoof distorts during the stride. 

Periople:  A protective covering for newly formed hoof wall just below the coronary band.  In the early stages, this material is very soft which helps to prevent the coronary band being bruised by shock being transferred upwards through the hoof wall during the weight-bearing phase of the stride.

No Hoof, No Horse

We have all heard the old saying “No Hoof, No Horse.”  Many of us take this lightly until disaster strikes, and then, we think back to all the “Should haves” we could have done.  Whether your horse is a backyard companion or an international competitor, healthy feet are an essential part of your horse’s overall health.

The problem is that there are as many opinions to the “correct” way to do things as there are horse people.  The key is to make informed decisions with the help of your farrier and veterinarian in addressing what’s best for your horse and you keeping in mind nutritional and external factors.

Nutritional care, let’s face it, is less noticeable and slower to appear than the results of external care, however both are very important to your horse.  But we can all agree that for overall hoof care, having a good farrier and veterinarian is critical to the success of your horse management and both these professionals should be selected carefully.

So, how does the hoof fit into the nutritional needs of your horse.  The dermal tissue, the larges organ of your horse, consists of the hooves, skin, hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands and related structures.  Because all these share a common nutritional need and utilization, it is impossible to nutritionally improve the condition of your horse’s hooves without improving his mane, tail and coat.

However, what sets hooves apart?   What makes them more vulnerable than the other dermal structures.  The answer is their function.  Since they show weakness more quickly than the other dermal structure, which is due to their location and function, the hooves also serve as a highly reliable indicator of your horse’s overall dermal health.

Every horse is an individual and the hoof also reflects that fact.  Environment, genetics and discipline affect your horse’s body and the level of care that is needed.  You can have two horses, in the same barn, with the same diet, competing in the same discipline, with the same farrier and yet, one horse can have healthy feet and the other can barely hold shoes on for a week at a time.  Even though the diet is the same, the culprit in this instance is nutrition.  Why, because even though similar horses can have similar environment they have many genetic differences and let’s face it, genetic makeup plays a huge role in how nutrients are absorbed and utilized.

Nutritional problems solving, at best, is very difficult and when a horse has poor feet due to dietary factors, determining the exact cause is especially difficult.  However, you can assume that he’s not receiving the correct nutrients; or, not absorbing them effectively; or, something is interfering with his nutrient utilization, more than likely another dietary factor.

What external hoof care is needed for your horse? According to Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS of Life Data Lab research, hoof trimming or shoeing should be performed as recommended by your farrier.  As a general rule of thumb, no horse should be trimmed beyond eight weeks.  With excessive untrimmed growth, hoof balance alters dramatically affecting stride, comfort and performance of your horse.

Stabled horses should be kept in clean, dry bedding.  Ammonia from equine waste is extremely destructive to hooves.

Wet-dry-wed-dry-wet-dry-wet-dry…this cycle is very though on hooves and is impossible to control as the weather conditions change your horse’s pasture from mud to desert to mud again.  What to do?  Keep moisture changes to a minimum and consider using a topical application that seals in the correct amount of moisture but yet allows oxygen to pass through.

Cleaning your horse’s hooves should be done daily, especially before riding.  If you’re not cleaning your horse’s feet daily, you may not notice when a problem develops until he’s lame.

If you detect a rotting smell as you clean, more than likely your horse probably has thrush.  The thrush bacteria are opportunistic multiplying in the absence of oxygen and presence of waste.  Don’t use copper sulphate, iodine, or a bleach solution as these are highly damaging to the hoof.  Instead, use povidone, an organic iodine.  Severe cases of thrush should always be attended by your veterinarian or farrier.

Happy New Year

From our barn to yours, may 2014 be filled with Happiness, Prosperity and Nickers!