Hoof School: Part VIII - Methods and Tools for Evaluating Heel-To-Toe Balance

October 18, 2017

Now for some fun stuff you can do with your own horses!  We’ll will use our knowledge of the relationship of the fulcrum width and baseline-to-toe length to evaluate your own horse's hooves.  You will need to start by locating the baseline.  When locating the baseline we measure the lateral cartilage, because it provides an honest measurement due to being attached to the wall, hide, and digital cushion. Start by locating the collateral grooves of the hoof (the grooves between the frog and bar walls); then take a permanent marker and draw a straight line from the exit of both collateral grooves at the back of the hoof all the way to the hair bearing skin at the top of the hoof capsule.  Where these lines end at the hair bearing skin indicates the location where the lateral cartilages and digital cushion join.  Click images below to enlarge:

 

These two points on the hair bearing skin where the lateral cartilages and digital cushion join will be where we place our ruler or baseline gauge (a very handy tool that comes with Cheryl’s book) to measure the location of our baseline.  Cheryl has determined average heel heights  through years of research and thousands of dissections which we will use when measuring the location of the baseline.  The averages from her research are below:

 

Mini (Shetland and Smaller) = ¾”

Pony (Welsh and POA size) = 1”

Horse (Standard Size Horse) = 1 ⅛”

X-Tall (Drafts and Tall breeds) = 1 ½”

 

The baseline guage which comes with Cheryl’s book has all of these averages pre-measured and labeled on a single tool which provides ease and convenience when measuring the location of the baseline.  

 

If you do not have her baseline gauge just use a standard ruler.  Determine the category of your horse to determine the appropriate length.  Then place your ruler or baseline gauge at one of the points you previously marked on the hair bearing skin above the collateral groove.  Measure from this point to the appropriate length for your horse’s category and make a mark on the hoof capsule at this length.  Repeat this for the second point on the hair bearing skin.  Connect the two new, measured marks—this line represents your baseline.  Click images below to enlarge:

 

Since, the measurements provided by Cheryl are averages it is also important to learn to read the clues each individual hoof provides as there is always some variation from any average.  One important clue for determining the ideal location of the baseline is the periople curl.  The periople curl is excess periople skin that has been pushed up as the heel descends down onto the ground’s surface.  The ideal location of the baseline is just beyond the location of the periople curl.  So, if you did your measurements and see that your baseline mark is just beyond the location of the periople curls then you have additional validation that you have correctly marked the ideal baseline of your hoof; however, if your baseline mark is not just beyond the location of the periople curls you may want to remeasure your marks or see if a different category may be more appropriate measurement for your individual horse.

 

Next, you will need to mark the fulcrum.  To locate the fulcrum run your finger from the heel around the inside edge of the hoof wall.  The location of the fulcrum is where you notice your finger changing direction from heading outward to heading back inward; once you find this location place a mark on the golden line.  Repeat this on the other side of the hoof.  Connect your two marks and you will have your fulcrum marked.  If your line does not appear to be the widest part of the hoof then you should recheck the location of your two points.  Click images below to enlarge:

 

Now that you have marked your baseline and fulcrum, I will walk you through two techniques to evaluate your horse’s heel-to-toe balance.  The first method will use a standard ruler and the second will show Cheryl’s method of using the “hoofprint ring” (which is a simply a hose clamp you can purchase at a local hardware store).  To use a standard ruler, start by measuring the length of the fulcrum. Then measure from baseline to toe putting a mark on the hoof at the length of the fulcrum; this mark indicates where the golden line should be at the toe of the hoof.

 

Next, we will learn how to use the “hoofprint ring” which is the method Cheryl teaches in both her school and in her book.  We know from the previous blog, when we connect the ends of the lines used to measure our fulcrum and baseline-to-toe a perfect circle is created which is why the hoofprint ring method works.  It will establish the same location of the golden line at the toe as the standard ruler, but will also help you to visualize the ideal location of the entire golden line.  To use the hoofprint ring, place the inside edge of the hoofprint ring at the baseline.  Then adjust the ring as necessary until it touches both edges of the fulcrum on the golden line (same fulcrum marks you made when using the standard ruler technique).  Once the inside edge of the ring is touching the baseline and both sides of the golden line at the fulcrum, take a permanent marker and make a mark on the outer edge of the ring at the toe.  Like the standard ruler technique, this line indicates the ideal location of the golden line at the toe.  Click images below to enlarge:

 

 To use the hoofprint ring to help you visualize the location of the entire golden line you must first understand that front hooves are round while hind feet are spade-shaped.  Since the hoofprint ring is round, for front hooves simply trace the entire outside edge of the ring and this line will represent the ideal location of the hoof's golden line.  Click images below to enlarge: 

 

If you are working on a hind hoof you will need to account for the spade shape, so do not trace the entire outside edge of the ring.  Only place a mark at the toe, and then at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock place a mark that follows the hoof’s natural spade shape.  When you connect these three dots you will have a line that shows the ideal location of the hind hoof’s spade-shaped golden line.

 

Please note, that both of these methods will indicate the ideal position of the hoof’s golden line...NOT the hoof wall!  You can easily map out the ideal location of the hoof wall after you have determined the ideal location of the golden line.  The hoof wall should have uniform thickness all the way around the hoof.  For the average horse the width of the hoof wall is ⅜-inch; for ponies the width will be slightly narrower and for drafts it will be slightly wider.  You can find your individual horse’s natural wall width just beyond the heel purchase at the area of the wall at the heel quarters—the thickness here is usually reliable.  Once you have determined the ideal width of your horse’s hoof wall, draw a second line that runs parallel to your horse’s ideal golden line on the side closer to the toe; make the distance between the two lines your horse’s ideal hoof wall width—this second line represents the ideal position of the hoof wall’s outer edge.  Click images below to enlarge:

 

With these techniques map out the ideal heel-to-balance on your own horse’s hooves.  Is your horse’s golden line in the ideal location based on your measurements?  Do the points of your horse’s heels touch the baseline you measured?  Do your horse’s hooves follow the ⅔ frog, ⅓ sole ratio?  Does your horse’s hoof wall have uniform thickness?  If you notice anything not following our ideal blueprint write it down—we’ll be going over common hoof pathologies after we finish our ideal hoof capsule blueprint.  The next piece of our blueprint will be for the bar walls.  

 

 

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