The bar wall is one of the most controversial subjects among hoof care providers; there are many different schools of thought, theories, and opinions. I encourage you all to review the anatomy portion of this blog series on lateral cartilages and bar tubules as you read through this blog regarding the bar walls of our ideal hoof capsule. I will also be including some review of the internal structures throughout this blog to help you as you come to your own conclusions. Cheryl Henderson is well known for her work on researching pathologies of the bar wall which include embedded bar, bar smear, bar pooling, bar bridging...I will be including these topics in an article I am working on which will be available for download at the conclusion of this “Hoof School” blog series, but I encourage you to start doing your own research—studying the different theories and opinions and evaluating them against your knowledge of the internal structures. Cheryl’s Facebook Group, “ABC Hoof Care - Natural Hooves” is a wonderful source of free knowledge on these subjects, so that would be a great place to start your research. Cheryl and other professional hoof care providers in the group also personally answers questions regarding pictures of hooves posted by group members.
We will start with a quick review of the internal structures as they are a huge help when visualizing the bar walls of our ideal hoof capsule. Remember the bars have their own laminae which grow at the base of the lateral cartilage. The sole tubules growing from the terminal papillae interdigitate with the insensitive laminae of the bar wall creating the bar’s very own section of golden line; therefore, the position and shape of the bar’s laminae provides the blueprint for the bar wall of our ideal hoof capsule. Notice the shape of the laminae is a distorted triangle with the base of the triangle located towards the heels and the apex of the triangle located towards the toe. Also, notice that the top of the laminae forms a straight line which runs parallel to the frog.
Next, we will look at the geometry of the internal structures to help us understand where the bar wall should terminate in our ideal hoof capsule. Once again looking at the bar’s laminae, you will notice the laminae ends halfway down the frog; this is also the location of the tip of the frog’s central sulcus. Thus, when viewing the hoof capsule the bar wall should terminate at the middle of the frog or the tip of the central sulcus. Click Image Below to Enlarge:
One additional method to determine the ideal termination point of the bar wall is using the sulcus radius line. The sulcus radius line is a line drawn from the middle of the central sulcus (the midpoint between the baseline and middle of the frog) to the fulcrum. Where this line intersects the middle frog line indicates the average location where the bar wall laminae terminates.
Just like when we learned to measure the baseline, it is important to learn to read the clues each individual hoof provides as there is always some variation from any average. The clue to bar wall termination provided by the hoof is the bar crack. This crack in the hoof capsule forms where the bar tubules’ attachment to the bar’s laminae terminates and is also where the hard bar tubules should end and soft, flexible sole tubules begin. If you notice these bar cracks in your horse’s hoof you will notice they appear approximately adjacent to the middle of the frog—providing additional confirmation that you have correctly identified the ideal location of the bar wall’s termination in your own horse’s hooves.
The hoof also provides a clue that the bar wall may have excess height. This clue is a horizontal crease which sometimes forms when bar tubules begin to fold at the area just beyond the top of the bar’s laminae as they are pushed on by the ground. This crease is known as the bar crease. If you notice a bar crease on your horse’s hooves you will also notice that the bar crease terminates at the baseline you marked previously. In our ideal hoof capsule the bar wall should start at the baseline and then descend downwards as it approaches its termination point at the middle of the frog—following the shape of the bar’s laminae.
In review, the following are what we are looking for in the bar walls of our ideal hoof capsule:
The images below show some healthy, well-defined, straight bar walls. Click images below to enlarge:
Do your horse’s bar walls meet all of the above criteria of our ideal hoof capsule’s bar walls based on the blueprint provided by the internal structures? What issues do you think could develop if the bar wall tubules grew beyond this ideal termination point and ended up out in the sole area where the tubules are supposed to be soft and flaky rather than hard and stiff? What issues could develop if the bar wall is excessively tall?
The bar wall is an area of the hoof that all horse owners should study and research. I will let you know that what I have learned about excess bar has shed quite a bit of light as to why so many horses “need” shoes. As I mentioned in my introductory blog, I am not anti-shoe, but I do believe there are many cases in which shoes are used in cases in which they may not be necessary if the hoof was trimmed differently.
I’m excited about the article I am working on which will compile and organize all of the information I am sharing in this blog series (and some extras!) and will include information on hoof pathologies—when the hoof capsule deviates from our normal, ideal hoof capsule. I plan to post the final blogs of this series this week and next week, and the article will be available for download from my website in November.
Now that we have learned some tools to evaluate the bottom of the hoof, the next blog will provide some tools to evaluate the outside of the hoof capsule.
*ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE OREGON SCHOOL OF NATURAL HOOF CARE*