The Hoof


The horse’s hoof is one of the alternate wonders of nature, It contains many structures which work in unison to form a foot, hoof capsule, hoof mechanism and shock absorption system all in one. It can withstand extreme changes in temperature, huge forces, it adapts to any condition and even crushes rocks. This adaption is amazing and It is only when this adaptation is exhausted that a horse becomes lame. If we provide the hoof with the proper nutrition, hoof care and a near as possible natural environment, our horses will live a long and healthy life.


How can we look at the anatomy of a horse’s hoof without knowing what it should look like and how it should perform. The hoof is so highly adaptive that its shape changes constantly and most people are now so used to looking at hooves deformed by shoeing that this hoof has become normal. It’s important to note here that there are no physical or genetic differences between wild, feral or domesticated horses. Just like there are no different between wild, feral or domesticated elephants or camels. Therefore, a wild horse’s hooves are how nature intended horse’s hooves to be in that environment and it’s reasonable to use them as a model. Les Emery described nature as efficiency, so when we talk about natural hooves we talk about efficient hooves. Horses in the wild need their hooves to perform, and if they don’t, they don’t survive. The wild hoof model is based on hooves of the wild mustangs of the midwestern United States and is what hooves should look like in that environment. Dr Bowker made an interesting point when he said all wild hooves are different and that this makes it impossible to use them as a gold standard. He then goes on to define a good foot. It's only by looking at many, many hooves that you build up your own picture. Wild hooves show the same characteristic as Dr Bowker’s description of a good foot, so using the wild model as a standard is just another way of looking at an image of a good foot.


A good foot is a foot that has developed a digital cushion of fibrocartilage and has good support. A good foot has 3 or 4 times thicker lateral cartilages than a bad foot. In my opinion, there will be a lot more subtle internal differences which are not as obvious here, but we can see these differences quite clearly.  Bowker discovered that most horses under the age of 5 feet were very similar, but after that age, they split into the good foot, bad footed groups. Two of the most important findings in this study by Bowker, in my opinion, was that good footed horses developed fibrocartilage in their digital cushions and that they could go on to develop this fibrocartilage at any age. Therefore ascertaining that bad feet were not genetic. I believe further studies will go on to prove that bone density will be a major difference as well.