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After 20 years of horseshoeing, I believe farriers and horses would benefit if more emphasis was placed on the biomechanics of the hoof. That’s why, after consulting with other farriers and closely scrutinizing the horses I’ve worked on, I’ve come to define balance as the relationship of the hoof capsule to the coffin bone.
Likewise, I define breakover as the function of the hoof capsule as it relates to the coffin bone, and proper management of breakover is the correct placement of the hoof capsule to the coffin bone on the day of shoeing to optimize breakover. Precise measurements will even allow a farrier to determine how far from optimum breakover a hoof is at any point during the shoeing cycle.
The front feet of the horse serving as an example in this article are typical of many that we treat at the clinic where I work, the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, Calif. The structures and biomechanics of these feet are out of balance, as they are with many horses, from backyard ponies to million-dollar performance horses. The pathology is the same, and so are the principles employed to rehab the feet and change the mechanics to help heal damaged tendons.
If we can accurately assess the state of the horses’ hoof anatomy and apply a specific prescription, we might have a chance to help these horses. In some cases, the pathology is too great and the million-dollar performance horse becomes a backyard pet.