Making Sense Of Hoof Balance

Several theories and models are available, but knowing which principles to choose and when to use them can make the difference between soundness and lameness

SOMETIMES ITʼS OBVIOUS. Determining hoof balance can be difficult, but not always. Equine veterinarian Albert Kane found this foal had a severely misshapen hoof due to a severe angular limb deformity. Her other forefoot was normal.

Farriers understand the need to balance every foot they trim, yet hoof balance might be one of the least understood concepts in shoeing. The definition of balance depends on who you talk to, although everyone agrees that it’s important.

“What you do to balance the hoof affects the distribution of the forces throughout the horse’s limb, as well as the way the horse moves. If you change the angle at the bottom of the foot, it can have a tremendous effect at the ground surface,” says Albert Kane, a noted equine veterinarian working at Fort Collins, Colo. The hoof work progressively lessens in effect further up the leg, he adds, “But it’s still very important to how horses move and to keeping them sound.”

Scant Research

Despite its importance, hoof balance has not been widely examined. “Only about a half-dozen good research projects have been done on hoof balance, and there are maybe another dozen articles in the literature based on clinical studies,” Kane says.

Kane, who has studied the subject during his years of veterinary work and research with domestic and wild horses, says, “Some people say you can’t define balance and nobody knows what’s good. I believe there is a degree of truth to that. But we all have an understanding of…

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Ron perszewski

Ron Perszewski

Ron Perszewski is a freelance writer and former associate editor of Ameri­can Farriers Journal.

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