Understanding Balance With … A Balloon?

How the foot accepts load is key to symmetry, Maryland farrier says



Although farriers widely recognize the importance of balancing the equine hoof, it’s not always well understood — but can be if you have a balloon.

That’s right. A simply party favor can help you gain a better understanding of equine hoof balance. You won’t even need helium.

“There is no science in this, as the science community understands science,” Frederick, Md., farrier Doug Anderson told attendees at the 13th annual International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio. “There’s no research project related to this. There are 47 ways to skin a cat. There are 47 ways to shoe a horse. I’m not saying this is the only way to balance a foot. This is how I understand to balance a foot.”

First Thing’s First

Before delving into balance, it’s important to keep basic anatomy in mind.

“First, we have a coffin bone,” he reminds. “Around that bone, along with many other things, is the venous plexus and blood flows through it. That is surrounded by a deformable hard mass called the hoof wall. It’s these three pieces of anatomy that I’m considering.”

Equally important is how that anatomy responds to forces placed upon it (Figure 1).

"Mass, being body weight, goes downhill,” Anderson says. “Everything goes downhill. We can’t avoid gravity.”

Farrier Takeaways

Knowledge of foundational anatomy and how it responds to the forces placed upon it are important to understanding equine foot balance.

Placing pressure on a lightly inflated balloon illustrates how weight bearing affects the hoof capsule.


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Jeff cota 2023

Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 30 years. A native of Maine, he is the Lead Content Editor of American Farriers Journal.

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