The Widest Part of the Foot

A study of locating internal hoof structures from external references

Figure 1

A primary hoof-care goal always has been to trim the hoof so that it provides support and stability to the distal phalanx (hence the bony column), regardless of whether a horse is being shod or left barefoot. 

To “balance” a horse’s foot is every farriers’ goal. However, just how to achieve balance is still widely debated, even after hundreds of years of humans providing for the hoof-care needs of horses.

Goals In Hoof Balance

The most widely accepted definitions or goals in achieving balance are to make the distal phalanx flat to the ground from side-to-side, thereby establishing medial-lateral (M/L) balance. (Figure 1, Same Depth-A ). Some people feel that it should be flat to the ground from front-to-back as well, however the most widely accepted theory is that a slightly positive palmar angle (meaning the distal phalanx is slightly raised in the back) is “normal” or at least desirable (Figure 1, Same Depth-B).

Another common goal for achieving hoof balance is dividing the ground-surface mass equally around the center of articulation of the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint (Figure 2). The “center of articulation of the DIP joint” is described as the center of the distal condyle (the rounded prominence) of the second pastern bone (PII).

From that center point, a vertical line is dropped perpendicular to the ground. An equal amount of ground mass should be ahead of that line and behind that line. From a standpoint of physics or mechanics, this…

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