Pasture vs Barefoot Trim Pt. 5 - Tippy Toes Part 1

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Good Day!  Well, seems like I went a step ahead in my last blog post about rockerin' the toes.  I didn't mention, first, the LENGTH of the toes and why that's so important to healthy hooves! 

Frequently with pasture trims one will see a long toe ... one in which the wall is much thicker/wider than that of the rest of the hoof. Ideally, the wall should be of uniform thickness along with the sole of the hoof.  

In a typical pasture trim it is deemed necessary to rasp the hoof and produce "the solar plane". This shortens the toe area with every swipe, reducing the concavity and thinning the sole beneath the tip of the coffin bone, while also flattening the heel and quarters onto a flat plane with the toe.

This also leaves a long toe which, in turn, leaves a delayed breakover. We've discussed that breakover here: and we've read about the repercussions from leaving a delayed breakover on a barefoot hoof. 

So those are a couple of discussions about the farrier trim with regard to the toe of the equine hoof. 

Let's take a look at the 'natural' hoof and see about the toes ... 

Remembering that the hoof capsule is created to be a mirror of the foot inside, we can see just how 'long' a toe really should be from this cadaver ... 

Ignoring the improper line up of the P2 and P3 in the photo above (short pastern and coffin bone) we can clearly see the shape that a well formed, healthy hoof capsule should take for a front hoof.  (the front hooves are rounder in form than the rear hooves; front hooves carry 60% of the horse's weight when static thus need good area for support while hind hooves are more oval shaped to help with 'digging in' for impulsion of the hind end during movement.) 

This is an excellent example of how a natural trim will 'mirror' the front foot (the 'foot' being the inside of the capsule, proper): 

Photo courtesy of Balanced Hoof Services, Danbury, NH

Compare that with a 'farrier trim' on this hoof: 



Obviously there are other issues with this farrier trimmed hoof beside the extraordinarily long toe. But one can see the blatant discrepancies with what the foot would display inside the capsule. 

Let's take an xray view of a similarly long toed hoof and mark it for a natural trim: 

And now, here's a digitally trimmed ... the same horse but I've given it a 'natural' trim -- and this is what the xray would show: 

What a difference, eh?  The breakover is just where it needs to be so the hoof can function optimally -- this will increase the horse's stride, cause a healthier hoof to 'grow down' because of less stress on the circulatory complex in the foot, you can see the uniform hoof wall thickness and a thick sole to match. 

Here I've overlayed (roughly) the digitally trimmed xray over the naturally trimmed hoof pictured above and you can see how almost perfectly mirrored the hoof capsule is to the foot inside: 

Now there one can plainly see the differences between the natural trim and the farrier trim. 

So what difference does it all make to the horse and its hooves?  Well, simply put a long toe left on the hoof will cause white line separation allowing environmental pathogens to enter the foot causing White Line Disease; will delay the breakover that damages the circumflex artery that runs around the P3 and feeds the hoof - this damages the growth of the new horn; will cause frequent stumbling during movement with and without a rider, possible high/low syndrome, navicular and a host of other insults to the hooves causing a major decrease in performance and even jeopardize the health of the horse overall. It is also important to note that the horn at the toe is the oldest being the farthest away from the origins at the coronary band and, as such, it is harder than the rest of the hoof. It receives constant wear during movement as the hoof lifts off the ground but, being more keratinized horn, just does not wear at the same rate as the heels. 

So, close attention to the toes of the horse is of major importance in the overall health as well as the 'way of going' of the horse. 

Next week we'll talk about how to assess just what is the proper length of toe for the equine hoof so stay tuned ... 



Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:

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