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  • Writer's pictureHolistic Equine

Identifying healthy hoof ideals

This really is the starting point in any assessment of the horse and posture and we will refer to these before providing any recommendation or implementing an intervention such as trimming or booting.

Horse owners, carers and professionals have a duty of care to horses to be recognising early indicators of loss of health and pain well before then horse is 'broken'.

In our new short on-course coming this spring, and available as a FREE learning resource our VIP Members (available now), we will be providing guidelines on what is considered healthy proportions or ideals for an individual horse. They key is 'individual' - all horses have unique conformation which we need to appreciate and respect. We consider each and every horse for the uniqueness in every assessment and the the owner choose an intervention to achieve or maintain what is needed for the horse to stay sound and well.

There are many published studies on hoof morphology and different opinions on what is healthy. In the application of trimming with an integrative approach to the whole horse, we don't follow a method, but find the following guidelines to be useful and form a basis for our approach. The guidelines are simply that and there will be horses which will fall outside of these. This is why we consider the opinion of the horse to be the most authentic guide of all.


  • Limbs (metacarpals and metatarsals) perpendicular to the ground when resting

  • Close to 50:50 heel:toe ratio around the approximate COR (centre of rotation) of the distal interphalangeal joint (DIP). With barefoot horses, 40:60 is considered acceptable if there is a straight HPA/appropriate palmar/plantar P3 angle and leverage is managed throughout a trim cycle

  • Appropriate vertical depth of the hoof capsule

  • Appropriate palmar or plantar P3 angle of between 5 and 8 degrees (some say as low as 2 degrees and as high as 11 degrees)

  • Straight hoof pastern axis (HPA) which is associated closely with palmar/plantar P3 angle

  • Phalangeal and Capsular alignment with minimal flare and distortion to the capsule

  • 3-dimensional rotational balance around the COR, accounting for medial/lateral balance

These are examples of documentation taken during an equine podiatry consult. This pony is in our care and is a 21 year old Connemara pony called Nelly, with interesting conformation and was not sound or balanced in shoes and was very difficult to trim or shoe in the past.

Being barefoot suits him and we are able to manage his limb joint rotation and probably arthritis in his limb joints with regular trimming. This could not be achieved in a fixed appliance like a shoe. He also has Equine Cushings Disease/PPID and Insulin Dysregulation which is managed with medication and diet (inc, herbal protocol APF). he suffered laminitis in 2018 and there were indicators he was getting bouts of inflammation since then, and he was tested positive for PPID/ID in October 2020. You can read more about Nelly in an upcoming detailed case study only available to our VIP Members.

We believe he has close to ideal hoof proportions all round and his posture is healthy too. He continues to improve with the interventions chosen which include PRO-Active trimming protocol every 2-3 weeks plus management which minimises the need for medication. He is mostly stabled during the winter and will develop healthier proportions in the drier months where he will live mostly in a dry lot with the Yewcroft herd.

In this instance, it is appropriate to live barefoot, but if we were to start hand walking, we might manage wear to maintain the proportions he enjoys by fitting hoof boots. Shoes are not appropriate or necessary but we would review any intervention if we felt it would best support him, should his health status change.

If, like our clients, you want to learn a PRO-Active approach to hoof care and wish to prevent lameness in your horse, consider booking us for an Integrative Podiatry Consult, Educational Event, Mentorship, On-line Course or join our new VIP membership where you can learn top tips straight from an expert!


We take an integrative and holistic approach to whole horse hoof and body health. We appreciate the relationship between body, limb and hoof and seek to address imbalances while positively influencing appropriate static and dynamic hoof balance and biomechanics.

Beccy Smith BSc DAEP EBW – Independent Equine Podiatrist and CEO of Holistic Reflections CIC

Holistic Reflections CIC – a 100% non-profit organisation promoting wellbeing and resilience in people, horses and the environment - for the benefit of all.

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