Wise words about the hoof and sole. Copied from Pete Ramey, www.hoofrehab.com
“These days I have traded in my metal shoes for state of the art hoof boots, and I have learned the awesome power in allowing the “off season barefoot healing period” to extend throughout the horse’s life. I have gone full circle and become one of the loudest voices to “trust the sole”. I’m not alone; thankfully the whole farrier world is shifting in that direction. Is this the “fad” for the 2000’s? No, it is an important, basic fundamental of hoof care that the scientific farrier community just forgot for a while.
Let’s take it all a step further. In my book (Making Natural Hoof Care Work For You) I taught the typical hoof balancing methods practiced by most farriers with a footnote added that said I felt that this “cosmetic” balancing was wrong, but wasn’t quite ready to talk about it. After four years of constant experimentation since writing that, I am ready now. I now am convinced that the “little bit of sole” I would have had you to remove to achieve balance, is a direct violation of everything the horse is trying to do to protect himself and optimize performance.
The problem with traditional thoughts on hoof balance is that we are programmed to set horses up to be in balance while standing square on concrete. Few horses are asked to perform while standing square on concrete and I have never seen a horse limp or get injured while standing square on concrete either. If left to its own devices on, a horse will not stand square at all, but cock to one side and rest one foot at a time, just as you would. So what is the significance of balancing horses this way? I say none.
Like with most things, I came to this backwards. I started deeply studying the way horses move and wondering how I could make things better for each horse in my care. One of the most dramatic “for instances” is a horse that is worked extensively at the trot on a hard track or road. When a horse trots the hooves fly inward and land under his center of gravity. The footprints look like a tightrope walker. This is normal, natural, and efficient. As I observed this movement, I also noticed that the outside heel on a “cosmetically balanced” hoof lands first and that after this impact the hoof slams inward as the other heel is driven to the ground, snapping the fetlock and pastern joints. Knowing how destructive this could be, I decided I should experiment with lowering the outside of the hoof so that it could land in a more balanced way while the horse was performing the hardest work asked of it. Very quickly, in case after case, I found that the live sole plane was already begging for it. I didn’t have to invade the sole or leave anything higher than the sole to achieve this “balance for work”. In fact, these were the very hooves I would have previously had to invade the sole a bit to achieve cosmetic balance. I noticed this in case after case and it slowly became obvious that the sole could usually be trusted for optimum heel balance and toe balance as well.”