We all want our horses to be healthy and happy. One of the ways we can achieve that is to understand what a healthy hoof looks like and how to keep it that way! In this blog post, I will talk about some measurements you can take of your horse's hoof. This will allow you to keep track of progress you and your barefoot trimmer make and let you know if you are headed in the right direction.
Take a look at the hoof in the picture on the right. This horse has worn shoes for many yeas and when they were removed, his feet were tender and narrow. The owner was sure that he would never be able to go barefoot. However, this owner was willing to trust me and together we came up with a plan. I think that there are a lot of nice things about this hoof! He has developed a nice frog after suffering from a horrible thrush infection. The heels are wider apart because the thrush is going away and the horse confidently moves around his pasture. Also there is adequate sole depth meaning that his coffin bone has some sole between it and the ground making it easier to walk on a variety of terrain. Also the sole is getting wider and the hoof wall is being rolled or beveled to help with flaring. This helps by pushing the hoof wall towards the hoof rather then pulling it away which is very painful. This hoof didn't always look like this. It took many months of changes to environment, diet, exercise, boots and trimming. The owner was very willing to treat the thrush and complete all of the necessary requirements to help her horse. By making measurements and watching how the hoof changed over time we were able to see whether the changes we made were helping or not.
The Popsicle Stick Hoof Measuring tool
We can gather useful information by measuring our horse’s hooves. Using a measurement tool allows us to record, identify healthy or unhealthy situations, and make changes.
Tools for Data Collection:
My favorite tool, due to accuracy, is an electronic caliper. They can be purchased on Amazon and they usually cost around $20.00.
One that I also like to use is a Precision pick. They come in both metric and inches. You want to keep the surface protected. Otherwise it gets scratched up and it is hard to read. You can use this tool to measure depth, length, width, angles, and clean a hoof too!
However, if you want something very inexpensive, you won’t mind carrying in a pocket or using around your horse; then grab a Popsicle stick! This type of measuring tool is light, cheap, easy to make and small enough to carry. You can make one quickly and suddenly you are armed with a tool that will enable you to look at your hoof. Plus, as an added bonus, you will feel good knowing that you are reusing something that you were going to throw away.
To make a Popsicle stick measuring tool, all you need is:
The next step is to go grab your horse and secure him or her on cross ties. Now, that you have your victim secured, you are ready to start using your Popsicle stick measuring tool!
What can the Popsicle Measuring Tool do?
I have created a chart that you can print out and refer to when using the measuring tool. It explains what you can measure, why you would take the measurement and what good parameters would look like. You will also find a place for you to record information that you might find helpful as you work with your trimmer to help make important adjustments. It is also helpful to take pictures before and after trimming to note wear and tear. This can give clues to how and how often your horse moves. This is valuable information that will allow you to make changes to your horse’s conditions and routines to improve health and performance.
There are some other things that you can investigate to determine the health of your horse’s feet that don't require the Popsicle stick. You can look at your horse’s frog. It should be wide, dark, not have a smell, firm and the central sulcus should be closed. If the frog is soft and squishy, smells like garlic, rotting things, or see white powder/black tar you have a thrush infection and it needs to be treated right away.
Get your trimmer involved. They will love to see your findings and they mean something. Identify problem areas and keep track of measurements and physical things that you can do to and with the horse to help improve their situation.
All of the information is a guide and subject to change. Ponies and Draft horses would have different measurements. The complete article with a record sheet you can use to keep track, is linked below. I hope you enjoy. If you find errors please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org