Internal Hoof Structure
The internal structures of the hoof are really important, but because we can't see them, we often don't think about them too often. Go on - have a little think about them - and maybe even a little poke at them! I double dog dare you!
1. With the hoof weight bearing, press the dip between the 2 heel bulbs. Does it feel firm and elastic a little like the ball of you thumb when you make a fist? (This is the digital cushion.)
2. Feel the lateral cartilages either side of the digital cushion. Are they smooth, flexible and firm?
3. Are the lateral cartilages wrapped around the heel bulbs? (or can you push your finger underneath them)
4. Look at the underside of the hoof. Is the white line at the toe a clear yellow/goldish colour and strong/tight looking? (In a stretched white line you'll see black striations or it will be wider than 3mm)
5. Is the white line at the quarters a clear yellow/goldish colour and strong/tight looking? (In a stretched white line you'll see black striations or it will be wider than 3mm)
Do this check on each foot individually.
Sometimes to see the white line properly you need a freshly trimmed foot. It depends on the other structures of the hoof. You'll get to know your own horses hoof the more you look. If you're unsure, take a picture and send it to me.
For each 'NO' answer score 2 points.
This will give you a score for each foot individually.
Take an average (add them all up and divide by 4 – hopefully!) to get an overall picture, but if you have 3 hooves scoring well and 1 hoof scoring poorly, then this suggests (or confirms) an imbalance in your horse.
If your score is 0:
YAY!!! Looks like there's no major problems to worry about.
If your score is 1-3:
Things are fairly good, there's no need to panic but there's room for a little improvement.
If your score is 4-6:
There's a few problems in this area. Something is out of balance and the whole system is beginning to show the strain. Doing a few of the other health checks may help you identify other areas that are feeling the pressure. If your score surprised you, it may be worth seeking further help and advice.
If your score is 7-10:
There are significant problems in this area. I strongly recommend you take action. Getting help from a professional with a proven track record may be necessary to get things back on track simply and quickly. It's likely that other systems are struggling under the strain as well so I'd recommend you do some of the other health checks too.