An interesting dichotomy exists when we turn our attention to the horse’s foot. On the one hand, without a healthy foot, a modern-day horse really has no value. On the other hand, the foot often is the most neglected part of the horse’s anatomy. Clichés concerning the equine foot have been around for years, the best known being: “No foot, no horse.”
Through the years, this writer has at times referred to a father-mentor who compared the horse’s feet and legs to a house’s foundation. He declared that you could have the most beautiful house in the world, but if it didn’t have a good foundation, it would eventually crumble. So it is with the horse’s foot. Unless it is correctly formed and properly cared for, it can result in a horse’s demise. That is literally true of horses running free in the wild. The horse’s prime weapon against predators is flight. If its feet do not allow it to speed away when danger threatens, it becomes a predator’s meal.
As a result, survival of the fittest played a key role in wild horses developing well-conformed, healthy feet. Once man became involved via domestication, things changed. Often poor foot conformation was overlooked when breeding decisions were made. In other instances, man lent his expertise in helping the horse develop an abnormal foot to facilitate certain show ring gaits.
As a result, it is difficult today to talk about what is normal and “good” when discussing the equine foot. What might be appropriate for one breed or discipline is inappropriate for another. However, when all is said and done, basic hoof construction remains the same for all horses. In other words, all equine feet contain the same components anatomically, even though their conformation can be altered through man’s interference.
In this article, we’ll take a look at just how a foot is constructed and the role or roles played