Far too often when discussing a horse’s foot, we use the word “normal” as a reference point to determine its state of health. But what is the “normal” we are comparing it to? Normal refers to a single foot on a specific horse, nothing more or less, because all feet are not born equal. Let’s throw out the term normal and instead talk about “healthy.” Whether a foot’s shape, angles, and symmetry match a textbook ideal has little bearing on whether that foot is healthy. In fact, taking a foot that deviates from one’s concept of normal and forcing it to meet those standards frequently causes far more harm than good.
Healthy feet can be remarkably different in many ways, but they do share some common features. For instance, a healthy foot can replace sole and horn as required, regardless of whether it is shod or barefoot. The healthy hoof also can maintain appropriate palmar/plantar angle (the angle the wings of the coffin bone make with the ground) with only subtle farrier intervention; maintains adequate medial/lateral (inner/outer) balance relative to the articular (joint) surface of the coffin and pastern joint; sustains digital cushion mass, which is responsible for shock absorption; and helps maintain healthy heel tubules (which grow downward from the coronary band and provide strength and resistance, protecting them from excessive loading and inevitable crushed heel syndrome).
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