Hoof Trimming to Improve Structure and Function

Bowker: Long toes and underrun heels set horses up for failure. Here are recommendations for an improved trim to help correct this condition.
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Hoof Trimming to Improve Structure and Function
Solar view of a foot before starting treatment after removing shoes, and the same foot seven months later. Notice how the frog's central sulcus is shallow and broad.| Photo: Courtesy Dr. Robert Bowker
“When I see the 15-centimeter clear and pliable rulers in the university bookstore, I have to buy them, usually 15 to 20 at a time” says Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD. “They are very important to demonstrate to the horse owner and hoof care professional exactly what the problem is with a horse’s foot and what we hope to accomplish with our treatment. The ruler always makes us look a little more objectively at the foot as opposed to just with our eyes and brain. The latter two can be easily tricked!”

The veteran practitioner and professor never leaves home without one of these rulers—at least when he’s working on horses’ feet and helping owners, veterinarians, and farriers see and understand what’s going on inside them and recognizing whether they’re balanced and, if not, how to get there.

Bowker, longtime podiatry researcher and former professor and head of the Equine Foot Laboratory at Michigan State University’s (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine, in East Lansing, described his perspectives and trimming approaches during a presentation at the 11th annual Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners (NEAEP) symposium, held Sept. 25-28 in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Reaching for the Right Ratio

Bowker measures every foot, and even photos and drawings of feet shown in seminar presentations or books, to illustrate balance—evidence of his passion for equine hoof health

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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