Well hello there and how are you ? What a winter it's been right ? Here in the Bay Area Ca. we're coming out of a very wet winter and actually starting to do some riding again. We've had weeks and weeks of rain , and that's not to overlook those of you that have been having weeks and weeks of snow , i know it's been tough. So today i want to look at the rings , the rings on the hoof and what could be the meaning of these rings and how it can help you understand your horse's feet.
19 years ago when i started shoeing horses i quickly discovered there are some misconceptions in the shoeing industry. The one in particular that really threw me for a loop i coined the "Original Sin" when it comes to what is being taught about foot conformation. What nearly everyone tells you about horses feet is " Perfect conformation is feet pointing straight ahead " and if you believe in that statement i'm sorry to say you're whole understanding regarding shoeing , balance and your horse's feet is incorrect . You will have built your foundation of understanding on a error and will forever be in conflict and confusion when it comes to your horses feet and legs. Here's why . follow along as best you can and pay close attention to the photo below .
#1 and a key point is , in the thousands of horses i've worked on i don't think i've ever seen ONE horse with perfect conformation as the textbooks and artist conceptions paint it out to be. Look closely at your horse and any horse , forget about the feet for a minute , the first thing i want you to look at and notice is "Where are your horse's knees pointing" !!! This is soooo important. Because where your horse's knees point is also where the feet should point. Look Closer ! You'll find as i mentioned briefly above almost EVERY horse i've ever seen has knees that point outward !! What that means is if the feet should line up with the knee then basically according to the textbooks your horse would be toed out - you following me ? Almost EVERY horse has knees that point outward . It's just the fact.
#2 Where the knee points DICTATES where the foot will break over. Do you understand breakover ? It's the precise point where the foot finally has the heels leave the ground and the pressure on the foot is on the toe area until the foot finally comes off the ground. Breakover is HUGE , it's another KEY in your understanding of feet. If your horse has been wearing shoes for any length of time and you look at the shoe you'll see a wear pattern on the metal shoe - the metal shoe will be worn down at the toe area in the precise spot that the knee points to. If your horse was one in ten thousand and has ONE KNEE that points straight ahead then the foot will break over straight ahead. But since all horses knees point outward ( and you've looked yourself to see for yourself ) then the foot will breakover slightly to the outside as well and the shoe on your horse will prove it.
I realize this is somewhat a long lead in to the discussion of the rings on your horse's hoof but those rings are tied into just about every change that happens to your horse - the way the shoe is placed for one - changing the shape of the foot - changing where flares on the foot are - diet - weather - founder all have an effect on the hoof wall and creat the rings you'll see so frequently .
In the photo below , particularly the right foot you'll see some very distinct rings reflecting some significant changes happening to the foot. In this case it's an IMPORTANT change. You see since most people have been fed the LIE that perfect conformation is feet pointing straight ahead many many farriers try to grow feet that point straight ahead when doing so is to ignore where the knee points thereby throwing the balance and load on the foot all out of wack so to speak.
Look at that upper inch and a half or so of that right front foot. Do you see how different it is from the rest of the foot - there's a reason for that and if i can get you to understand this you'll make a quantum leap in understanding proper balance in your horse and also take a huge step in the right direction when it comes to lameness prevention - you don't want your horse to come up lame right ? ( stupid question i know ) OF COURSE you don't - lameness is the very LAST thing you EVER want to happen to your horse. So back to looking at this foot below.
The reason that upper part of the foot is growing so differently than the lower part is due to shoe placement. You see the lower part of the foot has been growing straight ahead or forward which does NOT line up with the knee that points outward ? you getting this ? That upper part of the foot is now being stimulated to grow in the direction (outward ) where the knee points on 99-9/10ths of all horses. You want the foot to line up with the knee remember ? just think about your own feet - if your knee points outward alittle bit would you want your foot pointing toward your other foot ( pigeon toed ) ?? of course not. So in the case below , that RING around the foot is showing you where and when and how a CHANGE has been made to the shoeing and how the hairline or coronary band is making adjustments to grow new foot in accordance to the change of shoeing .... KINDA AMAZING isn't it ?
This horse below had extremely long toes as well so even moving the shoe to the rear of the foot and rasping that extra toe off would cause a ring to appear on the hoof at the time the change was made. OK ?
These kind of rings are the type i'm most concerned with when it comes to shoeing for balance and lameness prevention. Because the rings tell you what's going on . In the photo below when that new foot finally grows out after about a full year that whole new foot will be pointing in the direction of the knee which will mean the foot will break over dead center like it should and the loads and balances to the foot will be much improved all of which reduces risk of lameness. All that foot growing in the wrong direction that you see will eventually be removed and the leverages and stresses put on the coffin bone joint and pastern joints will be much improved - that's VERY important to achieve.
So the kind of rings you're seeing in the photo are the kind that tell me that changes being made to achieve balance are actually happening - that's encouraging - enlightening , ah and oh so good for your horse - believe me the horses FEEL and KNOW the difference when balance is being restored . Of course i've brought horse's from the brink of going lame and obviously in pain to happy and willing confident partners.
Now of course there are other causes of rings , they will look very similar to what you're looking at above. For example , and i hope you never have to experience "Founder Rings". Also rings that show up simply from a change in feeding habbits or actual change in feed. All of a sudden feeding your horse more grain regularly can cause a distinct ring in the foot to show. Perhaps your horse became somewhat sick or was on a type of medication for a few weeks similarly would produce a ring in the foot. The weather changes can and will cause rings. Bringing your horse to a new barn ( changing his/her home ) will cause stress perhaps again resulting in a ring in the foot. So all the rings reflect something and have a meaning.
For the most part the little changes and different rings in the foot are nothing to be alarmed about . Really not a big deal. Keep in mind though and notice those changes above are pretty severe ( but in a good way ) as they show really how much effect shoeing can have on your horses feet and how much shoeing in general can have such impact. You see though , in this case above , to my eye i see and recognize GOOD changes - i understand this as PROGRESS but it also EXPOSES to me how INCORRECTLY this horse has been being shod in the past and it's that incorrect shoeing/trimming that scares the hell out of me because as i always say " IT ONLY TAKES ONE TIME TO HAVE A PERMANENTLY LAME HORSE " - if i can help you understand this i've made a difference and that's a good thing...
Thank you very much for being a part of this blog. If you have any questions or would like me to analyze your horse for you please feel free to email me personally at John@Care4Horses.com. The consultation is F.R.E.E !!!
You may also want to visit my personal blog at Http://Farrieritis.Care4Horses.com as there's a wealth of info there with many photos as well.
Once again , thank you so much , happy and safe riding and always remember to www.Care4Horses.com
John "TheFootDoctor" Silveira