What does a healthy hoof look like?

We have three simple requirements for a successfully barefooted horse in the end result:

  1. The horse is sound.
  2. The horse has functional hoof form.
  3. The horse's hooves do not deteriorate in any way over time.

We spend a lot of time looking at unhealthy feet. The majority of hooves that surround us, whether in real life or in photographs, are NOT healthy—some are worse than others, but most are suffering from some form of deformity. This deformity of the average hoof has become so widespread that contraction is now accepted as the “normal” standard of the hoof, as depicted in today’s veterinary textbooks.

Below are some examples of HEALTHY hooves. Not all these hooves are absolutely perfect (yet), and some may need trimming adjustments, but these hooves are pretty close to ideal that we should be striving for. Not all hooves can be expected to reach ideal form - some severely deformed hooves may never fully recover. Nonetheless, all hooves can improve and become functional again.

Note: Healthy hooves may look different; depending on the terrain and environment that shapes them. Horses from wetter climates will often have a wider hoof form; horses from desert climates will often display a tighter hoof form, with more rounded edges and steeper overall shape. Trimming styles can direct hooves in one way or another, but climate still plays a vital role in hoof form.

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Above, a healthy front hoof.


8_healthy_hoof_2_HH_Healthy_Hoof2 Photo courtesy Strasser & Kells

Solar view of a healthy uncontracted hind hoof. 

The weight bearing points of the heels lie outside a line from the frog apex to the outer curve of the bulb. Note that the trimmed bars also lie along this line.

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10 year old Missouri Foxtrotter

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10 year old Missouri Foxtrotter


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5 year old Morgan gelding

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5 year old Morgan gelding


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4 year old Warmblood mare

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4 year old Warmblood mare


No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.  ~ Winston Churchill