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Hoof Anatomy in Action - 2020 Conference - Part 8

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

Hello and welcome back to my blog series based on the Horses Inside Out Conference 2020 - Anatomy In Action.


Today I would like to share with you the first presentation we were treated to on day 2 of the conference which was by farrier Mark Johnson.


Mark is a qualified farrier with an interest in horsemanship.


 gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020 Mark Johnson farrier

Following his apprenticeship and having seen many recurring problems within the farriery industry, Mark set out to find the best and innovative ways to manage horse’s feet, give them the best possible experience, ensure they are comfortable and thus perform well for their owners.


 gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020 horse hoof anatomy in action

Mark’s presentation began with a new born foal and a look at the fresh hoof before it has taken a step.


He discussed how during the first few hours of development outside of it’s mother the environment the horse is born into could be of positive or negative impact on it’s early hoof development.


The forming of the juvenile hoof to carry the horse and later potentially it’s rider requires the digital cushion, lateral cartilages, frog corium and frog all unify to create the foot, and this combination is everything to the horse.


 gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020 digital cushion

Building internal hoof structure not only provides for supporting of the whole skeleton but also for the creation of space allowing blood and lymphatic fluid to circulate efficiently.


Within the hoof, blood is not only the dynamic repair and nutrifying substance we all recognise, it becomes a physical hydraulic support and energy disperser in it’s own right, as it is moved though the hoof capsule via direct load.


Mark discussed that when we understand the relevance of how the horse utilises it’s hoof structure and what is desirable we can then use this knowledge when seeing a particular horse in motion (whether our own horse or a potential purchase) and consider what is desirable and what is compensatory.


 gillian higgins horses inside out conference 2020 horse hoof heel

We can then decide if the horse needs semi-permanent or permanent hoof protection and in what form?


Mark’s go to hoof protection are either:


  1. The Evo Hoof Boot (for semi-permanent protection e.g just for riding)

  2. The Duplo composite shoe (for permanent protection, to be applied by the farrier)


Mark questions whether a rigid steel shoe is of benefit to the development of anatomical structure at all.


Below I would like to share with you some of the key points I took away from this presentation, I hope these are useful to you:


  • The ‘whole horse’ concept and collaboration of various equine professionals is paramount to the care of your horse

  • Blood flow through the hoof capsule is paramount

  • The hoof is a neuro sensory organ

  • Substrate and stimulation are key to hoof development

  • Development at the back of the foot is key

  • Start engaging with the back of your horse’s feet - palpate the digital cushion

  • Not allowing domestic foals to move instantly over distance and varying terrain means digital cushions are not vascularising and adult hooves are remaining jeuvenile

  • We need a strong digital cushion, not a soft one, to protect the navicular bone from taking the load

  • Narrow heels are a sign of disfunction


I hope you have found this blog useful, certainly lots to think about and explore in this area and it was very interesting to listen to Mark’s fresh approach. He is clearly very passionate about his subject.


  Mark Johnson hood anatomy in  action conference 2020 gillian higgins horses inside out

Please do look out for the next part of this blog series where I will be sharing with you the second presentation from Dr Vibeke Elbrond and understanding the profound visceral myofascial connections.


Thanks again to Horses Inside Out for allowing me access to their professional photographs.


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