Definition of Equine Orthopaedic Balance®
So, we ask ourselves, what is the Equine Orthopaedic Balance® and why is it so important?
All farriers are trained to look at the feet of the horse and balance them before placing a shoe on the foot. For centuries this is what has happened. When assessing horses that are showing signs of soreness or lameness, the traditionally accepted approach has been to fit shoes to help increase break over, as well as trying to change other aspects of hoof flight.
These methods may work on some horses, but not on all of them. Even then, they may only work for a limited time due to other related stresses that gradually accumulate in the animal's body. Farriers work hard at fitting shoes that will bring the point of break-over back to the point where it looks correct. Normally this means making shoes that appear to fit the natural shape of the hoof, in the belief that this should then return the balance to the foot (see main photo). Usually, this is to no avail, as the hoof never fully improves. Due to the dysfunctional nature of the foot, noticeable changes can be seen in the tendon and ligamentous tension of the distal limb and upper body, including the development of asymmetrical muscle groups in these horses.
When the internal hoof tissue of the foot is placed under stress, the biomechanics and musculoskeletal alignment of the upper body are affected and all aspects of limb and hoof flight change. It is imperative to recognise these influences in the distal tendon and ligaments along with the upper body, to determine the way the foot must be trimmed and shod. This rebalancing of the foot is the single most influential factor in changing the biomechanics of the foot and upper body of the horse.
Weight and energy are transferred directly through the limbs to the bone structure of the feet and therefore the hoof capsule must encapsulate the bones symmetrically, if the weight and energy of the animal are to be transferred to the ground correctly. Incorrect weight transfer will cause the horse to change its flight pattern, along with its upper body muscles. Long-term problems will manifest themselves and hoof and/or upper body disorders will erode the performance of the horse.
These disorders are alignment problems. In humans, we know them as postural compensation patterns. They develop when weight is not taken correctly on the limbs and is transferred to the ground unevenly. It becomes even more pronounced in quadrupeds, as they have four limbs carrying their weight.
Hoof trimming must correctly and orthopaedically align the hoof, tendons, ligaments and body if the correct transfer of weight through the muscular-skeletal system to the ground is to occur in all four feet. This correct transfer of weight throughout the horse's body is the absolute essence of 'Orthopaedic Balance'.
This is why anyone trimming the feet of a horse needs to comprehend both the complexities of the orthopaedic balance of the animal they are about to trim and the neuro-muscular response to the change in the balance of the horse’s foot, no matter how slight that change is. This is the sole purpose our company makes his information available to the public, so that any person who is trimming or shoeing a horse has a better awareness of what they are about to inflict on the horse.