Form and Function

An introduction to the science of hoof function by equine podiatrist Tom Bowyer DAEP MIAEP. Applied Equine Podiatry was founded by Dr KC La Pierre after work he started in 1997. A practising farrier for over 23 years, he found that no matter how good a farrier you were it was inevitable that the hooves of an older horse would exhibit changes in shape leading to problems with under-run heels, long toes and a lack of inner wall. This makes larger nails, quarter and toe clips a necessity - sound familiar?

KC ask the following questions: ‘What structures do I have? How do they function? How do I want them to perform?’ He based his programme around the answers. Each of the seven hoof structures treated by equine podiatry has its own function. After many years of evidence based research, and many hundreds of dissections, we now have what is believed to be an accurate model of the horse’s foot  in terms of what correct structures should look like, where they belong and what each of their functions are.

In applied equine podiatry we base foot care on KC’s High Performance Trim (HPT) method, which he pioneered in 1997, and his paper entitled ‘The Suspension Theory of Hoof Dynamics,’ which was published in 2000.  KC has since been a consultant to many influential trainers including Pat and Linda Parelli, John Lyons, Gawani Pony Boy, and Dan Summeral.

Principles of equine podiatry

•  Structure + Function = Performance

•  The horse has the innate ability to heal itself (providing that the environment is conducive to the healing)

•  Correct pressure is the stimulus for correct growth

•  Utilize time as a dimension in the positive treatment of the equine foot

•  Do no harm

More than a trim A very fine balance exists within the foot with each individual structure being dependant on the health and correct function of all of its adjoining structures. If, through domestication, we inhibit the correct function of any of these structures performance is affected and you may risk the long term health of your horse. However, the science of applied equine podiatry is much more than simply trimming off hoof. The trim must be bio mechanically accurate, putting the hoof capsule in balance with the footprint of the horse. This can be easily taught and, most importantly, is non-invasive.

A Degreed Applied Equine Podiatrist (DAEP) will rate each of the seven structures of the foot, scoring them between one and 10. These scores are then added up and divided by seven to give an average score for that foot on what we call the ‘Spectrum of Usability’. The scores of all four feet are then added up and divided to give the average. Other factors that are considered when assessing a horse’s position on the spectrum include its intended use, its height, weight, level of fitness, diet, its daily living environment and the rider.

It really is whole horse hoof care. I like to use the analogy that a person wouldn’t immediately enter a marathon if they were ridiculously unfit. You would need to train to a suitable level of fitness first, and the foot is no different. You need to take the time to get a healthy foot under your horse and the benefits will speak for themselves. For further information on Applied Equine Podiatry, and to locate a DAEP in your area, please visit

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