The hoof shoe. A horse doctor!

By using hoof shoes and insoles, I could help many horses to a healthy hoof, and facilitate the transition to barefoot. In this post, I will show you what a good hoof shoe offers with foam insoles. Hoof shoe and insoles are far more than protection against abrasion and injuries.

The Barefoot / Barehoof trend is unsustainable. With this development, the manufacturer of hoof shoes have brought numerous new hoof shoes in the market. Due to this fact, it is possible today to virtually find a matching hoof shoe for every horse and application. Whether for riding, for support in case of the barefoot adoptation or rehabilitation.

Michigan State University

Dr. Robert Bowker

It is now time to inform about the comprehensive horse hoof research by Dr. Robert Bowker at Michigan State University (College of Veterinary Medicine).

Dr. Robert Bowker pointed out in Doppler ultrasound studies that the blood supply in the hoof worsens if the hoof is circumferentially stressed.

What is a circumferential stress? While standing on a flat surface, the hoof wall will be stressed more than on soft ground. If the horse is wearing horseshoes, this effect is enhanced. The hoof wall, which protrudes above the sole, is often wrongly called supporting edge. A horse supporting edge consists of the sole callous, the white line and the inner portion of the hoof wall. A horse, who accommodates most of its weight on the hoof wall, stresses his hoof “circumferentially” (on the edge).

The extent of peripheral hoof stress depends on various factors such as the hoof pad, hoof trimming, substrate and also hoof itself. A hoof with large curvature of the sole has, for example, a greater peripheral stress as a hoof with little curvature of the sole.

On the contrary, it is evident that the weight on the sole stimulates blood circulation in the hoof. Nature demonstrate it. Wild horses move on uneven terrain with Earth, grass, gravel, stones, etc. The substrate forms a kind of cushion, which squeezes in the hoof while running. The sole is constantly stimulated by boulders and stones.

Advantage of hooves with hoof shoes

In addition to the protection against abrasion of the hoof shoe also features cushioning, circulation-stimulating properties and protection against damage of the substrate on the hoof.

The ultrasound studies conducted by Dr. Bowker indicate that accelerated blood flow is found in the hooves, which are on hard, smooth surfaces. However, the tissue no longer flows through in bulk. Once the hoof is subjected to more peripheral stress, the blood flow is faster and less blood flows through the smallest vessels.

On soft surfaces, particularly pebbles, sand or even foam inserts, the hoof blood flow slows down and flows into the micro-venous vessels in the hoof. Thus, soft surfaces and padded hooves show the best blood circulation.

In his studies, Dr. Bowker also documented the effect in extreme peripheral stress as he often demonstrates in case of misted hooves or hooves after a few barefoot lessons. In these hooves, the blood flow stops in the area of the cuff with each heart beat. Furthermore, he could prove that the peripheral stress encourages a regression of bone material, while the stress and stimulation of the sole supports bone formation.

Measurement of hoof blood flow

The following table indicates the extent of blood flow to different surfaces and stresses:

Underground and stress Blood flow in %
Unstressed 40 – 50
Nerves stunning 20 – 45
Wood 55 – 65
Cement 50 – 65
Easy work 85
Double weight on gravel 85 – 95
Foam insoles 90
Pebble 90


Not only the blood flow is increased by the stress of the sole, the shock-absorbing properties of the hooves are dramatically increased and supported.

The microvenous blood vessels in the true skin serve not only the preservation of the tissue, but also have the purpose of a hydraulic energy distribution. The blood vessels are surrounded by proteoglycans. Together with the callused sole, they form an extremely elastic structure. This becomes more and more elastic and more functional when used. In case of healthy hoofs, a thicker true skin of about 3 to 5 mms appears in the outer marginal region. This structure functions like a gel pad as a shock absorber during the movements.

In case of stress, the sole true skin flattens, the ray falls on the ground and the walls stretch. The blood from the true skin is pushed into the rear part of the hoof by the energy-absorbing network of microvessels. The thin true skin under the hoof leg becomes thicker with the stress, while it is being compressed in the outer edge region of the hoof leg. During relief, the elastic sole true skin lets the structures again jump back to it splace. If we have no wall clearances in the hoof, the pressure of the stress exerts no separating force on the hoof leg bearer, but even compress this. A fascinating construction of the nature.

What does this mean quite specifically in practice for our horses?

At the spout

It is important that we have different grounds in the spouts of the horses, which stimulate and support the soles of our horses. Pebbles of the size of peas are wonderful means to receive healthy bare hoofs. In combination with more sophisticated grounds of marl, concrete, physical grounds, etc. the hoof health increases exceptionally.

Natural Ground on Paddock Trail

Natural Ground on Paddock Trail
Click on it to zoom+


During the ride


These hoof shoe insoles are a wonderful and useful tool to increase the hoof health. They also prove themselves during the adaptation to the barefoot or with convalescence horses and are quite important also in case of healthy horses in the everyday application in the field.

During hoof trimming

The hoofs must be so trimmed that the sole can develop into a densified resistant structure. Unnecessary thining out or even artificial mounting a sole curvature must be avoided. Wall clearances must be avoided and must be shortened in short intervals at sole level or maximum 1 to 2 mms. In case of misted hoofs, the regular bare hoof pauses must be allowed to horses.

The right hoof shoe insole

Practically, all hoof shoe-manufacturers offer different insoles. With a little skill, one can produce insoles of felt or rubber mats. With laminitis patient, kneepad have proved itself, which can be custom made adapted to the hoof. Due to the idea of diversity, it is possible to find the suitable insoles for every need.

My experience with hoof shoes

I never ride my horses without hoof shoes and hoof shoe insoles and have found out that the hoof health has improved greatly contrary to previous fitting!

For Question regarding hoof shoes please contact me.