We've all heard so much about Mustang Roll for our horses' hooves.
What is so great about a nice, clean mustang roll? And why do we want to even do one? I mean, hey - we've never even HEARD of one years ago! (Well, oldsters like myself never heard of it!)
So what's the big deal with it?
Well, let's first say that when we trim up a barefooted horse we really are trimming them as nature would trim them if the horse were out on hundreds of acres and traveling 20 - 30 miles a day! So, we want to emulate the 'natural hoof' as nature does.
And nature tends to know best. Yes? Yes. (Remember how adaptable the equine hoof is to its environment, movement and diet!)
So, a horse travels over varied terrain - from soft to sandy to rocky to wet ground and the hooves are formed from the abrasiveness of that terrain. One wouldn't see such a drastic roll of the hoof wall on horses that live in boggy, damp areas as the ground doesn't allow so much abrasiveness as a dry, arid area. But that "Wild Horse Hoof" sure shows a hefty roll to it BUT -- that is because that hoof is from a horse that lived on dry, arid terrain!
How does the roll affect the hoof you ask?
First of all, it allows for a shortened breakover without having to shorten the vertical height of the toe and beneath the coffin bone. In the illustration below you will see just where the breakover of the hoof *should* be ... too commonly seen is the long toe that delays the breakover thus causing excessive strain on the entire hoof and foot. A long toe also causes the hoof to migrate/grow forward. As a result, the hoof can collapse causing thin soles, collapsed heels and bars, contracts the foot and allows this poor form and condition to be a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal insults. A long toe with a delayed breakover will also cause damage to the circumflex artery that runs around the distal edge of the coffin bone. The artery is pressed under the excessive weight bearing on the toe and then results in poor circulation to the entire foot.
What a mess, huh? Long toes may SEEM pretty harmless but we've just read the damages they can cause that are not immediately seen with the eye. Only after a prolonged state will the damages begin to become apparent.
You can see in the illustration that the breakover should be right at the tip of the coffin bone. The P3 lies just a thumb's width (about an inch) in front of the TRUE apex (the deepest part of the concavity of the hoof at the tip of the frog) and breakover should start there. From that point to the outer edge of the hoof wall should be another thumb's width, about an inch. Sometimes that area (called the toe callus via Gene Ovnicek) is SLIGHTLY rockered at a 10* - 15* angle and then ... THEN ... we have the ... Mustang Roll.
Easy to trim a Mustang Roll ... simply rasp from the white line out to the outer edge (distal edge) of the hoof wall at a 45* angle. (Beveling the wall - see the angle of the rasp in the photo below?)
(Photo PENZANCE Equine Integrative Solutions)
Below is another nice example of a bevel:
(Photo courtesy of thehorseshoof.com)
Can you see how the bevel begins at the white line and goes out to the distal edge of the wall?
Here's yet another photo collage of mine that shows a nice bevel:
In the left photo you can see clearly, again, where the beveling begins at the white line and will mitigate the pressure on the outer hoofwall.
Once you have a nice, clean angle you can simply run your rasp around the hoofwall to "round" the sharp edge left by the beveling.
The illustration of the hoof x-ray above shows the (approximate sketch!) trim line of the toe of this hoof to bevel and roll the edge. In doing so the toe is brought back and the breakover is where it belongs just under the tip of the coffin bone.
It's that simple but can make ALL the difference in the world to the overall health and soundness of the equine hoof.
Keep in mind the terrain on which your horse lives as to the amount of 'roll' you want to put on the edge. If the horse is mainly on a hard-packed surface then, *naturally*, the hoof will wear a stronger roll than the hoof on a horse that lives on grass pasture. On grass pasture, particularly if it is wet, one would like to see a lesser roll on the wall so the horse has adequate traction in the wet grass. So, keep that in mind.
The Mustang Roll also minimizes the pressure of the weight bearing from directly on the outer wall of the hoof. This helps to prevent cracking and splitting and shelling of the wall horn.
Again, remember that the terrain, the environment in which the horse lives, should dictate the trim of the hooves. The wall provides adequate traction and "braking power" for movement of the horse. As such, the hooves should be trimmed for the environment in which the horse lives primarily - just as 'nature' would do. If ridden on terrain other than on which the horse spends the majority of its time then boots may be considered to help protect the hooves.
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Gwen Santagate is the author of "10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves" . For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She keeps a small herd of her own equines and continues to offer consults for horses in need.