Makes sense, right? Check out Cheryl's collage below for a visual aid.
The hoof mechanism needs certain conditions to work correctly, for instance the foot must be disease free and the shape of the capsule (hoof wall) must allow the hoof to expand and contract. That means no thrush, no imbalance, and no contractions of the hoof wall- any of those will impair the hoof mechanism and will result in negative impacts on the joints.
- If the digital cushion is too thin then too much pressure is placed on the live frog, it can't absorb all of it and transfers it to the heels, they can't absorb it either so they get crushed. At the same time, the shock that should have been absorbed by the digital cushion gets sent up the leg, creating joint pain all the way up to the back.
- If the live frog is weakened by disease it can't flatten and spring back into shape, this causes pain and doesn't adequately push apart the lateral cartilages, this will also put too much pressure on the heels. Again, this will increase the shock sent up the leg.
You know how they say that each hoof acts as an ancillary heart for the horse? I estimate that it is the hoof mechanism that serves that function. Remember how I said the lateral cartilages are full of blood vessels? The hoof mechanism essentially "pumps" those lateral cartilages, moving the blood up and down the legs.
"But but but," you say, "I thought that was the frog."
Not a chance, the frog doesn't have any blood in it so how could it pump any? Speaking of frogs, here's another bit of info that might blow your mind, it certainly almost caused a mutiny in Oregon: The callused frog, the bit that touches the ground, is not essential to the hoof mechanism. Chew on that for a minute.
Are you leaping around and shouting now? So were we. Cheryl's theory is that the callused frog, the bit that touches the ground, is only there for comfort and protection- it's the live frog that acts as a trampoline supporting the hoof mechanism.
This theory actually gave me quite a bit of relief. You may recall that I had to cut Coriander's frogs off after his awful thrush infection last fall. I was sweating bullets that I was causing him harm by doing so, except that after I did it he was instantly more comfortable. It makes sense now, I treated his live frog and healed it from the thrush and then I took off the uneven pressure created by the nasty remains of the callused frog. Voila! Sound horse, without any frog touching the ground.
Here's another thing that might shock you to read me saying: Shoes don't shut down the hoof mechanism, they only hinder it. There's a good reason why farriers don't put nails close to the heels, they know that they move outward and won't hold the nails. If you have your horses shod ask your farrier to show you the heel wear the next time your shoes are set, you'll probably see marks in the metal from the heels moving in and out.
Does that mean I'm rethinking keeping my horses barefoot? Nope. I still don't like shoes because of the added concussion landing on metal adds to the joints, that they take away the heels natural independent suspension, that they open up the hoof wall to fungus and bacteria via the nail holes, and mostly because they force the horse to stand on their laminae (via the hoof wall). Again, I believe horses should stand on their soles, not the hoof wall.
If this has piqued your interest, Dr. Bowker has an article you might want to read here.