First of all- why is this important?
- The lateral cartilages are key to the hoof mechanism, it is the lateral cartilages- not the frog- that are the blood pump of the hoof.
- The bars grow out of the lateral cartilages, therefore impacted bars push the lateral cartilages up and out of position- which keeps them from functioning correctly.
- Hard, high lateral cartilages can ossify and turn into sidebone.
The easiest way to see the lateral cartilages is to just look at the heels of the hoof while the horse is standing on it. Take a look at these photos I snagged off some email groups I belong to. Most of these hooves are pathological- that is to say not sound. Not even close. But I tried to find the most extreme examples so you could clearly see how the lateral cartilages can be pushed out of their natural position.
|This is a founder, the lateral cartilages are jammed up and together on this contracted hoof|
|This is another founder|
|This horse is contracted and has a sheared heel, look at how the lateral cartilage on the left is higher|
|Another very contracted hoof with lateral cartilages jammed together and up|
|This hoof isn't as contracted but it has a sheared heel, the lateral cartilage is jammed higher on the right|
|Another very contracted, impacted hoof|
|This is the sole shot for the hoof directly above|
Okay, now compare them to a healthier hoof. This shot is of Gwen's right fore, can you see the difference? She's a little contracted but not nearly as much as the other horses. There is plenty of room between her lateral cartilages, they aren't jammed upwards into her fetlock and you can see that they're pretty even from side to side.
|Yes that is a thrush crack, it's growing in but it's taking its sweet time|
In the next two photos I've got my fingers around the lateral cartilages. You can palpate the lateral cartilages and use them to help determine how healthy your own horses's hooves are. Are they wide apart or squished together? Are they mainly down around the coronet band or are they pushed up toward the fetlock? Do they have some flexibility or are they hard like rocks?
If your horse has lateral cartilages that look like any of the previous examples, it's time to take your hoof care professional to task. Trim those bars!