As the horse lands on his heel, the soft tissue structures of the frog, digital cushion and lateral cartilages absorb the impact.
If the horse is not in rigid shoes, the natural arch of the hoof will also flatten out somewhat under the weight of the horse to absorb more of the concussive forces. The horse will then roll over his toe, the most rigid aspect of the hoof, for a strong push off.
Landing toe first increases the likelihood that the horse will develop things like navicular disease, tendon and ligament injuries, and results in increased tension throughout the body.
It’s a vicious cycle because once the horse starts landing toe-first, the structures in the back of the foot begin to atrophy because they’re not being stimulated and the horse then lands toe first more and more to avoid the pain cycle.
Now, for the longest time we’ve been told that this is something that can only be addressed with proper farrier work. And while that is a huge priority and piece of the equation...
What if, I told you it had just as much, if not more to do with the health of the thoracic sling?
If the shoulders are not muscled and supported appropriately by the pectorals to be able to have independent mobility, it restricts the angles that allow for correct foot fall and send a myriad of other issues down the rest of the body as well as can develop the “pattern” for landing toe first.
To prove this theory, image below is merely a 10 minute before and after of a horse in one of my clinics who had this chronic issue.
Sweet love went from being terrified to move forward and slamming toe first so hard that dirt flew, to floating around in the most lovely fluffy trot!