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Toe Rocker

The application of a toe rocker or bevel to a hoof improves breakover and encourages a tighter connection between the hoof wall and coffin bone.

closed zip

In a healthy hoof the hoof wall is tightly attached to the coffin bone. The coffin bone and hoof wall both have structures call laminae attached to them and these laminae interlock with each other to form a very tight bond - imagine the bond as a closed zipper or a velcro fastening.

open zip

As the hoof wall and sole grows down and away from the bottom edge of the coffin bone the old laminae form the white line which is visible when looking at the sole. When there is a tight connection the white line will be approx 2-3mm wide. If the connection between the hoof wall and the coffin bone is compromised this will be reflected in the white line which will be wider - the bottom of the zipper is now starting to open. The wider it is, the worse the connection.

Sometimes the sole stretches forward and hides the stretched white line making it appear to be healthier than it really is. There are two ways to double check if this is the case on your horse. The first is to look at the angle of growth of the wall at the toe. Is the angle tighter (steeper) at the top than the bottom? If it is then the white line is stretched. (See second set of illustrations below - the dotted green line shows the change in angle.) The second is to look at the sole. Is there a ridge around the toe and then a gap between the ridge and the hoof wall? If so you probably don't have a really tight connection.


The hoof is designed to breakover in a position that applies the least amount of stress on the laminar connection. This point is at the outer edge of the toe callus on a healthy hoof.

Therefore the point of breakover on a healthy hoof should start at the white line. Any further forward and the laminae will be stressed.

The illustrations below show the difference between a traditional farrier trim, (first illustration) where the hoof wall is trimmed flat, compared to a barefoot trim (second illustration) where the bevel and mustang roll have been applied. Notice how much farther back the barefoot trim brings the point of breakover - reducing the stress on the laminar connection.

toe rocker

Using a bevel or toe rocker is even more important when dealing with a horse that has laminitis and rotation and a stretched white line.

In the following illustrations the first one shows how far forward the toe can get with a regular "flat" trim. The second illustration shows how it is really important to start the rocker at the back (the side closest to the sole) of the stretched white line as indicated. If you apply it starting at the front edge of the white line the breakover will still be too far forward and the wall will continue to be pulled away from the bone.

toe rocker

When applying the breakover however, you must be very careful not to rasp into the toe callus else you will lower the height of the toe (measured vertically from the hairline at the toe to the ground). The start of the breakover should be just in front of the highest point of the toe when looking at the sole and should angle out at approx 30 degrees.

Trimming a Toe Rocker

Here is a series of photos showing a toe rocker being trimmed on a pony with a stretched white line - please note, this pony has damage to his coffin bone, which why his toe angle is so low. However by applying the toe rocker we can improve the white line connection over time.

Horse hoof before toe rocker applied

This is a lateral view of the hoof prior to trimming.
The hoof looks long overall but this view doesn't really show too much toe flare.

Horse hoof before toe rocker applied

However when we turn the foot over we can see that there is quite a bit of stretching of the white line and the overall shape of the hoof is too oblong which indicates that the breakover is too far forward at present.

Close-up of stretched white line

Here is a close-up of the stretched white line. Notice the gap bewteen the sole and the wall with the stripes in between? That is stretched white line. See also how the sole has been pulled forward too - especially in the bottom lefthand side of the photo.

First cut for toe rocker

In this photo I have used the nippers to bring the toe back to the inside edge of the white line. This is done between the 11 and 1 o'clock positions on the hoof which preserves the height of the toe pillars at 10 and 2 o'clock.

Trimming the rest of the hoof

Here I have trimmed the rest of the hoof wall down to the level of the live sole.

Trimming the rest of the hoof - lateral view

Here is the lateral view of the trim so far.

Trimming the rest of the hoof - mustang roll

This view shows how the bars have been lowered so they are passive to the hoof wall. I have also applied the mustang roll to smooth off the walls and improved the breakover further with a toe rocker. Notice again how the toe rocker does not affect the toe pillars thereby retaining full toe height.

Lateral sole view of the toe rocker

This side view of the toe rocker.

Lateral sole view of the toe rocker

Here's another view of the finished trim.

Side view of the toe rocker

Here's the side view of the finished trim.

before and after views for the toe rocker
before and after views for the toe rocker
Here is a comparison of the before and after photos of the hoof. Note how far back the toe rocker has brought the breakover.

before and after views for the toe rocker before and after views for the toe rocker

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