Center of Balance
29 March 2022
The center of balance is a very important area on the horse's foot that affects its feet, balance and health. It is truly remarkable how this small area affects the whole horse. Everything flows from the center of balance including breakover.
The center of balance in a horse's foot is where there are equal amounts of weight on either side of the balance point in the foot. That way when the horse steps down on the ground it has equal amount of foot in front and behind the balance point. When the weight of the horse is evenly distributed on the foot it allows the horse to balance correctly through the legs to the shoulders and throughout the rest of its body. As a result, the horse can move freely as it was designed.
Center of balance horseshoeing is to shoe or trim the horse in a way that there is an equal amount of foot, front and back of the center of balance. Neither the front nor the back of the leg will become overextended during the weight bearing stride of the hoof. This allows the horse to make its next stride with less effort and without overloading the rear portion of his foot and his leg. The leg will sink straight into the ground.
if there is not an equal amount of weight on the foot and there is more foot to the front of the balance point than the back, this creates a bigger surface area. When the weight of the horse comes down it will cause the front of the foot to stay up in the dirt and the rear of the foot to sink. This incorrect action of the foot and distribution of weight is the cause of a large percentage of lameness we see in horses today.
Breakover is the last action of the foot where the leg and body pass over the top of the foot and is the point where the foot pivots. The horse lifts its foot off the ground rolling from the heel first to the tip of the toe, which is the last to be raised. The tip of the toe lifting from the ground is the actual point of breakover as the foot can no longer move forward. The structures in the horse's leg will not allow any further bending or flexing of the joints, therefore the foot must be lifted or "breakover" to continue its stride and start over again. This action when the breakover has been placed correctly is effortless to the horse.
Incorrect breakover meaning the breakover is farther ahead of the center of balance than it is from center of balance to the rear of the hoof surface can cause many issues with the foot not functioning correctly.
When the foot functions correctly you have proper circulation which greatly improves the quality and healing of the foot in today's working horse. When you have proper breakover it allows the rest of the horse's body to function naturally instead of continually compensating for the improper breakovers. The legs, back, skeleton and muscles throughout the whole body will function correctly and your horse will stay sound not only in his feet and legs but his whole body.
For example, you can use the COBIT on a horse that has long feet and is wearing shoes. Place the COBIT on the horse's foot and find the center of balance. When that horse's foot is trimmed and properly prepared to go barefoot or to be shod put the COBIT on the foot again to find the center of balance. It will be in the exact same spot as it was placed before the trim.
When researching center of balance, one of our studies focus was on a leg removed from a deceased horse. We put the COBIT on the leg and found the center of balance and breakover. The foot was then trimmed accordingly. We cut up the center of the coffin bone/cannon bone and viewed the leg from the side. We found that the breakover was where it should be in relation to the tip of the coffin bone exactly where we had found it with the COBIT. This study proved that the COBIT finds the center of balance and breakover in a horse's leg and that it is a repeatable measurement which is very useful.
I also did research with Dr. Conrad Wilgenbusch (Momentum Equine Veterinary Specialists - Sherwood Park, AB) to see if the center of balance moves or changes from long footed horses to a short-footed horse. We X-rayed horses with very long feet and found the center of balance. The feet were then trimmed and we found the center of balance again. We shoed the horses and found the same center of balance. What we found by this repetition was that the center of balance does not move whether the horse's foot is very long, trimmed up, nice and short or a finished product.
At the beginning of my research, Dr. Terry Goslin and Dr. Laurie Zemlach (Peak Veterinary Health, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan) assisted by X-raying Henry - the first horses I used the COBIT on and a few other horse's center of balance. This was invaluable reasearch as it confirmed that the center of balance does not move when shoeing a horse and over time.
When a horse has lameness problems and a horseshoer or veterinarian puts the COBIT on a horse's foot to find the center of balance and mark the center of balance on the foot before the X-rays, they will be able to see the mark in relation to the coffin bone when X-rayed. They will know exactly where breakover should be. The breakover can be measured on your X-ray screen as to how far forward from the center of balance it should be. These measurements can be sent home with the horse owner. Since the center of balance does not move these measurements will remain relevant for any future work by the horseshoer. If they have a COBIT they can find the center of balance on the horse's foot with the measurements the veterinarian was able to find using X-rays. The horseshoer then knows exactly where breakover should be for that individual horse and how to trim the horse's foot.
Through all of this research finding that the center of balance does not move was a revalation. It has changed the way one thinks about placement of a shoe on a horse's foot or trimming a barefoot horse. The impact of the statement "the center of balance does not move" brings more meaning to the overall health of the horse. Everything we do has a consequence to the horse and reflects in how it feels, moves and reacts. If using the center of balance and the COBIT aids the horseshoer, owner or veterinarian in having the horse the best it can be - your horse will thank you!