What is breakover when talked about as a trimming landmark?
Breakover is trimmed at the forward most part of the hoof at the toe. It is the very last part of the hoof to be touching the ground as the horse breaks over and lifts the leg into the swing phase of the stride. It is usually trimmed as a bevel or roll into the hoof wall, but occasionally is trimmed back farther into the golden line or even the sole if the sole is very stretched forward.
How do you know where to set breakover?
There are a couple of ways. This picture shows the angle of new growth at the coronary band and if we were to follow it all the way down, breakover should be where the hoof wall would be if it were well connected. Follow the green line down and it shows the beginning of where I trimmed breakover in line with that upper growth.
Another way I determine breakover is by reading the sole’s concavity. Solar concavity mimics the coffin bone concavity, so following the concavity out until it plateaus is sometimes also an indicator of where breakover should be, but there are a few exceptions to this method. For instance a foundered horse will have very little to no concavity, and a horse with retained sole may not show the concavity properly.
The following video is a good example of setting breakover on a healthy hoof based on solar concavity. This process would be somewhat similar on a foundered hoof or a hoof with a lack of concavity, but we must make sure not to trim too short as generally hooves with less concavity have a thin sole and a lack of hoof wall connection. In those cases I find trimming breakover according to the new growth at the coronary band more accurate.
The picture above shows breakover set at the edge of the sole along the top of the ridge of concavity. There is a little bit of excess sole at the tip of the frog, or just behind what we would call the toe callous, but if you could envision the concavity on either side wrapping around and meeting up underneath it, the bevel or breakover would be along that edge.
In my opinion setting a proper breakover is probably the single most important part of the trim, and one of the main aspects of trimming that I find a lot of professionals get wrong.
Kristi Luehr is a barefoot trimmer/farrier, author, and founder of the Okanagan School of Natural Hoof Care. She is certified by the Canadian Farrier School as well as the Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care, and also has certification in equine massage and dentistry. Her focus is to educate owners about hoof anatomy, function and proper barefoot trimming that supports and grows healthy and functional hooves specific to each horse's individual needs. She is the author of three online courses specific to hoof care and is always striving to create more educational content for students to learn from.