One white foot, buy him!

There’s an old proverb about horse trading that goes:

Three white hooves look about him.
Three white hooves look well about him.

One white foot—buy him.
Two white feet—try him.
Three white feet—look well about him.
Four white feet—go without him.

For some, this saying reinforces the idea that horses with white (versus black) hooves are more prone to hoof troubles. White hooves are supposedly “softer” or more likely to crack or chip.

However, this is one of those old wives tales that is apocryphal.

There is no evidence that the color of the hoof has any bearing on the integrity of the horn. In fact, the hoof color is influenced primarily by the pigmentation above the hoof.

According to an article called 8 Horse Hoof Care Myths, written by Amber Heintzberger,

Master Farrier John Burt owns and operates the JDC School of Basic Farrier Science near Texarkana, Ark. He is a member of and tester for the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association (BWFA) and a 2001 inductee to the BWFA Hall of Fame. John says, “There is no quality difference on the same horse, no scientific data to sustain any difference. The white and the black hoof are both designed the same structurally; the texture and quality of the hoof is the same.”

One of the foremost experts in his field, Doug Butler, Ph.D., of LaPorte, Colo., is the author of The Principles of Horseshoeing, one of the most widely used texts on horseshoeing in the world. He also has 30 years of teaching experience and acts as a consultant and lecturer on horseshoeing. In 1976 while doing research at Cornell University, he conducted a study on white versus black hooves by taking squares of hoof material and crushing them in a compressor.

“There was no difference between black and white,” he agrees. “The main difference was in moisture content: The softer hooves fell apart easier.” He notes that genetics also play a role in hoof strength. “Some Paint Horses have extremely brittle white hooves and others don’t. Appaloosas seem to have extremely strong feet, no matter what color; genetic propensity seems to be more important than the color of the hoof.”

So, if you still want to believe the myth, send your horse with its four white stockings to me!

5 thoughts on “One white foot, buy him!

  1. Ha! And just how many horses and how many different disciplines have you received to date? I have a four year old black Arabian filly, born jet black with no white. I noticed the other day ( her dam is grey) that she seems to be greying on the area where there would have been a white sock. Is this weird or what? (left hind leg) she has also developed a few white hairs among the black but is definitely black. Ann

  2. This mare, Black Magic Woman (by Magic Dream cahr) had a severe eye injury last December. The vets in Scottsdale, Dr. Longworth and the vets at Chapparal clinic had to operate on the filly. They took tissue from inside her eyelid and sutured it onto the eye then sewed the eye shut with two stents, one for pain medication and one for treatment. This took several months and over $12,000.00. I am overjoyed to report that “Beamer” is doing beautifully. One would not know, without really examining the eye that there had been a problem. Her eyesight is fine. The veterinarians’s dedication and joy at what they did for my girl is/was amazing. She is in foal to Aria Impressario for an early March 2009 foal. We are excited. Yippee Veterinarians!

  3. Cool article. I was really interested in finding out the meaning of the poem. I came across another site that had a saying of the complete opposite. It’s kind of funny to think about. What are the people with four white socks going to do? Make a new, opposite saying, and sell the horse to anyone who buys it!

  4. Er, I meant, make a new, opposite saying. And anyone who buys/believes the new opposite saying, will buy the horse thinking it’s a deal.

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