The bars of a horse refer to two different areas: in the mouth, and on the bottom of the hoof.
Bars of the Mouth
The empty space between a horse’s incisors and molars. The soft gum tissue in this area is sensitive because there is no muscle here. The nerve endings are very close to the surface. The bit is placed so that it rests in this part of the mouth. Consider the feeling of steel on bone. That is the pressure of a bit on the bars of the mouth. Pressure exerted by the bit pressing on the bars causes discomfort and is used to slow a horse’s pace, change his direction, or change his head or body carriage.
Some young horses still have wolf teeth (not visible in this photo), which can cause discomfort when the horse is wearing a bit. (see Horse Teeth)
Bars of the Hoof
The sole of the hoof is the layer of tissue surrounding the frog. When it maintains good contact with the ground, it is a deep cushion layer with a smooth surface. When seen on a shod horse whose sole does not touch the ground it can appear crumbly and unhealthy.
The bars are the inward folds of the wall originating from the heels following the frog’s outer edge at an abrupt angle in the middle of the hoof. When overgrown, they bend outwards, away from the frog and cover the surface of the sole. (see Hoof)
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