How is the horse?

The pattern of hoofprints is unique: every horse has its own pattern.

When a horse stands, there is a certain width between the near hoof and the off hoof (near is left, and off is right), and a certain length between the fore hoof and the hind hoof. You cannot tell how large a horse is from a drawing, but the proportion between the width and the length reflects how broadchested the horse is. Apart from the length of the legs this shows how the horse is built.

Standing, tail to the left, head to the right

The fore hooves are rounded, and the hind hooves are more pointed; the near and far hooves are almost mirror images of each other, but not completely.

When the horse walks, the fore hoof is lifted just before the hind hoof touches the ground; especially when the horse is shod you may hear the toe of the hind hoof hit the fore hoof occasionally. The pattern of hoofprints depends, not only on how the horse is built but also on how it moves: on a well built horse with a striding gait, the step is longer than the distance between the fore leg and the hind leg so the hind hoof is lifted past the fore hoofprint and sets its print in front of it; this is called overtracking.

Fore hoof, hind hoof: near, far, near, far

As the typeface Ashmane, the hoofprints are used as leaders, appearing for the first time in the table of contents in the first book.

When the horse turns, it upholds the pattern by bending the back (and neck) to fit the curvature of the path and adjusting the step lengths, longer for the outer pair of legs, shorter for the inner pair of legs.

Turning to the offside, turning to the nearside

The individual hoofprint reflects how the ground is: the softer the ground, the deeper the hoofprint. From the faintest hoofprint on the hardest ground more and more details are revealed, until they begin to merge, ending as a hole with just the outer shape; more details are seen when the horse is unshod.

A hoofprint is always deeper at the toe than at the back of the hoof because of the take off at every step. This is more distinct in the fore hoofprint because the fore hoof takes off more vigorously.

The hoofprints appear as colours on the cover of the first book.

They emerge at the lower corner of the back flap, gain depth, vary, some very dark or even black, until they almost fade into the background again on the front flap before they start gaining depth once more, ready to be continued on the back flap of the next cover: the beginning of a tale in hoofprints.

Each hoofprint is adapted to the background colour, over stretches of lacquer red, across the gradient into flame red round the publisher logo, along the fringe of the gradient area round the title, ending in the faint gradient into the more yellowish background colour of the next cover.

The change of the hoofprints as the ground becomes softer may be illustrated with the near fore hoof on the lacquer red background.

Foremost part of the bearing borderThe whole bearing borderThe bars appearThe frog appears

At first only the foremost part of the bearing border is seen, then the whole border, the bars, and the frog.

Faint sole, grooves, and cleftAll details become darkerAnd darker, beginning to mergeAnd darker still

As the hoofprint becomes deeper the remaining parts become visible too: the sole between the bearing border and the frog, darkest at the toe; the grooves of the frog along the bars; the cleft in the frog hindmost in the middle, between the two halves of the frog. Eventually the details begin to merge, more and more.

Till only the outer shape remains

At last all details are lost again except for the outer shape.

Back to the many other details

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