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  • edwardbusuttil

A picture says 1000 words

OK, I know that I am slightly obsessed with hooves, but the shape of a hoof can explain so much about what is causing issues in your horse. This is a whole blog dedicated to the shape of this one foot, and to what information we can get based on this one photo.

In my ‘Wonky Feet’ blog post, I wrote about how the dorsal hoof wall angle should ideally be around 53°, and how angles below 46° should raise concern. This horse has a dorsal hoof wall angle of 43°. The horse is not currently lame.

So what’s the big deal?

Time to point out some red flags.

In the next photo, the arrow points down towards where the foot is starting to have a slippered appearance, curving away from the dorsal hoof wall. When this happens, the pedal bone (bone within the hoof) starts to become flat, and the toe becomes long. This is represented by the low heel angle.

As this happens, the foot starts to have a ‘broken back’ axis. This is represented in the next photo by the 58° line in the middle. All 3 lines should be parallel and therefore have the same angle. As this angle is larger than the angle of the dorsal hoof wall and heel wall (both 43°), the horse is basically loading more weight than it should be on the caudal/ back part of the heel.

Therefore, there is a combination of a long toe and decreased cushioning of the caudal heel. The fact that the dorsal hoof wall and heel have the same 43° angle is very positive. It means that the heels are not yet under run, and although the foot is flatter than expected, some cushioning is still present.

It is kind of like wearing a shoe that is a few sizes too big, without much heel support.

But the horse isn’t lame - so obviously it’s not causing that much of an issue?

Having a longer toe increases breakover distance - this means that it is more difficult for your horse to lift his foot off the ground (imagine wearing a shoe that is a few sizes too big and trying to step over at the tip of the toe - this is breakover). This increases the risk of stumbling/ tripping and the strain through the flexor tendons and suspensory ligaments. Increased strain results in increased risk of injury of these structures.

Having a flat heel increases the weight distribution through the caudal heel - this means that the caudal heel structures have less cushioning from the digital cushion, increasing the risk for navicular disease etc.

How does this affect the rest of the body?

If your horse has sore feet, they will probably shift weight away from their front feet to decrease some of the discomfort. They shift weight caudally (backwards) through their spine and pelvis towards their back feet. This results in postural changes such as a tight and dipped back, elevated croup (bum) or a camped under position, increasing the risk of back pain, sacroiliac tension and suspensory disease respectively.

This also works in a vice-versa way. If the horse has an injury to structures in its hindquarters, it will shift weight towards the front end, away from the problem area, resulting in flattening of the front feet due to increased loading.

What can we do about it?

  1. Regular assessment of your horse’s feet - this is something which you can do easily - again, there are instructions about how to assess your horse's feet on my ‘Wonky Feet’ blog post.

  2. Remedial farriery - this could be through applying a wedge or pad or more regular trimming cycles.

  3. Foot balance radiographs - this will help you to ensure that the foot balance, sole depth and the previous broken back axis are actually improving. They can also give the farrier more confidence to make more significant changes quickly.

  4. An assessment - trying to figure out whether the foot problems are primary or secondary is often impossible. However, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture can help to reduce any pain which is occurring secondary to flat feet.

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