The Basics of Horse Hoof Conformation

Horse Hoof & Foot Care - hdr

The shape of the Horse Hoof will again determine any horse’s suitability for an equine ridden discipline …

Club Foot Horse Hoof

Club Foot – The slope of the front face of hoof exceeds 60 degrees.

The Horse often has long upright heels. Can be from contracture of DDF (deep digital flexor tendon) that was not addressed at birth or developed from nutritional imbalances or trauma.

It is fairly common with various degrees of angulation, from slight to very pronounced.

Best to use the horse in equine activities carried out in soft-footing & those that depend on strong hindquarter usage.

Horses with obvious club feet land more on the toes, causing toe bruising or laminitis.

The horse will generally do poorly at prolonged exercise, especially on hard or uneven terrain (eventing, trail riding).

Because the toe is easily bruised, the horse will move with a short choppy stride and may stumble often.

The horse will be a poor jumping prospect due to trauma incurred on heavy landing.

Coon Footed Horse Hoof

Coon-Footed – The slope of hoof wall is steeper than the pastern.

Often associated with long sloping pasterns tending to the horizontal, which breaks the angulation between pastern and hoof.

Usually seen in hind feet, especially in post-legged horses.

Paso Fino horses have coon foots sometimes due to a weak suspensory that allows the fetlock to drop.

Quite uncommon, it particularly affects speed sports and agility sports.

Coon feet create similar problems too long & sloping pasterns the horse is prone to run-down injuries on the back of the fetlock.

If the foot lift off is delayed in bad footing, ligament and tendon strain & injury to the sesamoid bones is likely.

Weakness to supporting ligaments due to post leg or injury to suspensory will result in a coon-foot as the fetlock drops.

The coon footed horse is mostly suited for low-speed exercise like pleasure riding or equitation

Mule Feet – Horse hoof will be a narrow oval foot with steep walls

Mule feet are fairly common, usually seen in American Quarter Horses, Arabians, Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers, Foxtrotters and Mules

A mule foot provides little shock absorption for foot & limb, creating issues like sole bruising, corns, laminitis, navicular, sidebone, and ringbone.

Not all horses have soundness issues, especially if they are light on the front end & have very tough horn.

Because the hind end provides propulsion, it is normal to see more narrower hooves on the back feet compared to front.

Soft-terrain sports like polo, dressage, arena work (equitation, reining, cutting), and pleasure riding are most suitable

Contracted Heels – The heels appear narrow and the sulci of frogs are deep while the frog may be atrophied

Can be seen in any breed, but most common in American Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers, or Gaited horses

Contracted heels are not normally inherited, but a symptom of un-soundness.

A horse in pain will protect the limb by landing more softly on it. Over time the structures will contract. The source of the pain should be explored by a vet.

Contracted heels create problems like thrush. The horse losses the shock absorption ability, creating navicular, sole bruising, laminitis, and corns.

It can restrict heel expandibility, causing lameness from pressure around coffin bone & reduced elasticity of digital cushion.

The horse is best used for non-concussion sports.

Thin Walls – The hoof wall is narrow and thin when viewed from the bottom.

Often associated with flat feet or too small feet. Common in American Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and Saddlebreds.

Thin walls in the horse hoof reduce the weight bearing base support, and are often accompanied by flat or tender soles that bruise easily.

The horse hoof is subject to developing corns at the angles of the bar.

The horse will tend to grow long-toes with low heels, moving the hoof tubules in a horizontal direction, this reduces the shock absorption ability and increases the risk of lameness.

Less integrity for expansion and flexion of hoof, making it more brittle and prone to sand & quarter cracks.

A narrow white line makes it hard to hold shoes on.

A horse with thin hoof walls will do best when worked on soft footing.

Flared Hoof Wall …

One side of the hoof flares towards the bottom, relative to the steep appearance of the other side. The flared surface is concave.

Condition can be because horse hoof conformation was induced from angular limb deformity or mal-alignments of the bones within the hoof.

These conformational problems cause excess strain on one side of the hoof making it steepen, while the side with less impact grows to a flare.

The coronary band often slopes asymmetrically due to pushing of the hoof wall & coronet on the steep side, which gets more impact than the flared side.

Horse may develop sheared heels, causing lameness issues, contracted heels & thrush.

It can be acquired by unbalanced trimming methods, that stimulate more stress on one side of foot.

Chronic lameness may make the horse load the limb unevenly, even if the lameness may be in the hock or stifle.

The horse with flared hoof wall is best used in low-impact or low-speed sports.