There are many pathologies that occur in horse’s hooves.  Many of these are, in fact, although unintentional, man made. They may be the result of soft bedding the horse stands in, lack of adequate movement, lack of correct trimming, infrequent trimming, incorrect shoeing, too much concussion in the hoof, inadequate nutrition, general horse keeping methods that are less than optimal for the health of the horse.

I’d like to share some pictures of pathologies in hooves that I see too often.  If you recognize any of these in your horse, please consult an educated trimmer for assistance with trimming in an effort to restore health to your horse’s feet.

High Heels/Bar Contraction:

High heels and overgrown or high bars, also known as bar contraction, prevent normal flexion of the hoof capsule.  They also interfere with blood flow to the frog which results in atrophy of the frog as can be seen in all of these examples.

13-Feb-13-Micky-RF-Heel-BT 11-Dec-14-Woody-LF-Heel-BT---Copy 13-Jan-22-Eli-RF-Heel-BT


Lack of Adequate Height to the Hoof Capsule:

When too much hoof wall and/or sole are removed during shoeing or trimming, there is a lack of adequate height of the hoof capsule. Excessive removal of hoof wall and/or sole results in internal structures being closer to the ground.  As there is less sole between the internal structures and the ground, this often results in a horse that is more tender over various terrains. These pictures are of two different horses, both with inadequate height to the hoof capsule.

12-Mar-27-Cavalier--RF-Lat-ASR---Copy2 13-Mar-7-Victory-LH-Lat-BT---Copy2


Medial Lateral Imbalance:

Medial lateral imbalance in the hoof not only impairs blood flow and creates imbalanced loading forces throughout the hoof capsule, it compromises the joints. The joints in the hoof and leg are saddle joints; they are meant only for forward and backward motion, not side to side motion.  Medial lateral imbalances, which are side to side imbalances, if you will, in the hoof cause stress to the joints that may become painful for the horse.  In this situation, undue stress is also placed on the lateral cartilage as well as tendons and muscles in the limb.  These pictures illustrates medial lateral imbalance, first with the shoe on and then with the shoe removed.

Left Front Hoof Shod                                                           Same Horse, Left Front Hoof, Shoe Removed, Before Trim

12-Nov-30-Chief-LF-Heel-Shod 12-Nov-30-Chief-LF-Heel-AST-BT

Same Horse as above, Right Front Hoof Shod            Same Horse, Right Front Hoof, Shoe Removed, Before Trim

12-Nov-30-Chief-RF-Heel-Shod 12-Nov-30-Chief-RF-Heel-ASR-BT


Anterior Posterior Imbalance:

Anterior posterior imbalance not only can cause rotation of the coffin bone in either direction but also causes imbalance in the extensor tendons and ligaments as well as the flexor tendons and ligaments. These horses may have extremely low heels or they may have a very steep hairline angle, either of which may create a negative palmar angle in the coffin bone, or P3, or this imbalance may be the result of high heels which result in a very shallow hairline angle, thus rotating the coffin bone toward the tip of the bone.

Hairline angle too steep; negative palmar angle of P3                                                  Heels much too high causing rotation of P3

12-Sep-11-Dacota-RH-Lat-BT 11-Dec-28-Ginger-RF-Lat-BT


Under run Heel:

When the horn tubules at the heel of the hoof run too far forward, rather than at an oblique angle, they heel is said to be under run or under slung. This may be caused by incorrect shoeing or trimming, horses that stand and/or eat with a head high position put a lot of pressure onto the heels, lack of movement in a young horse can result in under run heels as well as prolonged standing on soft terrain and incorrect trimming or shoeing.

12-Mar-26-Prestys-LF-Lat-BT2 12-Mar-27-Cavalier--LH-Lat-w-shoe2


Long Toe:

An excessively long toe renders the hoof out of balance, effects the way the horse articulates the leg, which will have an effect throughout the horse’s body. When the toe is allowed to grow past the point where the hoof is balanced, the lamina become stretched with every step the horse takes. This stretching of the lamina lead to weakening of the lamina that may eventually impact the connection between the hoof wall and the coffin bone (P3). The horse in this picture was not trimmed for nearly 3 months resulting in an excessive amount of growth at the toe.









High Heels:

Founder is the rotation of the coffin bone (P3) from a ground parallel position. This can happen mechanically simply as a result of high heels. Founder can also occur as a result of metabolic illness in the form of an overload of carbohydrates and sugar. The horses in these pictures have long standing metabolic issues as well as high heels.

Mustang Right Front Hoof                                                                    Mini    Left Hind Hoof

13-Jan-22-Eli-RF-Lat-BT2 13-Jul-11-Mindy-LH-Lat-BT2


Pressure from High Bars:

When the bars are not correctly trimmed, they cause damage.  A bar that overlays the sole is hard horn pressing on the sole which is less dense horn.  At the least, this often causes bruising of the sole.  In the case with this horse, the bar was overlaying and placing pressure up into the hoof capsule. This pressure transfers directly to the lateral cartilage as well as the navicular area including the deep flexor tendon and corresponding structures in the back of the foot.

25-Jan-10-Sammy-LF-Lat-BT2 25-Jan-10-Sammy-LF-Sole-BT



When a hoof is imbalanced and/or damaged through trauma to the extent the lateral cartilage ossifies (becomes bone rather than cartilage), this becomes sidebone and/or ringbone, depending on it’s distribution.  This may be located primarily at the coffin joint, known as low ringbone or at the pastern joint, known as high ringbone.  This can be quite painful for the horse as it may interfere with joint mobility.

11-Jul-14-Leyah-RF-BT 11-Jul-14-Leyah-RF-Lat-BT


White Line Separation:

Sometimes, horses develop separation between the white line and the hoof wall.  In cases where this separation becomes deep, the horse can be sore and even lame on this foot.  White line separation occurs when bacteria has invaded the space between the white line of the hoof and the wall.  Healthy, well balanced hooves are much less susceptible to developing problems such as white line disease or separation.  This picture illustrates separation.  With correct treatment, including correctly balancing the hoof,  this can be resolved without aggressively removing sections of the hoof wall, etc.



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