What Shape are My Horse’s Feet In?

By Stephanie J. Corum, MS

Many horse owners spend an extraordinary amount of time fretting over their horses’ feet, believing soundness is impossible because the animals’ hooves don’t match those depicted in anatomy textbooks. So says Maryland-based farrier Darren Greaves, CJF, who notes that the “ideal” foot is quite rare. In most cases, Greaves stresses that deviations from optimal angles and shape are not the end of the world. Rather, with consistent, proper care farriers and horse owners can manage most hoof types, and horses can function successfully in their designated capacities.

Greaves and Scott McKendrick, CJF, of Trenton, Utah, share the very basics of seeking hoof balance and recognizing common foot problems.

Striking a Balance

A balanced hoof allows the horse to travel across the ground better, and this hoof balance is a farrier’s primary concern when trimming and shoeing. Make sure the horse is standing square on flat, level ground while you evaluate hoof balance. Good foot balance (although it will vary among each individual horse) consists of:

  1. Equal medial/lateral size and shape (the foot’s inner and outer quarters, or edges, land evenly when the horse walks);

  2. Anterior/posterior balance, in which the foot can be divided evenly at the widest part of the hoof from front to back;

  3. A straight hoof-pastern angle (there’s a straight line from the pastern down the front of the hoof wall);

  4. Easy breakover (the toe is not too long and is squared, rounded, or rolled to allow for easier movement);

  5. Adequate heel support (if shod, the shoe extends to the end of the hoof wall to support the back of the leg); and

  6. A hairline (coronary band) that is parallel to the ground.

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