A great deal can be learned through veterinary assessment of the hoof’s form, and comparison of one hoof to another, especially as it relates to the rest of the clinical exam and the horse’s history. Arguably, our visual and tactile assessment of the hoof is the most practical and valuable diagnostic available.
In my general hoof examination, I compare the appearance of the hoof to the other hooves, and in relation to the horse’s general conformation. I consider the hoof balance viewed from the front and side.
I consider the quality of the hoof material, and I assess the hoof wall for cracks. The coronet band tells a great deal about the forces within the hoof. Upward deviations of the coronet usually are evidence for increased ground force and possibly hoof imbalance. Even the hair coat lying over the coronary band gives an indication of health and disease. Abnormal coronary band often has the hair “sticking straight out” indicating displacement or swelling.
I consider marks on the outside of the hoof wall, rings and defects in the hoof wall. These can provide a chart of the growth of the hoof. Like rings on a tree, they reflect changes in the horse’s environment, nutrition and health. They also are indicators of forces within the hoof.
The sole of the hoof should be concave. I also consider the apparent thickness of the hoof sole.
In motion, I consider how the hoof is landing when viewed from the front and side.
Reasons to UseRelated Observations
A hoof exam provides a great deal of information about the hoof itself as well as the health of the horse.
The internal structures of the hoof cannot be evaluated without other diagnostics, especially radiography.
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