Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Hoof Exam



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

Sheared Heels, Coronet Not Same Height at Heels or Quarters of Hoof
Rough Hoof Wall, Lines or Rings on Hoof Wall
Hooves Show Signs of Founder
Digital Pulse Can Be Felt in Foot
Hoof Imbalance, Generally
Lameness, Severe, Cannot Support Weight on Limb
Hoof too Upright, Club Foot
Opposite Hooves Seem Different Angles, Shapes or Sizes
Under-Run Heels, Long Toe & Low Heel
Reluctant to Move or Walk
Dropped Sole or Flat-Footed
Hoof Wall Crack, Toe or Quarter, Vertical, with Lameness or Blood at Coronet
Pointing, Placing One Limb Forward when Standing
Hoof Wall Crack, Parallel to Ground, Horizontal, No Lameness
Hoof Wall Crack, Parallel to Ground, Horizontal, with Lameness
Wound to Coronary Band, Hairline of Hoof
Hoof Wall Crack, Toe or Quarter, Vertical, No Lameness or Blood at Coronet
Widened White Line of the Hoof
Dished Front of Hoof Wall
Penetrating Nail or other Object in Sole, Hoof or Frog
Long or Overgrown Hooves
Shifting Weight from Limb to Limb, Treading
Saw-Horse Stance, Hind Limbs Under & Front Limbs Forward
Quicked, Pain or Bleeding from Horseshoe Nail
Black, Smelly & Pasty Material in Sole or Frog, Thrush
Swelling of One Lower Limb or Leg
Rigid, Stiff Limbs or Legs
White Line is Poor, Chalky or Black Material, Seedy Toe
Scar on Coronet, Hairline of Hoof
High Nail on Hoof Wall
Lame with Snow, Ice or Mud Packed into Soles
Forging, Clicking, Popping Noise of Hind Feet Contacting Front Feet During Movement
Sole of Hoof, Red Discoloration Visible
Red Discoloration Visible on a Pale Hoof Wall
Growth on Frog or Sole of Hoof
Repeatedly Loses Shoes
Winging In, Front Hoof Swings Inward Toward other Limb
Lame or Sore after Farrier Visit
Toe of Hoof Raises Off Ground when Weight Bearing
Frog Falling or Peeling Off
Soring Suspected, What to Do?


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.

Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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