Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Under-Run Heels, Long Toe & Low Heel

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
  • If you want information on how to manage horses of this conformation to reduce the likelihood of lameness.

Ideally, the front of the hoof wall (dorsal hoof wall) is the same angle to the ground as a line splitting the pastern (pastern angle). The heel angle should also be approximately the same angle to the ground as the dorsal hoof wall angle.

In reality, however, the angle of the front of the hoof is much lower than the angle of the pastern, the toe seems long and the heel seems low. These imbalances may worsen at the end of the shoeing cycle. This is a very common and sometimes serious problem that predisposes horses to a variety of lameness conditions. It is more common in front feet than hind feet, and more common in Thoroughbreds than in other breeds.

Proper management of long toe/low heel and underrun heels may help maintain soundness. For that reason, it is important to recognize and manage this condition even if it is not accompanied by lameness now.


Stand your horse as squarely as possible on a flat, level surface. Now, looking from the side, compare the two front feet. Does the pastern angle line up with the dorsal hoof wall angle? Does the angle of the heel approximate the angle of the dorsal hoof wall?

Take photos from the side. Is there digital pulse or heat in the hoof? Assess lameness at the walk and trot. Share your findings, concerns and photos with your vet and farrier.


Your vet will assess hoof conformation in light of many factors, and may recommend a lameness exam. Even in the absence of lameness, your vet may want to work with your farrier to manage this problem to help prevent or lessen the possibility of lameness developing later.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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