Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Rough Hoof Wall, Lines or Rings on Hoof Wall

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

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

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If there is mild lameness accompanying this sign.
  • If the horse seems stiff, or digital pulse is present.

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 do not notice digital pulse or heat in the feet.

Obvious horizontal lines or rings on the hoof wall indicate historical interruptions to hoof wall growth. These lines are caused by a variety of factors, including changes in feed and management, direct injury to the coronet band, stress and illness, and even changing weather conditions over time. They also can indicate disease, especially laminitis. Changes in hoof appearance can be caused by malnutrition, metabolic diseases, and certain dietary excesses and deficiencies.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s feet, look for lameness, and share your findings and concerns with your vet. Pay particular attention to whether the space between rings is even from heel to toe, and how each foot compares to the other. Think of these rings as similar to growth rings within a tree trunk. Note and be able to describe to your vet the appearance of the hoof wall, the specific appearance of these rings, and whether or not they are even heel to toe. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

Generally, if the lines are wider at the heel this indicates more rapid hoof wall growth at the heels and is more compatible with a finding of laminitis or club foot. Other signs that a horse has had laminitis include a widened white line, dished dorsal hoof wall, and dropped sole. Horses with club feet also show this pattern, but for a different reason.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet considers this finding in the context of the rest of the exam, including the presence of absence of lameness. If laminitis is a consideration, then radiographs may be needed. If other feet are affected, it can indicate one of many factors as the cause, and more investigation may be warranted.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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