Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Assess Foot or Hoof

No foot, no horse. A very true old adage about horses. All horse owners should know basic anatomy of the equine foot, and be able to refer to these locations when discussing an equine health issue with their vet. This list includes the coronet band, wall, toe, quarter, heel, heel bulb, sulci (sulcus) and frog.

Know what your horse’s feet look like in health, so that you can better assess them when you suspect a problem. Always compare the size and location of the structures on one foot with the opposite foot.

Supplies Needed

Procedure

The horse should be haltered and adequately restrained. Stand in front of the horse, with the horse standing on level ground and the front limbs positioned as squarely as possible. Envision an imaginary line that drops straight down from the point of your horse’s shoulder through all major bones, joints and the foot.

Does this line symmetrically split (bisect) the hoof? Is the hoof in line with the rest of the limb, or does it angle inward or outward? Do the outside and inside walls flare out or roll under. Are they vertical or flat with respect to the ground?

Stand on the side of the horse. Is the hoof wall angle the same angle as the pastern? Is the angle of the dorsal hoof wall similar to the heel angle.

Stand behind the horse. Are the heels equal length? Is the coronet band of each heel bulb the same height above the ground? How does this height compare hoof to hoof? How wide is the hoof at the heels?

Walk around the horse. Look at the hoof walls and coronet. Do you see any cracks or other injuries? Now how does this hoof compare to the opposite side? How large is the hoof for the size of the horse? Is one hoof smaller than the others?

Check for digital pulse and heat in the hoof. Compare it to the others. Now lift the foot and pick it clean. Was it packed with debris, ice, snow, rocks, or other material. As you pick the hoof, do you smell or see thrush in the grooves of the frog (sulci)? Is the hoof wall overgrown past the plane of the sole? Is the sole cupped or flat? Are the grooves (sulci) deep or shallow? Is the foot wide or narrow?

Press on the sole with your thumbs. Is the sole hard or soft? If you have a hoof tester and feel competent using it, apply it to the hoof. Compare the responses to the other hooves.

Tips for safety & Success

Have the horse standing on a flat, level hard surface for evaluation.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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