What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Hoof Imbalance, Generally


Hoof balance is a difficult term to define. Generally it means similar length of hoof wall inside and outside (medial and lateral) and "normal length of toe and heel". In practice, however, it can be hard to determine what is normal and abnormal for a particular horse.

While hoof imbalances can be caused by poor trimming, they are also caused by abnormal skeletal conformation. For an adult horse that naturally grows an imbalanced hoof, there is no way to completely straighten the hoof by trimming. Deviations of the lower limb when viewed from the front cause the hoof to either grow toward the inside (pigeon toe) or outside (toe out). When viewed from the side, imbalances include club foot (excessive heel and steep hoof wall angle), and long toe/low heel.

Lameness can be either result from or cause hoof imbalances. Lameness results from major deviations in the hoof because the angles place excessive strain on the hoof itself (bruising and laminar tearing), and strain on tendons, joints and ligaments in the limb. This can lead to overload and more serious injury or arthritis.

Chronic lameness can also cause hoof distortion. When a limb is either under-loaded or overloaded the hoof reflects that. If a hoof is overloaded on one side, the hoof grows less on that side. Sheared heels and hoof cracks can also result.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you notice lameness or other problems associated with this sign.
    • If you see hoof imbalance developing in a growing foal.
  • 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.
    • Your vet can rule out common lameness conditions and recommend treatment or management.

your role


What To Do

A critical question regarding treatment options relate to the age of the horse.

Hoof imbalances in young foals may be corrected by addressing the underlying skeletal deviation leading to it. Pay great attention to your young foal's hoof growth and limb conformation. If you ever notice abnormal conformation, bring it to your vet's attention immediately. Treatment options foreclose for growing foals after 8 weeks of age.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to correct abnormal hoof growth that is associated with abnormal conformation without consulting your vet and farrier. It can be more harmful than helpful.

your vet's role

Your vet seeks to determine the cause(s) and potential treatment(s) of hoof imbalance. They consider existing lameness and the prevention of lameness going forward.

In young growing horses, they determine whether treatment can change skeletal formation and thus resolve the underlying cause of hoof imbalance.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Does your horse have a history of lameness?
  • Has the farrier tried to resolve the probem?
  • Can you send a photo of the problem?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP