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


Rough Hoof Wall, Lines or Rings on Hoof Wall


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 like EMS and PPID (Cushing's Disease), and certain dietary excesses and deficiencies.

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.

  • 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.

your role


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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Has your horse been lame in the past?
  • Is the horse lame now?
  • Has your horse been diagnosed with laminitis?
  • Is one foot or multiple feet affected?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • Are you considering purchasing this horse?
  • Can you think of any historical factors that might account for this?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP