Proper Hoof Balance and Lameness Testing

Three key Factors for a Properly Balanced Foot
Pastern Angle

This refers to the three weight bearing bones of the pastern. This angle should be one continuous line from toe of hoof to the break of the long pastern and cannon bone. This angle is usually close to angle of the shoulder.

Hairline Angle

The hairline should be level to the ground. This observation should be taken standing directly in front of the horse from a distance of about six feet.

Conformation Angle

This angle is observed with the horse’s foot off the ground looking from the bulbs to the toe. This angle should be about perpendicular to the horses pastern bones and cannon bone.


Hoof Abnormalities
The hoof of a horse is bioelastic. The bioelastic hoof will change shape due to an imbalance in stress of weight bearing placement, repetitive use or lack of use. A major reason a hoof must be balanced or corrected is to have as much weight distributed evenly over the hoof’s weight bearing surface. The weight bearing stress should be equal on all three bones of the foot.

Leg Abnormalities
There are numerous problems that happen with the legs. Half of the leg (lower portion) has very little protection and injuries can cause the leg to bleed easily. There are also many small bones that can be injured/damaged from twisting or impact. Any swelling or legs that don’t match the opposite leg needs to be investigated. As with any leg or hoof injuries it’s important to ensure the horse is treated and the problem fixed before you return the horse to a riding/conditioning/exercise program.

The veterinarian may have to resort to numerous tools and techniques to determine the cause of lameness. It is important to remember that if one leg is severely lame the opposite good leg needs to be watched/treated so it does not become lame.
Lameness Scale Developed by AAEP

History and Use of the Horse

Analysis of Horse Standing
The horse should be viewed methodically (for example starting at the head, then sides, and then the rear) and compared to opposite limbs.
Confirmation imbalances noticed
Injuries or signs of stress causing imbalances
Manual Exam
Each limb must be manually examined for swelling, pain in all joints, tendons, muscles and bones.

Hoof Tester Application
Hoof tester applied to the sole and frog to test for pain

Analysis of Horse in Motion
The horse should be viewed methodically (for example starting at the head, then sides, and then the rear) and compared to opposite limbs.

Observe horse trotting and walking
Observe the gaits in straight line and circles
Look for signs of shortened strides, irregular hoof placement, head bobbing, stiffness or other abnormalities

Joint Flexion Tests
This test requires the leg(s) to be flexed and held in a certain position for a specified timeframe then released and the horse is trotted away in a straight line. The horse’s limb is observed for any signs of lameness.

Past injuries or problems
Uses such as jumping, rodeo and routine level of performance
Circumstances you first noticed lameness

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