Examining your Horse's Foot

October 22, 2012 (published)

All horses are individuals and as such have differences in their feet. However, there are some keys that you can look for when checking a horse feet that may give you an idea that there is a problem with a hoof. First of all, the dorsal hoof wall at the front of the foot should be straight from the coronary band to the toe. Dr. Andy Parks from the University of Georgia indicates in the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) proceedings that any deviation of the dorsal hoof wall usually indicates the horse has had laminitis, especially if the surface of the wall is concave and the sole is flat. If the hoof is distorted at the front of the hoof wall at the coronary band, it is likely that the horse has excessive bone growth on the coffin bone, which is called buttress foot.  If you see a small area of swelling at the coronary band that may be painful, it is likely a hoof abscess that is going to rupture at the coronary band. If the swelling begins at the coronary band and extends up to the pastern, it is more likely an infection in the tissue, whereas if the infection is completely around the coronary band only, the problem is most likely in the coffin joint.

You can also closely examine the rings in the hoof wall by looking from the side. The rings should be parallel from the coronary band to the toe and if these are not parallel, it usually indicates the heel and the toe are not growing evenly for some reason. Lastly, a lot can be learned by picking up the foot and looking at the sole and frog. The front foot should basically be as long as it is wide, and the widest part of the foot should be at a point that is at half the length. If this is not the case, the horse is trimmed incorrectly or the foot is deformed. Check your horse’s feet against these parameters and if you observe a problem ask your veterinarian.

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.