Common Horse Hoof Problems and How to Detect Them on Time

We have all been there, you have a big day of riding planned. You head off to the barn to saddle-up your noble steed. But as you approach him, you notice, something is off. Does he look like he’s limping? Yeah, he’s definitely limping, maybe due to horse hoof problems. Now, foiled plans are the least of your worries.


Horse Hoof Problems: Hoof Anatomy

Horse hooves can be broken down into 3 main structures: The Outer Structure, The Inner Structure and the area underneath the hoof.

The Outer Structure:

The hoof wall is the hard, keratinous structure that protects the inner workings of your horse’s hoof.  The front of the hoof wall’s primary function is protection whereas the rear portion of the hoof wall absorbs the shock of your horse’s movement.

Inner Wall/Laminar Layer:

The inner wall is a softer, more pliable structure that consists of laminae which connect your horse’s hoof to the coffin bone. The main function of this structure is to provide your horse with some micro-shock absorption as they move around.

Horse Hoof Problems: Underneath the Hoof

These are the parts of your horse’s hooves you are probably most familiar with. On the underside of the hoof, you will find the sole, the frog, the central sulcus and the bars.

Common Horse Hoof Problems

Laminitis - is a condition in which the inner or laminal layer of your horse’s hoof wall begins to tear away from the coffin bone causing inflammation. Abnormalities In the Hoof Wall - Horses like their hooves like we like our nails, smooth, shiny and free from cracks or other markings.

Periople Coronary Band


Abscesses occur when bacteria enter your horse’s hoof and cause inflammation. Lameness is the biggest clue that something is wrong with your horse’s hooves. The same applies here. The horse may avoid stepping on the hoof in order to avoid pain.

How To Detect Common Hoof Problems and the Importance of Early Detection

Changes or disruptions in your horse's movement or the appearance of their hooves are going to be the biggest clues that there are problems. If your horse is avoiding putting weight on his front feet by leaning back in a downward-facing dog-like posture, foundering/Laminitis is most likely the culprit.


-Your horse’s movement will be one of the biggest clues something is amiss with their hooves. -Simply looking at the overall condition of your horse’s hooves can help ensure early detection of current problems and may aid in the reduction of future problems.

-Regular cleaning before and after riding activities or regularly if your horse is retired is the best way to prevent problems in your horse’s hooves. -Diet plays a big role in maintaining healthy hooves. Avoid feeding your horse too much protein or keep your grain supply in a place not easily accessible to your horse and moderate lush/plush grazing activities to maintain a healthy diet.

-Injuries to areas responsible for growth such as the coronary band can cause problems for future hoof wall growth or hot to the touch hooves can indicate a serious problem that should be checked by your veterinarian.

Even with the best of owners, hoof problems are bound to arise. It is important to understand the mechanical magic that goes into your horse's movement and what that movement can tell you about his overall health.


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