Abnormal hoof conformation has become so very common that many horse owners and veterinarians have become “numb” to it. So says Debra Taylor, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. But taking some time to become familiar with the healthy hoof can sharpen their ability to readily identify problems that could be contributing to lameness.

During a presentation at the 2013 Western Veterinary Conference, held earlier this year in Las Vegas, Nev., Taylor reviewed healthy hoof conformation characteristics and described some common and potentially function-affecting abnormalities practitioners should watch for during a hoof examination.

Hoof Asymmetry—”Although it is not always associated with lameness, asymmetry of the equine hoof should not be overlooked as a possible indication of previous, impending, or chronic lameness,” Taylor said.

Taylor said it’s important to look for asymmetry in the hoof itself and differences between paired limbs. A horse can develop hoof asymmetry as a result of uneven weight bearing caused by a variety of issues, including asymmetrical movement, stance, and tendon tension, along with pain.

Coronary Band—The coronary band is dynamic, Taylor said, and asymmetric weight bearing can influence its shape. She described a healthy coronary band (as viewed from the side) as nearly straight or with a slight upward arch. Often, horses develop one-sided coronary band asymmetry in the heel that is referred to as sheared heels. Horses with sheared heels frequently experience displacement of one hoof quarter along with the heel bulb, an