Uneven Feet in Sport Horses Related to Other Conformation Traits

Researchers examined the effects of uneven feet on equine performance and linked this to other faults.

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A research team from The Netherlands analyzed the conformation, genetic, and performance records of 44,840 Dutch Warmbloods competing at the top levels of dressage and show jumping to determine if uneven feet (one forefoot that is differently shaped than the other) affect a horse’s performance career, and if this trait is related to other conformation traits. They found uneven feet are not highly heritable, and the conformation of the forelimbs (such as heel height and pastern angle), height at the withers, and neck length also contribute to the prevalence of uneven feet in the Dutch Warmblood population.

In the study population, they found that tall horses with short necks are more likely to develop uneven feet.

"We noticed that uneven feet were occurring more and more in the sport horse population, and we wanted to find out if there is a genetic reason, or if something in horse management practices is causing one forefoot to develop differently than the other," says Bart Ducro, PhD, of the Animal Breeding and Genomics Group of Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

Injuries of the forelimbs are the main reason for early retirement of sport horses, and uneven feet are more prevalent in lame horses than in sound ones

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Written by:

Nancy Zacks holds an M.S. in Science Journalism from the Boston University College of Communication. She grew up in suburban Philadelphia where she learned to ride over fields and fences in nearby Malvern, Pa. When not writing, she enjoys riding at an eventing barn, drawing and painting horses, volunteering at a therapeutic riding program, and walking with Lilly, her black Labrador Retriever.

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