Ask 10 people what a healthy hoof should look like and you’ll likely get 10 variations of an answer. And those answers will probably consist of general statements like "proper toe angle," "enough heel," or "plenty of foot mass." But what exactly does that mean?

Richard Mansmann VMD, PhD, clinical professor and director of the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Equine Podiatry and Rehabiliation Service, has spent a lot of time and effort investigating foot measurements in horses to answer that question. At the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium, held Jan. 25-28 in Louisville, Ky., he presented the results of several research projects that tried to answer that question: What are the characteristics of a healthy horse’s hoof?

Preventive Radiographs (X rays)
Mansmann has long recommended that horses’ front feet be radiographed annually–that includes sound horses as well as lame ones. "My goal with this is to look at it from the perspective of prevention rather than treating the kinds of (lameness) cases we’ve seen so far," he said.

These annual radiographs, along with horses’ work histories, have provided a great deal of information to begin answering the question of what a healthy foot looks like. "The goal is to arrive on what we all might agree is a healthy horse’s hoof," he said.

He described the following principles many consider to be characteristic of "good" feet, and described how closely his clients’ horses compared to those principles. These included some preliminary data fr