A Closer Look at the Normal Asil Arabian Hoof
Recent study results indicate that Arabian horses are prone to developing equine metabolic syndrome and, subsequently, laminitis. But subtle hoof morphology changes usually happen before a horse becomes lame. So it’s useful to know the difference between what’s normal and not normal.

That’s why Iranian researchers decided to go back—way back—in the breed. Specifically, they turned to the “original” Arabian horse, what they call the “Asil Arabian.” Distinguished as the purest of purebred Arabians, the Asil, or Iranian, Arabian breed dates back 5,000 years. It was to this pure-origin breed that scientists turned when they decided to truly understand what’s “normal” Arabian foot morphology.

“The ancestors of this breed were once native to the Iranian Plateau, and therefore we pointed directly to their breed for our study,” said Mohammad Naser Nazem, PhD, associate professor of radiology in the University of Kerman Shahid Bahonar School of Veterinary Medicine Department of Clinical Sciences, in Iran.

Nazem and his fellow researchers investigated numerous morphological (shape and structure) measures of the front hooves of 10 healthy Asil Arabian mares. They took radiographic readings of the coffin bone and surrounding soft tissues, documenting distances, ratios, and angles to develop a reliable standard for the breed. The team focused on obtaining internal measurements and external angles and ratios that would change in the case of a laminitic episode.

While there were no significant differences between left and right feet, the researchers did detect notable measurement differences between their study horses and those reported for other breeds, Nazem said. Those differences mainly concerned hoof wall thickness and soft tissue measurements.

Otherwise, these pure-origin Arabian horses had relatively similar internal hoof morphology compared to most other breeds that have been studied, Nazem said.

With this new, “baseline” data, veterinarians and scientists can evaluate possible pre-laminitic changes in Arabian horses, he said. By comparing their evaluations to these normal standards in the Arabian foot, they can detect subtle modifications in angles and ratios that could help alert health professionals that a laminitic episode is beginning to occur—hence treating it before the signs become clinical.

The study, “Radiological anatomy of distal phalanx of front foot in the pure Iranian Arabian horse,” was published in Folia Morphologica.