Rear Hoof Imbalance and Lameness

Instead of causing foot pain directly, rear hoof imbalances seem to cause more problems higher up the leg—to the hocks, stifles, glutes, and sacroiliac joint, one vet says.

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Checking for rear hoof imbalance
When the horse lifts his hind foot off the ground, he must contract his stifle, hamstring, hip, and gluteal muscles to propel himself forward. Any imbalance in the hooves is going to alter these biomechanics and potentially lead to lameness. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Historically, veterinarians and farriers have spent far more time evaluating and adjusting front hoof balance than rear hoof balance. This is because front imbalances typically manifest as obvious foot pain. Rear limb imbalances are typically less obvious but just as critical to monitor, however, because they can cause pain higher up in the limb and body.

At the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas, Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, described hind-limb biomechanics and how to address common rear hoof imbalances. He owns Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, in Stillwater, Minnesota.

“I’ve spent the majority of my career talking about front feet,” he said. “I started looking and realized that rear hoof imbalance has been largely ignored. But rear hoof imbalance might have more effect on the upper body due to its direct attachment to the axial skeleton (the vertebrae, skull, ribs, and sternum)

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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