Hoof Conformation, Balance, and Hind-Limb Lameness in Horses

Researchers recently identified a link between hind-limb lameness and coffin bone angles, which they said has not been previously described in horses.
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hind limb lameness in horses
Lame horses, and specifically those with tarsal and metatarsal lameness, were 3.8, 5.2, and 5.5 times more likely to have a negative or neutral PADP than sound horses, respectively. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Hoof balance is key to keeping horses sound. Researchers have shown that unbalanced front hooves can alter how limbs move and contribute to tendon, ligament, and joint injuries. There’s less research into how hoof balance in hind limbs impacts soundness and lameness, but veterinarians recently confirmed an association between lameness—including issues localized to the hock and stifle—and coffin bone angles.

Lynn Pezzanite, DVM, MS, a postdoctoral scholar at the Colorado State University (CSU) College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, in Fort Collins, and colleagues examined the relationship between hoof conformation and balance and hind-limb lameness. She presented the results at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.

Specifically, she said, the team wanted to see if there’s an association between a negative or neutral plantar angle of the distal phalanx (PADP, the angle the bottom of that bone—the coffin bone—makes with the ground) and hind-limb lameness

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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