How Uneven Feet Affect a Horse in Motion

Horses with asymmetric feet have altered loading patterns, which could lead to lameness and possibly early retirement.

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How Uneven Feet Affect a Horse in Motion
Horses with uneven feet experience different loading patterns during locomotion. | Photo:

It comes as no surprise that when a horse’s feet aren’t even, neither are the forces placed on those important structures. But exactly what effects do uneven hooves have on horses in motion?

A team of European researchers recently investigated whether unevenness influences loading patterns during movement and whether foot conformation or the difference between feet is more important in limb loading. Sarah Jane Hobbs, PhD, the research lead in equine biomechanics at the University of Central Lancashire in England, presented her team’s study results at the 2017 Annual International Hoof-Care Summit, held. Jan 24-27 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She worked alongside Willem Back, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECVS, Cert. KNWvD, Spec. KNMvD, and his students from Utrecht University, in the Netherlands, and Sandra Nauwelaerts, PhD, from the University of Antwerp, in Belgium, on the project.

In previous studies, researchers found a connection between uneven feet and pain avoidance as well as postural and loading preferences when standing. In one study of elite performance horses, researchers revealed that horses with uneven feet typically retired earlier than those with even feet

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Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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