Understanding Hoof Shape

This is an extract from Chapter 3 of The Hoof of the Horse by Simon Curtis

Horse’s hooves vary greatly in shape and this is influenced by a number of factors including age, breed, wear, farriery and plastic hoof deformation. Plastic deformation is the semi-permanent change in shape caused by compression and bending of the horn. Additional factors include: to which limb the hoof is attached, whether left or right, front or hind; and loading which in turn is affected by conformation. These external factors change the form of the hoof and there are also the internal stresses caused by conditions such as laminitis and club foot. The various hoof shapes have a number of names which are often confusing and certainly not scientific.

Most gross changes to hoof shape, are caused by a condition of the foot or limb. Hoof distortion is frequently a result of a conformational fault which has caused an external influence upon the hoof capsule, either compressing or bending the hoof wall. In these cases, it is probably justified to describe the shape change as plastic distortion. At other times hoof distortion is a result of uneven and/or excessive wear. A third category may be the result of internal stresses such as those found in cases of club foot or laminitis. In laminitis, the sole may flatten or become convex due to internal loading of the sole.

Laterality is sometimes called handedness, meaning the effect of being predominately one-sided. Human beings have a right-handed ratio of about 8:1 and horses about 4:1. Lateralized behavior is the way that someone acts because…

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Simon Curtis

Dr. Simon Curtis is based in Newmarket,England. He earned his PhD from the University of Central Lancashire. He is a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and an Honorary Associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

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