Study Relates Conformation to Performance

EDITOR’S NOTE: The information, ideas and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Swiss researchers surveyed 133 Icelandic competition horses at four international horse shows to assess the relationships between hoof size, shape and balance, and the occurrence of hoof pathology and athletic performance. Measurements and radiographs of the left front and hind hooves were taken at the competitions with additional measurements made from the radiographs at a later date.

In the judgment of the project’s attending farrier and veterinarian, 72% of the horses needed to be reshod at the time of the competition. Toed-out, cow-hocked and knock-kneed faults were the most common conformational problems affecting 92%, 76% and 69% of horses, respectively. Hoof wall flares at the toe, a broken back hoof-pastern axis and quarters of uneven heights were the most common hoof deformities (80%, 67% and 62%, respectively), and each of these conditions was positively associated with longer toe length. Short upright pasterns were noted in about a 1/3 of the horses, which the authors felt contributed to the high percentage of horses with broken back hoof-pastern axes.

Longer toe length was positively correlated with higher tölt (rapid ambling gait) scores in the show ring, but also with the author’s assessment of dorsal-palmar hoof imbalance, which was based on the relative cranial length of support divided by the total base of support under the hoof. The average toe length was 89 millimeters with an average…

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Albert Kane

Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

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