Shoeing to Support Fetlock Joints Affected by Tendon and Ligament Injuries

Changes in hoof orientation relieve stress on the flexor tendons and suspensory ligament

Farrier Takeaways

  • Orthopedic shoeing immediately changes the sagittal orientation of the hoof, the palmar angle of the distal phalanx and the angle of the coffin joint, dependent on the ground condition.
  • Changes in hoof orientation of less than 10 degrees do not significantly influence the fetlock angle.
  • Horses with long and low angled pasterns barely react with less extension in the fetlock joint caused by flatter hoof orientation by using a wide toe shoe.

Lameness negatively affects the welfare of horses and is one of the main reasons for horse wastage. A susceptible area for damage is the fetlock.

In motion, the distal limb makes use of long, elastic tendons to reduce the metabolic effort of locomotion. During the stance phase, energy is stored in the elastic tissues generating forces used for propulsion, breakover and flexing the joints to lift the toe from the ground during the swing phase. Energy is absorbed during the first half of the stance phase by the superficial flexor tendon and the suspensory ligament and subsequently released as a result of elastic recoil.

During the early stance phase, a rapid extension of the fetlock joint becomes visible and peaks at mid-stance with a subsequent flexion through the late stance phase. During this phase, digital flexor tendons, suspensory ligaments and sesamoid ligaments are affected by high stress.

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Therapeutic application of orthopedic horseshoes aims to change hoof orientation, and thereby the alignment of the phalanges and the digital joint angles, as well as the fetlock angle.


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Jennifer hagen 5

Jenny Hagen

Jenny Hagen, DVM, PhD, CF, is a veterinarian, re­searcher and certified farrier. She is in private practice for equine ortho­pedics and chiropractic. She is a mem­ber of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Leipzig University in Ger­many.

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