A Firm Grasp of “Normal” Helps Find True Hoof Ailments

A stepwise approach guides farriers and vets in treatment of ailing feet

The equine foot is an amazing structure.

It provides strength, stability and flexibility, all while representing an incredibly small amount of the entire equine mass. Yet, the foot is also the greatest source of all lameness. Any change to the foot can prove devastating for the horse.

“The design of the foot has evolved strategically to allow it to survive in a harsh environment with a high level of demand,” Mark Silverman told attendees at the September 2014 Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners Symposium in Norfolk, Va. “Alteration that occurs to the foot, whether through disease, injury, conformational irregularities or human intervention may have serious implications regarding the foot’s ability to cope with the rigors of day-to-day work.”

Silverman believes that it’s critical for farriers to understand the difference between physiological and pathological problems.

“Physiologic indicates conformation, structure, function and stress level that is within the normal or expected range for good health,” says Silverman, an equine veterinarian and farrier who partners with farrier Ernest Woodward at the Southern California Equine Podiatry Center in San Marco, Calif. “Along those same lines, pathologic indicates that one or more of these same features fall outside what is healthy
or sustainable.”

Outside The Norm

Although external marks often give farriers an indication of internal problems within the hoof capsule, complications can arise that don’t become readily apparent from
visual clues.

“It’s in these cases that we require additional input,” he says, “often in the form of radiographs, to better reveal the bony column’s…

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Cota

Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 25 years. A native of Maine, he is the Managing Editor of American Farriers Journal.

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