The distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint in horses is critical for effective movement over uneven ground surfaces.

Since trimming, shoeing, exercise and ground surface highly influences the DIP joint, it’s critical that hoof-care practitioners understand how manipulation can affect it, says Scott Morrison, an equine veterinarian and farrier at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

“The DIP joint is primarily designed to move in flexion and extension; however, there are rotational/transverse plane and collateral/frontal plane movements, as well,” he explained to attendees at the Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners Symposium in Norfolk, Va. “These planes of motion allow the joint to tolerate uneven ground surfaces and have a range and loading rate limitations. It’s believed that excessive rotational and collateromotion are the cause of excessive wear and tear on the articular surfaces.”

When trimming and shoeing a horse with DIP joint damage, it’s important to understand the specific case.

“Every case has very specific needs,” Morrison says. “Evaluating the entire horse, its environment, footing, discipline, pathology and conformation are necessary to recommend the most appropriate shoeing regime for each case.”