The importance of keeping horses’ front feet even has been highlighted in fresh research.
The international study team, which assessed the front legs of 34 riding horses at a trot, found evidence that uneven feet appeared to have more influence on loading factors than the individual foot characteristics of each horse.
So, even if a horses’ front feet are less than perfect, the evidence suggests keeping them even will be a big help.
The researchers, whose findings have been published in the open-access journal, PLoS ONE, said left-right symmetry in the lower legs can be an important prerequisite for a successful performance.
It was often hypothesized that asymmetric or uneven feet were important enhancing factors for the development of lameness, they say.
“On a population level, it has been demonstrated that uneven footed horses are retiring earlier from elite level competition, but the biomechanical consequences are not yet known,” they report.
The researchers, from Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium, set out to compare the functional locomotor imbalances of horses with uneven feet to those with even feet.
They assessed the lower front leg movement of the horses used in the study. The front hooves of each animal were assessed in terms of their flatness and distal hoof wall angle to determine whether they were even or uneven. A difference of 1 1/2 degrees or more in the distal hoof wall angle of a horse’s front feet was defined as uneven for the purposes of the study.
The research team found that, in horses with uneven feet, the side with the flatter foot showed a significantly larger maximal horizontal braking and vertical ground reaction force, a larger vertical fetlock displacement and a suppler fetlock spring.
Feet with a steeper hoof angle were correlated with an earlier braking-propulsion transition.