Dealing With Long-Toe, Low-Heel, Short-Toe, No-Foot Situations

When it comes to judging external foot structures, it may pay to take a look inside the hoof

The ideal front hoof conformation of a 50- to 55-degree toe and equal heel angle is a rare occurrence. Reports on the findings of Gene Ovnicek, Ric Redden, Jamie Jackson, Chris Pollitt and others should lead us to question the significance and validity of the ideal hoof conformation. In fact, these questions should cause us to seek answers regarding the parameters necessary to minimize the opportunity for insult to the foot and lower leg to even occur. 

This is the farrier’s primary responsibility. Yet it also becomes the veterinarian’s duty to sort through the contributing factors in a lame horse and determine a plan of action to halt and hopefully reverse the pathological processes already in place. 

To do this successfully and repeatedly requires recognizing both normal and abnormal hoof conditions. A vet can do this physically, radiographically, possibly sonographically or with other imaging modalities. Several key questions need to be answered:

  • Do the radiographic findings actually signify a source of pain regarding the injuries?

  • Is the pain a component of inflammation, or are other mechanisms at work? 

In the biomechanical literature, I’ve failed to find any study relating the outside of the hoof to the bones and joints within. While Dr. Page’s article related toe length to the coffin bone and coffin joint structures, no other relationships were made. Even so, I believe that we can take the findings of a number of studies, combine them with clinical observations and a bit of horse-sense and draw some conclusions as…

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