Hoof-Scoring System: A Tool To Improve Hoof Quality

Veterinarian outlines guidelines for a system of grading the equine foot

The problem of horses with poor quality hooves is not new. Literature from the 18th and 19th centuries contains many descriptions about the prevalence of this problem. Although there are no statistics, it is reasonable to assume that poor hoof quality is as common today as in those times and may even be epidemic in some countries.

Many early authors claimed that poor hoof quality was the result of bad shoeing or from a lack of caused by horseshoes fitted with heel calks and toe pieces. Some related the problem to the working environment such as paved roads. Few authors mentioned the lack of genetic selection as a cause. The old literature also illustrates that little attempt was made to improve hoof quality.

Contributing Factors

This lack of improvement continues today with two major factors attributed as the cause: the “closed herd” system and the “horse’s value.”

Closed herd implies that once a breed was established, the introduction of new horses for breeding purposes was prohibited. Consequently, new hereditary traits beneficial to the breed cannot be introduced and undesirable traits cannot be efficiently removed. To complicate matters further, the nature of the horse population that “spreads” into small local herds or individual horses makes any attempt to alter the genetic makeup almost impossible.

The value of the horse derives from its pedigree, its ability to make a profit, its function as a pet, or — predominantly in the Third World — its use as a draft animal. In all these…

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