A Snapshot of Your Horse's Foot

Equine Foot Snapshot.jpg

As we anxiously await the start of another season of competitions, we are likely all wanting to have our equine athletes in top form to ensure that they are able to perform at their very best.  Most of us are aware that we need to address our horse’s teeth, make sure they are getting good feed, get them on a preventative joint medication or supplement, and treat any lameness issues as needed, but how many of us are thinking critically about their feet? 

Ensuring that your equine athlete’s feet are functioning optimally can mean the difference between placing at the next competition or not, but it’s an area of horse health care that is very commonly overlooked.  Improving the trimming and shoeing of a horse’s feet serves to optimize their biomechanics and prevent a number of lameness issues related to the feet.  The best way to evaluate this is to take high quality podiatry x-rays of your horse’s feet.  Podiatry radiographs can provide a wealth of information about what is going on inside the foot - much of which we cannot see with the naked eye – and guide any necessary shoeing changes.  The following image gives an idea of all of the valuable information that can be gained from a podiatry radiograph.

 In the above image, there are a number of markers that identify the important biomechanical parameters that are considered when a radiograph of the foot is evaluated.  The white marker is the center of articulation of the coffin joint inside the foot.  Correlating this key point with landmarks on the outside of the foot is incredibly important for optimal shoe placement.  The red markers illustrate the palmar angle and the tendon surface angle, both of which can be altered if needed with appropriate shoe selection and placement.  A zero degree or negative palmar angle is of significant concern.  The yellow lines measure the horn-lamellar zone and are of importance in cases of laminitis.  The digital breakover and the sole depth are indicated by the green and blue lines, respectively, and the purple line illustrates the digital alignment.

In the above image, there are a number of markers that identify the important biomechanical parameters that are considered when a radiograph of the foot is evaluated.  The white marker is the center of articulation of the coffin joint inside the foot.  Correlating this key point with landmarks on the outside of the foot is incredibly important for optimal shoe placement.  The red markers illustrate the palmar angle and the tendon surface angle, both of which can be altered if needed with appropriate shoe selection and placement.  A zero degree or negative palmar angle is of significant concern.  The yellow lines measure the horn-lamellar zone and are of importance in cases of laminitis.  The digital breakover and the sole depth are indicated by the green and blue lines, respectively, and the purple line illustrates the digital alignment.

Shoeing survey radiographs provide similar value to taking your car to the mechanic for a wheel alignment or checking your tire pressure to prevent a flat tire.  Our thoughts and ideas about how the bone is oriented inside the foot are often quite different from what we see on radiographs.  Knowing what is going on under the surface allows us to detect potential problems early on and make appropriate adjustments to prevent future lameness.  Dr. Kirby Penttila has been using podiatry radiographs to guide shoeing recommendations extensively for several years. 

The age old adage “No foot, no horse” could not be more accurate.  We can make a world of difference in a horse’s life and athletic career by optimizing the biomechanics in the foot.