Hoof form and Conformation

Is it possible?  Can foot form affect a horse’s conformation? 

Yes, it can, and does – in fact it affects much more than that!  The condition, overall shape and functioning of your horse’s feet influence not only his posture, stance, attitude, personality and movement, but also his innate and biological bodily functions such as circulation, lymph function, digestion and muscle development. We will even go so far to say that foot form and function have a great influence on your horse’s 'trainability' and soundness -- physically, emotionally and mentally.   (True story! Read that again!)


What is good hoof form?

From the side, your horse’s hoof should look triangular. With the limb fully weighted, the hairline (or coronet band) should be straight and resting at a ~ 30° angle. The front (dorsal) angle should be roughly 45° to 50° in the forelimbs and 50° to 55° in the hind limbs.

From the front, the coronet band should appear level and straight -- any humps or deviations in shape indicate uneven pressure. From the rear, your horse’s heel bulbs should be thick, round and low to the ground. You should be able to fit one or two fingers comfortably between the bulbs.

From the bottom, the frogs should be thick, dense, triangular pads, blending smoothly with the heel bulbs to form a “heart” shape. The sole should be smooth and convex, forming a bowl. The bearing surface of the heel should be level with the widest point of the frog, and the hoof wall should be approximately the same thickness all the way around.

The white line should be a solid elastic “seal” all the way around. Any black material or gaps in the white line are not acceptable and your horse could present with lameness until this is rectified.


Fronts vs Hinds:  What's the difference?

Front and hind feet have significantly different shapes, which develop after birth to accommodate their differing purposes. The fronts should be quite round (or even triangular in shape with the rear of the foot being the widest) and very symmetrical in appearance. The symmetrical shape of front hooves provides proper weight bearing, shock absorption and dissipates concussion upon landing. 

The hinds have more of a “spade” shape -- they are the basis of proper locomotion. The inner (medial) portion of the hind foot should be slightly narrower than the outer (lateral) portion. The horse uses the steeper medial wall for digging into the ground, gaining traction during takeoffs or on difficult footing. The wide lateral portion of the hind foot aids the horse during collection. If you’re a dressage rider, imagine the collection capable of a horse working on full, healthy de-contracted hooves!  A rarity in today's upper level horses, because of the outdated and mis guided beliefs that horses ‘need’ shoes.


Did you know?

ALL hoofed mammals on our planet have similar attributes to their feet. These include round front hooves, spade-shaped hinds, and a flexible pad towards the rear of the foot. Every single one of these mammals, including the horse, has a natural arch in their feet, which allows for optimal hemodynamics. Flat trims hinder circulation.


When a healthy and fully functioning equine foot strikes the ground, it will expand approximately 3 mm to 5mm and fill with cushioning blood.   Built in support!   As the foot leaves the ground, it contracts, expelling blood from the foot. The action of your horse’s feet assists his heart in pumping blood throughout the limbs and body, as if he has five hearts. Certain pathologies (including wearing metal shoes) can disrupt this process, restricting blood flow and limiting the function of his feet. Now think -- if four of your horse’s “hearts” are constricted, how is the fifth to function at full capacity? Imagine the potential of your horse if he were able to fully utilize all his resources.

A properly formed and functioning foot affects your horse’s entire well being. Pay close attention to his hooves, and address any imbalances and pathologies with your trimmer as they arise, for optimal health and performance. 



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