It's Best If Hooves Match

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A study by the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, England, has found a correlation between the shape of a horse’s hooves and his state of soundness.

Credit: Jennifer Paulson

Credit: Jennifer Paulson

Results showed that for horses showing lameness in one hoof, that hoof was taller and more upright than the sound hoof in about 20 percent of the cases. In addition, horses that were chronically lame tended to have hooves with divergent growth rings and nonparallel alignment of horn tubules.

So far, researchers can’t say for sure which comes first—the lameness or the physical characteristics. They also stressed that mismatched hooves are not always associated with lameness. Still, they said buyers should always examine asymmetric hooves carefully as a possible potential indicator of future unsoundness.

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