Milbourn Equine Vets, Ashford equine vets, discuss hoof imbalance as one of the most common problems associated with lameness in horses. It has various causes, including conformation, the type of shoes fitted, and how regularly the horse is shod.
Ideally, the horse's foot should strike the ground as a unit, with the entire weight-bearing surface hitting the ground together.
If your horse has a side-to-side imbalance (lateral-medial imbalance), one side of the foot makes contact with the ground before the other. This can lead to uneven pressures across the hoof and joints.
Long toes and under-run heels are one of the most common types of foot imbalance observed leading to the structures in the heel region being overloaded. This imbalance often progresses slowly over a period of years and can therefore be difficult to visualise.
Some horses can tolerate a large degree of foot imbalance, remain sound, and compete to a high level. However, other horses may be more sensitive with a subtle imbalance adversely affecting their performance or causing lameness.
How can foot balance be determined?
Most severe imbalances can be detected by clinical examination alone however identifying mild imbalances, often present in a ‘normal’ looking foot, at an early stage can help reduce the risk of developing lameness. X-Rays are an effective and accurate way to determine foot balance. These can be shared with your farrier who can trim to optimise foot confirmation and enables them to correct any imbalances. Sport horses often have foot balance x-rays carried out regularly to pre-empt potential problems and this should be considered in all riding horses. The stage of the shoeing cycle must be considered when assessing the x-rays as feet will naturally show some degree of imbalance when they are due for re-shoeing.
Foot balance x-rays can be performed at the clinic or on your yard if you have an area of level concrete undercover and a source of mains electricity.
You can read more on general foot care here or contact Milbourn Equine Vets in Ashford, Hawkhurst, Rye or Canterbury.