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Conformation of the hoof and limb – The Effects of laminitis

Conformation of the hoof and limb – The Effects of laminitis
May 6, 2021 Tom Clark

Looking after your horse is no easy task to ensure they stay healthy and productive, so when a disease such as laminitis happens, it can be a distressing experience. The horse’s hoof structure has evolved over millions of years and understanding the impact laminitis can have on its conformation is important.

A Perfectly Balanced Hoof

Ensuring your horse has balanced hooves that are regularly maintained can help relieve any strain and reduce potential injury to soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments. Although the horses’ hooves have evolved over time, they haven’t necessarily changed quickly enough to cope with all the demands of modern life such as riding on roads. Whilst some horses and ponies can go “barefoot” not everyone can and so some horses still require shoeing by a qualified farrier. Those that are barefoot require regular trimming too. A good farrier will ensure the feet are balanced and can even spot other issues further up the leg if they are causing the horse to wear its hooves unevenly.

The Effects of Laminitis

Although laminitis originates elsewhere, the symptoms are apparent in the horse’s hooves. The laminae are the inner sensitive layer of the hoof wall and support the pedal bone by attaching it to the inner wall of the hoof. When laminitis occurs, the blood flow is disrupted to the laminae causing inflammation and swelling in the tissue but because it is encased by the hoof wall, the laminae can not expand and this causes the horse immense pain. If the disease isn’t noticed and treated early, the laminae can fail completely allowing the pedal bone to rotate and potentially sink through the sole of the foot.

Over the longer term, the impact of laminitis can cause changes to the horse’s hoof conformation. When viewed from the side, what should be a consistent line running from the pastern with the hoof following the same angle, can develop a kink with the toe of the hoof being too far forward. The front of the hoof wall can also become concave and the toe can start to get very long and potentially turn up if a good farrier doesn’t address the issue. The sole of the hoof can also become thinner and if it has sunk so it is closer to the ground, horses become foot store or bruised very easily.

Can diet help?

With both a healthy diet and regular maintenance of the hoof, the risk of diseases such as laminitis can be reduced. It is important to use horse feed suitable for those prone to laminitis and if possible, ensure essential nutrients for hooves such as biotin and calcium are added at optimal levels. Alfalfa is a great source of both of these nutrients.

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