Hoof imbalance is one of the most common problems associated with lameness in a horse’s foot. It can be attributed to a variety of 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. In the case of side-to-side imbalance (lateral-medial imbalance) the outside toe strikes the ground before the heel, with the inside heel landing first. This leads to uneven forces across the hoof and uneven loading of the lower limb joints.
Many horses tolerate a large degree of foot balance, remain sound and are able to compete to a high level. Others are more sensitive, with a minimal discrepancy adversely affecting performance.
X-rays are a tool that we are using more and more in conjunction with farriers to evaluate & correct foot balance….. Essentially a side to side (Lateromedial – side view) and front to back (Dorsopalmar – front/back view) x-ray is taken of each foot to show the position of the pedal bone and the rest of the bony column in relation to the external hoof wall. These images can then be used by the farrier to trim to optimise foot conformation and correct any underlying imbalance. Severe imbalance is often evident without an x-ray but mild to moderate imbalance can be present in a “normal” looking foot.
Foot balance x-rays are particularly useful in horses with poor foot shape or sensitive feet as well as those suffering from foot related lameness. Many elite sports horses have this procedure on a regular basis to pre-empt any problems. The stage of the shoeing cycle must be considered when interpreting the images, it is unreasonable to expect the feet to look as good when they are due for re-shoeing as when they are freshly shod.
Foot balance x-rays can be performed at the clinic or on your yard providing there is an area of level concrete under cover and mains electricity.