No Foot, No Horse (part three, the hoof-pastern axis)

Welcome back. Today we will look at probably the most important aspect of foot assessment, the hoof-pastern axis.

Hopefully, by improving your knowledge in this area you will be more capable of assessing whether your horse is,

1. Comfortable.

2. Able to perform at their optimum.

3. Being managed for long term soundness.


 (Fig.1) correct hoof-pastern axis

(Fig.1) correct hoof-pastern axis

Ok, the general rule of thumb is that when viewing the hoof from side on, the angle of the front of the hoof wall and the angle of the heel should closely match the angle of the pastern. Please note it is important to view this on a flat, level surface with your horse standing straight. See Figs.1 & 2.

 (Fig.2) correct hoof-pastern axis

(Fig.2) correct hoof-pastern axis

The relationship between the angle of the hoof wall and the angle of the pastern is known as the hoof-pastern axis.

The most common variation to this ideal is commonly known as a broken-back axis or more commonly a “forward foot”. See Fig.3.

A forward foot is most commonly caused by either poor shoeing and/or excessive growth (i.e. too long between farrier visits).

Problems associated with a forward foot include excessive strain on the tendons, friction in the navicular area (due to the delay in the speed of breakover), and the risk of lessened circulation within the hoof.

Final word, if your horse has forward feet, there is an increased chance of injury, it will most likely shorten its working life and it will certainly prevent it from performing at its peak level.

“What the hell is breakover?”
 (Fig 3) Forward Foot

(Fig 3) Forward Foot

Breakover is best described as the action of the horse’s heel lifting off the ground and rotating over the toe as the foot leaves the ground.

Final word, if your horse has forward feet, there is an increased chance of injury, it will most likely shorten its working life and it will certainly prevent it from performing at its peak level.