Everyone knows that things are not always what they seem, and horse feet are no exception. When veterinarians and farriers are asked to evaluate or treat sore-footed horses, they closely examine the hoof (growth patterns, response to hoof testers, horn quality, sole bruising, etc.) looking for clues as to why the horse’s feet are sore. However, the external condition of the hoof, which may appear normal, represents only part of the story. Inside of the hoof are vital structures that all play an important role in the locomotion and soundness of the horse, such as the coffin bone and joint, navicular bone, collateral ligaments and deep digital flexor tendon. Disease in these structures or misalignment of the bony column can diminish a horse’s performance or make him lame. Since these important players are securely encased in the hoof capsule, the only way to evaluate them is with imaging such as radiography, ultrasound or MRI. Radiography is arguably the most cost-effective modality, providing a lot of useful information to help veterinarians make the correct diagnosis and treat the horse appropriately and to help farriers make adjustments in trimming/shoeing to optimally balance and support the foot.

Here is a great example:

hoof01This horse is footsore. On initial exam, the foot appears to be healthy. Normal growth, good quality horn, no heat, no sole bruising, only slightly painful when hoof testers are applied…

foot-rad01But when we take radiographs, this is what we see:

foot-rad02HEHC’s veterinarians use their digital radiography system and software to help analyze the radiograph:

This horse is suffering from mild, chronic laminitis, with rotation and sinking of the coffin bone. The condition is complicated by inadequate sole depth (0.82 cm. Normal sole depth is >1.5cm). Utilizing this information, the veterinarian can discuss medical management of the laminitis with the owner and the farrier can appropriately trim the foot to help prevent further rotation and preserve sole depth, followed by application of a padded shoe to support the foot, get the sole and coffin bone up off the ground and encourage healthy growth. The result? A happy, comfortable horse that can go back to work!

Successful treatment of this case is not possible without a strong owner-veterinarian-farrier partnership and diagnostic imaging.

Do you know what the inside of YOUR horse’s feet look like?