“Is My Horse’s Hoof-Pastern Axis BROKEN?” Here’s How You Can Tell


Did you know the hoof-pastern axis is how the angle of the dorsal wall of the horse’s hoof compares to the angle of the pastern bone? According to horsewoman Susan Kauffmann and certified trimmer Christina Cline in their brand new guide THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK, ideally, these two will be parallel to one another.

“This means that a horse with more upright pasterns overall will have more upright hoof angles than a horse with more sloping pasterns, whose feet should echo that degree of slope,” they say. “It also means that the hind feet will usually be slightly more upright than the front, as the hind pasterns of most horses are a bit more upright than the front.”

When the dorsal wall and the pastern don’t line up, people say that the hoof-pastern axis is “broken.”

“It can be broken back or it can be broken forward,” explain Kauffmann and Cline. “Either way, if you spot a broken axis on your horse, it is definitely something you want to discuss with your hoof-care professional and possibly your vet. In many instances, adjustments in trimming and/or shoeing can improve hoof-pastern alignment, such as a hoof with tall, overgrown heels causing a broken-forward axis, or a long toe and low heel causing a broken-back axis. However, there are cases where the misalignment of angles is permanent, such as a club foot on a mature horse, where it isn’t going to be possible to achieve the ideal, and trying to force a ‘better’ angle onto such a foot can potentially cause harm.”

Evaluating your horse’s hoof-pastern axis can give you important information about his trim and conformation, and possibly help you to head off problems that could result if something is amiss. Here’s how Kauffmann and Cline tell us how to do it in THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK:

1  To get a correct read on your horse’s hoof-pastern axis, make sure the horse is standing on firm, level ground. It is also extremely important that the horse is standing square, which means all four feet are placed so that the cannon bones are perpendicular to the ground and the feet are weighted evenly. This allows you to see the true relation of the pastern angle to the hoof. If the horse is not standing square, his joints will flex to some degree, giving you an inaccurate reading of the hoof-pastern axis.


Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 4.50.58 PM
Normal hoof-pastern axis (A); broken-forward axis (B); broken-back axis (C).

2  Once your horse is standing square (it may be helpful to have someone helping to keep him that way), move to the side, crouch down at a low angle, and take a look at how the front of the hoof wall lines up with the middle of the pastern. You might want to take a photo and draw some lines on it for easier assessment. If you see a broken-back or broken-forward angle, discuss it with your hoof-care provider and/or vet at the next opportunity.


For more hands-on activities that can help your horse stay healthy and happy from the ground up, check out THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.


Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

2 responses to ““Is My Horse’s Hoof-Pastern Axis BROKEN?” Here’s How You Can Tell”

  1. I just received My “The Essential Horse Book.” I studied the full Pete Ramey educational series, and have done my horses’ hooves, including a draft, for several years, in between my own injuries. I have to tell you this book is amazing, and I would put it up against Pete’s series, though he has fabulous material as well, but takes more time to study. And admittedly, finding things in videos to re-review takes quite a bit of time. Don’t miss out on this book. I don’t know Susan Kauffmann, but I can tell you Christina Cline is well respected in the Washington State community, and I’ve seen her work on many horses where I lived until a year and a half ago.

    A great concept used on this book’s physical appearance and ease of use is the velo-type binding which allows you to lay it flat on the ground to a specific page while inspecting your horse’s hoof, and the pages stay open. You aren’t looking for a pair of heavy nippers to hold the pages out flat. It has a cover that will not water spot without a great deal of leaving it out in the rain, and the pages are a glossy paper which will also defy hard use. I probably will make an old-time paper bag book cover for it just because the pictures on both the back and front are well worth preserving.

    Congratulations to Christina and Susan for a phenomenal instructional book with 300 pages, full color pictures and great explanations. You guys have raised the bar for all other hoof instruction book writers to a level no one can beat. – Robin M. Williams

    • Robin, thank you very much for your comment! We are THRILLED to hear such words of praise for THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK. We at TSB truly hope it will help people better understand the equine hoof, ultimately leading the way to happier, healthier horses. I shared your comment with co-author Susan Kauffmann, and here is her reply:

      “Thank you for your kind words, Robin. I am so glad that you are enjoying the book, both in terms of content and format–though Christina and I can take no credit for the latter. That was entirely the work of the amazing professionals at Trafalgar Square, who are all horse people themselves and know what makes a book like this truly user-friendly. Oh, and I just have to say that my hat goes off to anyone who can trim a draft horse themselves — my back hurts just thinking about it! Sounds like you are doing a great job with your horses.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: