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.
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.
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