Science & Equine

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Written by Lauren Carey Love

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Investigating Prevalence and risk factors of hoof disorders

There is scarce research into hoof disorders even though they are the most common cause of lameness.  Decreased welfare for the horse is cause for concern and this research aims to give wider appreciation to treatment and management options.

A large sample of 942 healthy horses were randomly selected by 21 experienced farriers from many locations across the Netherlands. These horses have been regularly trimmed (at least 4 times/year) and were observed for 2 periods of the year (February-March and June-July 2015) to limit the seasonal effects on the feet. Each farrier was trained to diagnose 12 disorders; thrush, hoof wall cracks (superficial/perforating/horizontal/quarter), white line disease and widening, sole bruises, frog cancer, chronic laminitis, keratoma and growth rings. Hoof management and environment were recorded as variables.

The prevalence of hoof disorders was high, 85%, however a majority of these were classified as mild. Thrush (45%), superficial hoof wall cracks (30%), sole bruises and growth rings (24.7% and 26.3% respectively) were the most common disorders. Horizontal / quarter hoof wall cracks, chronic laminitis,  keratoma and frog cancer equated for less than 15% of cases.  Each disorder had multifactorial causes although there was highlighted association to low levels of exercise and food intake with increased disorders.  The use of wood shavings significantly benefited horses with thrush. Increased hoof picking reduced the risk of perforated hoof wall cracks. Adapting a specific management practice for individual horses with farrier and veterinary involvement is recommended.

Expert opinion Lauren Carey-Love

The varying risk factors complicates recommendation for prevention and treatment, but the study emphasises the importance of horse owner attention to hoof care. With good management the effects of hoof disorders can be treated early and minimised.


> Holzhauer M. et al. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 140(2017)53-59, 0167-5877/©2017ElsevierB.V. All rights reserved. Click here for the online summary

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