The Regular & Irregular Hoof

    Certain ideal shape/form of the hoof is so called “regular hoof” (balanced hoof), which has several basic concepts. The angle of the front wall of the hoof forms with the ground about 50° by the front legs and about 55° by the hind legs. From the profile, the heel edges are parallel with the front wall and in the front legs shorter by two-thirds than the toe wall. By the hind legs the edges of the heel wall are about a half-length of the toe wall (see picture 1 - A, A1 and B, B1). The angle, that the hoof wall forms with the ground, in the widest part of the hoof, is on the inside and outside about the same, 80 to 85 degrees. (see picture 1 C)

Front A, A1      Hind B, B1
Picture 1 (click to enlarge!)

Picture 2 (click to enlarge!)

low angle, high angle, toed in
Picture 3 

Picture 4 (click to enlarge!)
Mainly used on draft or carriage

    The sole of the front hooves are more or less round shaped, while by the hind are oval (elliptic). The proportions of the inside half of the foot with the outside is about the same. (see picture 1)

    This regular/correct shape of a hoof is very precious and is often connected to equally precious “regular stand” (correct conformation), which is not as common in horses as one would wish. The correct “regular stand” of the legs is such, that from the front they run parallel to the ground and the distance between them is as wide as the width of hoof in the same size. (see picture 2)

    From the profile the limb hangs straight down to the ankle and then slants to the ground in approximate angle with the ground of 50 to 55 degrees. (see picture 2)

    Any kind of deviation of the regular stand will influence the shape of the hoof. The centerline passing through the foot is essential to the shape of the hoof. If the centerline of the hoof deviates towards the other leg inwards, such stand is called toed in, often called “pigeon toe”. If the centerline pointes away from the other leg outward, such stand is called toed out. If from the profile, the center line of the hoof forms with the ground the angle of more than 60 degrees it is accompanied with high angled foot (not necessarily “club foot”), if the angle is less than 50 degrees it is accompanied with a low angled foot. (see picture 3)

    While the regular foot equally distributes the stress/weight on the hoof all around the outside carrier perimeter, in the case of the irregular foot the stress is uneven. In the case of the toed-in foot, the greater weight is on the outer half of the hoof, and by the toed-out foot it is on the inner half. In the case of the low-angled foot, the heel is more weighed down, while in the high-angled foot the toe is more stressed. Due to the uneven weight distribution, certain parts of the hoof are more stressed than others, which often result in various lameness and unsoundness. For example a “quarter crack” can be often found on the outside by the toed-in feet and on the inside on the toed-out feet, often accompanied with high-angled foot. The hoof cartilage by the older horse will calcify by the toed-in foot on the outside, while by the toed-out foot on the inside. 

    Naturally, due to the uneven pressure/impact of the irregular foot the shoes will wear off unevenly. This may be partially reduced with proper shoeing adjustments. There are often used special shoes for shoeing of the irregular hooves. In the case of the low-angled foot it is best to use a simple light plate of even thickness (no wedges) and somewhat longer than in the case of regular foot. The high angled foot is best served with a shorter shoe. For the toed-in foot is best to use a shoe with one end wider, sometimes turned-out (hind legs). For the toed-out horse the turned-out end of the shoe seems practical. (the latter two are used mainly on draft horses).

     The proper choice in shoeing is of course based on many years of experience of the farrier in the field of irregularities and it solely rest on his decision which shoe should be used.

    The shoeing alone is of course influenced by many other factors which will be discussed further on our website.

Translated by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek from the 1953 Special Zoo-Technique - Breeding of Horses
Published in 1953 by the Czechoslovakian Academy of Agricultural Science and certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Written by: MVDr Ludvik Ambroz, Frabtisek Bilek, MVDr Karel Blazek, Ing. Jaromir Dusek, Ing. Karel Hartman, Hanus Keil, pro. MVDr Emanuel Kral, Karel Kloubek, Ing. Dr. Frantisek Lerche, Ing. Dr Vaclav Michal, Ing. Dr Zdenek Munki, Ing. Vladimir Mueller, MVDr Julius Penicka, pro. MVDr Emil Pribyl, MVDr Lev Richter, prof. Ing. Dr Josef Rechta, MVDr Karel Sejkora and Ing. Dr Jindrich Steinitz.