My horse is barefoot, and I've noticed that over the past few months, his groves aren't the same depth on either side of the frog on the same foot. I am worried that his feet are out of balance. Are uneven grooves a sign of imbalance?
Yes, uneven collateral grooves (the grooves alongside the frog) may be a sign of imbalance.
There are different types of imbalances/balances that can cause the changes in your horse's hooves. It is important to remember that there are many different ways to evaluate balance of a horse, and that there is no set definition of “hoof balance.” Asymmetries and imbalances can be found in perfectly sound working horses. Keeping your horse's feet trimmed properly should always be a priority.
First off, let your farrier know that you are concerned with your horse's hoof balance. Your farrier will likely know what to look for in a balanced hoof and can check your horse out for you. If your horses is sound and performing up to his normal expectations, then continue to shoe/trim as normal and monitor for any changes. There are small adjustments to the trimming routine that your farrier can make, such as changing the trimming schedule and frequency, technique or therapeutic shoes.
There are a few different types of “balance” or “imbalances” that you can look for when evaluating your horses’ hooves.
Static balance is balance while not in motion and is an indication of the alignment of the bones in horse’s legs and the symmetry of the hoof capsule around the coffin bone. Ideally, when looking at a horse from the front, a straight line dropped from the point of the shoulder should fall through all the bones and joints of the limb and the hoof capsule. This would be static balance.
Geometric balance is an indication of symmetry between two sides or halves of an object. Static and geometric balance may be evaluated with your horse standing on a flat, level surface and applying a plumb line and ruler to various parts.
Dynamic balance is how the hoof lands and loads in motion. To evaluate your horse’s dynamic balance, choose a hard, level surface such as a concrete or asphalt barn aisle and have someone walk or trot the horse away from you in a straight line. Focus on the feet as they land; balanced hooves generally land with “medial-lateral symmetry,” meaning that both the medial and lateral heel will make contact at the same time.
Recording a video of your horse moving is another easy way to watch for dynamic imbalances.
-- Dr. Shannon Moreaux, DVM, American Association of Equine Practitioners
*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.