Why Hoof Angle Really Matters 

#MasterclassMonday is a collaboration between Horse Network and NOELLEFLOYD.com to empower equestrians. Every Monday we’ll bring you a new lesson from a leading trainer or professional to help you troubleshoot your training, master your mindset and up your game. This month’s instructor: farrier Rich Affonso.

Your horse’s feet are the foundation for everything they do.

Without a strong, durable, and aligned hoof, a horse can really struggle with performance, soundness, comfort, and injury. Understanding how your horse’s feet can affect the entire body can help your horse stay as comfortable and sound as possible. Not to mention, understanding these concepts is key when it comes to shopping for a new prospect. 

So, what is hoof angle? 

Hoof angle is how the shape of the hoof is measured in relation to the ground. 

You may have also heard of the term palmar angle. 

Palmar angle is an additional method of measuring the hoof angle.

Hoof angle is always measured in relation to the ground. The ideal hoof angle is the one that best suits that particular horse, however, too closed or too open of a hoof angle is never ideal. 

A hoof angle that is too closed will put too much pressure on the deep flexor tendon and navicular bone and often mimics walking in a flipper. 

A hoof angle that is too open (closer to 90 degrees) puts pressure on the suspensory ligaments and often mimics walking in high heels.

When the angle of the hoof is more sloped/at a more closed angle than the pastern bones, this is known as broken back. Broken back can lead to the deep flexor tendon exerting pressure on the navicular bone, creating more risk for Navicular Syndrome.

When the angle of the hoof is more upright than the pastern bones, this is known as broken forward. A good way to remember this is by remembering the term “club feet.” 

Some horses may not display any discomfort with an imperfect hoof angle, while others can really struggle. There is a range of “ideal” hoof angles, because each individual horse will have an angle that is best for them based on their conformation, balance, working demands, hoof structure, and way of going. 

A great way to determine the ideal hoof angle for your horse is to coordinate the efforts of your veterinarian and your farrier. Sometimes this can involve taking radiographs, changing angle gradually, and tracking the angle with photos over time to determine the angle of hoof that helps your horse feel his best. 

Want more? Rich’s new Equestrian Masterclass is all about understanding and demystifying hoof angle