Radiology of the equine foot is a great tool for Equine Veterinarians to diagnose various injuries and diseases such as laminitis, fractures, ringbone, navicular disease, bone spurs and wall separation. 

Farrier radiography

Radiographs (x-rays) are also beneficial for a farrier to use as guide for trimming, shoeing and therapeutic work. When x-rays are taken specifically for the farrier, they can obtain useful information such as the orientation of P3 (pedal bone) within the hoof capsule, hoof pastern alignment, sole depth, wall thickness and, aids in shoe selection and shoe placement in therapeutic cases.

These farrier friendly radiographs are taken differently to other hoof radiographs. Equine Veterinarian, Dr Jen Lugton from Balanced Veterinary Services lists the requirements below for a farrier specific x-ray.

  • Images are taken with the shoes on before and after the shoeing. The before x-rays gives information on how the hoof grows and the after x-rays tell us if we have achieved our goals and provide the baseline for comparative assessment for the next shoeing cycle.
  • Both feet placed on even wooden blocks. The horse should be weight bearing on both feet.
  • Soft Tissue detail. This uses lower powered x-rays as we want to see the hoof capsule as well as the bones in the hoof. This provides vital information on the effects of both conformation and disease.

Two views per hoof:
Lateral View (side on)

This is to assess the balance around the Coffin joint and the Hoof Pastern Axis. Specific measurements of distances are also used to assess the hoof. Common measurements include: Sole depth (SD), Horn Lamellar zone (HL), Coronary band Extensor process (CE), digital Break over (DB) and the Palmar Angle (PA). Please note it’s a common mistake to call the PA the degree of rotation.

    Farrier radiography

    Dorsal Palmer View (front on)

    Used to assess the medial lateral balance of the hoof capsule and symmetry of the joints.

      Farrier radiography

      Low beam orientation.

      The focal point of the x-rays should only be about 15mm above the shoe so that linear information can be obtained about the relationship of the pedal bone and sole to the shoe.

      X-rays can provide your farrier with more in-depth information to allow them to provide optimal hoof care to your horse. Not only can they be used in situations where lameness is a problem, they can also be used to create a record of your horses hoof capsule and in the instance where x-rays are taken in the future, these original x-rays can be referred to and identify any changes to the foot over time.

      Talk to your Farrier and Equine Veterinarian to have some farrier specific x-rays done for your records and to ensure your current hoof care plan is providing the best platform for your horse to perform.

      Any questions, comments or concerns – call or send me an email here.

      Author: Erin Stevens, Professional Master Farrier

      Erin Stevens has been a Master Farrier for 20 years and runs a successful Farrier business in the Hills, Hawkesbury and Wisemans Ferry districts of NSW, Australia.

      Erin specialises in Performance horses and working with equine Veterinarians on lameness and therapeutic cases.

      Connect with Erin the Farrier.