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Frequently Asked Questions



Q6)  What should I look for in pastern and foot conformation?

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Click on the picture for a larger view.

The pastern is the shock absorber for the fetlock, knee and body of the horse, thus, the length and angle of the pastern are critical to the soundness and stride of the horse.  Both affect the absorption of concussion and the arc of the stride.  The normal front pastern angle is 45 to 51 degrees.  The normal hind pastern angle is 50 to 55 degrees.  A short, upright pastern increases the concussion of the stride, leading to ring bone, side bone and navicular problems.  A pastern that is too long is weak and will increase stress on the tendons and ligaments of the leg.

Both front feet should point straight ahead and be of the same size and shape.  The feet should be large and in proportion to the body.  Small feet can lead to unsoundness.  The wall of the hoof should be thick and smooth, showing no rings or cracks.  The heels should be deep and open.  The frog is to be smooth and elastic, dividing the sole of the foot in half.  It should touch the ground.  The sole of the foot should be slightly concave and not touch the ground.  The hoof should show signs of even wear, indicating straightness of gait.

Look for these unsoundnesses and blemishes when viewing the pastern and foot:

Broken axis or coon footed

The angle of the hoof does not match the pastern.  This is weak conformation that causes strain on tendons and ligaments

Too much slope

The long, excessively sloped pastern is weak.  A long pastern causes strain on the sesamoids when the horse runs at great speed.  Long pasterns also put greater pressure on the tendons and contribute to bowed tendons.

Too straight

Straight pasterns do not absorb the concussion of the stride resulting in wind-galls.  Excessive pounding of the stride causes friction at the joint and development of side bones and calcification of the joint.

Long toe-heel low

Long toes, low heel configuration results in excess strain to the tendons and ligaments.

Long heels

Misalignment of foot and pastern angles strain tendons and ligaments.

Side bone

This is found in horses that toe-in or toe-out, are bow-legged or knock kneed.  It is a calcification of the cartilage on either or both sides of the coffin bone.  Lameness may be present until the bone is set.

Ring bone

This is a bony growth in the area of the pastern joints.  Upright pasterns are a cause, along with over-training young horses.  High ringbone occurs at the junction of the long and short pastern bones.  Low ringbone is found at the coronary band.  Can cause permanent lameness.


There are many excellent resources available.  In addition to the list below, visit the Conformation area of the online catalog.

Back to Conformation Index    

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