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5.1. Farriery diagnostics - palpation of the hoof with hoof testers, Author: Ing. Jindřich Vinčálek

Palpation of the hoof - basic farriery diagnostics

Fig.1: Palpation testers

Affection of the anatomical formations of the hoof is detected by palpating its internal structures with hoof testers through the hoof capsule. Proper hoof examination with hoof testers not only has its specific spots, but also the right procedure. If we only want to find out the possibility of a hoof as a source of lameness, we must gradually perform a whole set of palpation probes. By focusing on a specific impairment, palpation testing can be limited to probes specific to the hoof area.


In hoof palpation, we must realize that initial high pressure with palpation hoof testers numbs the nerve endings and then we are unable to distinguish with the gentle pressure of hoof testers painful and painless areas according to the horse's response. Therefore, we perform a palpation examination of the hoof capsule at least twice, especially on the bearing edge of the hoof.


The first examination must be carried out with a small pressure corresponding to the size of the hoof and the thickness of the hoof capsule. We start by palpating the bearing edges by pressing the testers against the heels’ hoof wall. Then continue at distances of no more than 2 cm along the entire edge of the hoof. If the first examination is without a painful response, we will examine the bearing edge again with increased pressure.

Palpation prodecude of the bearing edge of the hoof from the inner heel gradually around the hoof to the outer heel

Fig. 2 - 7.: Palpation of the bearing edge of the average sized hoof

With hoof testers we could evaluate the pain also in other anatomical parts of the hoof

 Fig. 8.:

The tip of the coffin bone is palpated by pressing the testers at half distance from the tip of the toe to the tip of the frog against the dorsal hoof wall


 Fig. 9. and 10.:

Pain of the frog could be assesed by pressing the frog in the collateral groove agains the opposite lateral outer hoof wall. 


Fig.11. and 12.:

Painfullness of the bars or lateral cartilages is tested by palpation between the bar wall and hoof wall in the middle of its height in the heel region of the hoof.

Fig. 13.:

Lateral cartilages sensitivity could be also palpated by pressing the heels agains each other in the middle of the hoof wall height

More experience with hoof testers is required by examination of the navicular bone, which could be tested by two probes.


Fig. 14.: Palpation through frog

First test in palpation of the navicular bone is executed by pressing between the middle of the frog and dorsal hoof wall 2/3 of its length.

Fig.15.: Second test of the navicular bone is carried out in the widest part of the hoof middle of the hoof wall heght with prolonged pressure for 5-10 vteřin. Toto examination is only indicative.

FIg. 16.:  In the case of soreness of the hoof after shoeing we examine possibility of over trimming or pressure of the shoe or nail on the hoof laminae. Palpation is executed around the perimeter of the hoof between the inner edge of the shoe and the hoof wall right under the nail clinches

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