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    Information is scarce on the prevalence of hoof disorders in horses. In this study, we examined the prevalence of and risk factors for hoof disorders in a population of horses in The Netherlands. In a group of 942 randomly selected horses, hoof health was scored during regular foot trimming (one horse/farm). Hooves were assessed for the occurrence of one of 12 hoof disorders by a group of 21 certified farriers in two periods i.e. winter and summer of 2015. The mean age of the group of horses was 11.2±5.6years. They were mainly used for recreation (28.2%), dressage (26.8%), other disciplines (such as carriage driving and breeding) (18.7%), showjumping (17.6%) or combinations of these activities (8.6%). The horse farms studied were evenly distributed throughout the country. The horses were housed on different types of bedding, including straw (51.0%), shavings (17.5%), flax (16.1%) or other materials (11.0%), or were kept at pasture (4.4%). In 85% of the horses, at least one hoof disorder was observed during regular foot trimming. Most of the lesions were mild. The most frequently diagnosed hoof disorders were: thrush (T; 45.0%); superficial hoof wall cracks (SHWC; 30.4%); growth rings (GR; 26.3%); and sole bruises (SB; 24.7%). Less frequently observed hoof disorders included: perforating hoof wall cracks (PHWC; 16.4%); white line disease (WLD; 17.8%); and white line widening (WLW; 11.8%). Horizontal hoof cracks (5.2%), chronic laminitis (3.9%), quarter cracks (2.7%), keratoma (1.8%) and frog cancer (1.0%) were less frequently observed. Factors significantly associated with the occurrence of thrush comprised a wet stable floor (OR 1.6 and 2.9, for somewhat wet to wet respectively, compared to dry), the use of straw as bedding (OR=1.5, compared to flax), the housing strategy (e.g. permanent housing in contrast to permanent pasturing) (OR=1.7) and poor horn quality (OR=3.4). A higher prevalence of WLD was associated with less frequent hoof picking (OR=2.1 if performed weekly instead of daily), the use of flax bedding (OR=2.1, compared to straw) and poor horn quality (OR=8.1). A higher prevalence of SB was observed in horses used for multiple disciplines (OR=3.5, compared to dressage), with white-coloured hooves (OR=5.0, compared to black hooves), with longer intervals between trimming sessions (OR=4.8 in case of 8-10 weeks compared to weekly) and with poor horn quality (OR=5.4). A higher prevalence of WLW was observed in older horses (OR=15.5 for horses >19years, compared to <5years), in those with longer intervals between trimming sessions (OR=1.8 in case of 8-10 weeks compared to weekly), and in certain breeds (OR=3.2 for Friesian horses, 2.9 for Welsh ponies and 13.1 for Shetland ponies, all compared to Dutch Warmblood). In conclusion, although most of the hoof disorders identified were only in a mild stage, still an unexpectedly high prevalence of hoof disorders was observed during regular hoof trimming. Analysis of the data showed that some parameters, such as the use of flax bedding, may be protective for certain hoof disorders but a risk factor for others. This study provides useful guidelines for monitoring hoof health, reducing lameness and optimizing equine welfare. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


    M Holzhauer, R Bremer, I Santman-Berends, O Smink, I Janssens, W Back. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence of and risk factors for hoof disorders in horses in The Netherlands. Preventive veterinary medicine. 2017 May 01;140:53-59

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    PMID: 28460750

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