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Foot Health: Your feet, horse’s hooves aren’t that different – a lot rides on appropriate care


By Dr. Matthew Ellsworth
KyForward columnist

The last weekend of October will cause lots of tired feet from all that trick-or-treating! But also on that weekend, watch for even more fun as Lexington hosts the grandest equine run of them all – the Breeders’ Cup.

With the big event just weeks away, let’s change it up and talk about horse feet today. Here are some fun horse foot facts as they relate to human feet.

HORSE: The size of a horse foot is relative to the size of the horse.

HUMAN: The estimated size of an adult male and female foot is roughly 14 percent and 13 percent of the body height of a man and woman, respectively. This does not work with children, however, as their limb proportions are different and vary with growth.

HORSE: The horse foot continues to grow until the age of about 6 (approximately 33 in human years)

HUMAN: Feet stop usually growing around age 18-20 because this is when the growth plates in the foot close.

HORSE: The length of the “toe” in the horse is relative to the weight of the horse.

HUMAN: There is no known relationship between toe length and weight in humans.

HORSE: The horse foot functions to support the weight of the horse and provide shock absorption.

HUMAN: Much in the same way the human foot functions.

HORSE: The weight on a horse’s foot increases threefold when galloping.

HUMAN: Stress to the human heel during walking are 80 percent to 130 percent of body weight during walking and 220 percent when running.

HORSE: Extremely dry hoof walls make them more prone to damage and breakdown.

HUMAN: Similarly, dry skin on human feet may lead to painful callus formation which may cause skin break down leading to sores.

HORSE: Water is constantly being lost daily from the horse’s hoof. Immersions in water for 10-15 minutes a day will help restore moisture.

HUMAN: Daily foot soaks in warm water may feel good on our human feet, but try to avoid soaking dry feet in water with epsom salts, as this causes them to become even more dry. Consider using a small amount of dishwashing liquid instead, as many of them contain skin softeners that do maintain your skin moisture content.

HORSE: Osteoarthritis of the limbs in the horse is a dominant cause of lameness.

HUMAN: Osteoarthritis is a common cause of foot pain in adults after the age of 45.

While a horse’s feet can carry his/her body into a million-dollar winner’s circle, it is just as important that we as humans take care of our feet as well. Let’s hope that the Breeder’s Cup contenders are getting in lots of foot soaks before their big day.

For more Foot Health columns, click here.


Dr. Matthew Ellsworth works at Lexington Podiatry.

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