Q: Why are large feet preferred in horses?
A: It is not simply that large feet are preferred, but rather that the feet need to be in proportion to the body of the horse. If feet are too small for a horse’s build, they are less likely to hold up under strenuous work. The bigger the area of the hoof in contact with the ground, the lower the pressure on the leg and hoof, as the foot can spread the forces more effectively, avoiding concentrated high pressure. Small feet are thus put under greater strain with the same work, relative to larger feet. The increased shock and concussive forces in the small hoof area may cause lameness as a consequence of various problems, such as navicular syndrome, laminitis or problems in the joints of the leg.
A small foot is also less able to deal with the stress of impact than a larger hoof and may tend to bruise easily or develop sore or collapsed heels, as a consequence of high-impact forces.
As an added issue, small feet unfortunately have a tendency to contract further if other feet are larger and preferentially used by the horse – this obviously exacerbates the issue. However, as long as your horse’s feet are in proportion to the rest of his body, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about!