Ask the Vet – Club foot in horses


DAN: “I have a
two-year-old Quarter Horse mare that has a club foot. What is a club foot? How do horses
develop a club foot? What will this look like
for the mare’s future. I am working with
my vet and farrier, but what else can I do
to properly manage this?” We actually did have a couple of
comments on our community board on YouTube. So Kayla wants to know–
or said, “I have a mare with two club feet. It’s really very manageable
with the right care. But I feel as though
many people are still very confused by the idea.” DR LYDIA GRAY: Mm,
that’s helpful. DAN: And then Donna
said, “I sincerely want to know the
answer–” apparently, Donna is experiencing this– “I have seen a lot of
videos on hoof care and how the farrier trims
and cares for a horse. But I’ve never heard of
a club foot in horses.” DR LYDIA GRAY: Oh. All right, well, you
came to the right place. So I want to make
sure I got this right. And I asked Danvers Child,
our Hoof Health Consultant– DAN: Our go-to. DR LYDIA GRAY: –yeah,
to help me on this. So this is what he
wrote, “There are numerous definitions
of club foot, which may be why there’s some confusion. But the simple fact is that a
club foot is overly upright.” Or steep, is one
way of saying it. “Whether the condition is
genetic or acquired,”– so present at birth or
develops later in life– “it places excess stress on
the bony column of the limb and creates alignment issues. While the condition
often doesn’t cause immediate lameness
or acute lameness, it does affect
gait and movement. And it generally tends to
shorten a horse’s useful career and comfort.” DAN: Hmm. DR LYDIA GRAY: So he says,
for this person, specifically, “You’re on the right track
by having a vet/farrier team working on this, because
it does require a team. Club feet are graded from
a mild, that’s a grade 1, to a severe, grade 4. So the first step
for your team is to determine what grade or
severity they’re working with.” DAN: OK. And that’s what your
vet would decide? DR LYDIA GRAY: With the farrier. DAN: With the farrier. DR LYDIA GRAY: They
use the same scale so that they can talk
apples to apples. Yeah. And they can consult with other
people and show radiographs. “If it’s a 1 or 2,”– so
that’s on the mild side– “they’ll likely
opt for management. And that’s the farrier
keeping a tighter schedule than usual”– like we say,
five to six weeks, maybe. So it might be three to four
weeks or even two weeks– “working to ensure that ratios
and angles are maintained and avoiding stress to
the joints and bones. If it turns out to be a more
severe grade, like a 3 or 4, they might opt for
surgical intervention, which would involve cutting
the inferior check ligament”– in addition to the management
of the increased schedule, the tighter schedule, and then
the ratios and angles and then all that. DAN: So with a club
foot, basically, normally with a horse’s hoof,
we see a lower heel. But with a club foot,
it’s going to be– DR LYDIA GRAY: The
heel is taller. So in a horse’s
hoof, you want the– DAN: That was my
hoof, by the way. [LAUGHS] DR LYDIA GRAY: Oh, OK. You want the pastern hoof
angle to be the same, parallel. And in a club foot, the hoof is
steeper than the pastern angle. We call this a
broken forward angle. This is the
uprightness, steepness. “boxiness” is a term, “boxy,”
“boxy foot,” I’ve heard. Interesting that the lady who
asked, the horse has one foot. And then the community
commenter has two feet. DAN: That’s what I
was going to ask. Is it common to be in two feet? DR LYDIA GRAY: It can be. What I just learned
at a symposium I went to recently at the
Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners is the
person who spoke said, “Don’t get so focused
on the club foot itself. But when a horse has a
club foot, or in this case, two club feet, the other
feet will be affected too.” Instead of having
an angle this way, they might be broken
back to compensate. There’s some compensation in
the body going on for the one or two feet that are clubby. DAN: Got it, so– DR LYDIA GRAY: So you’ve got to
pay attention to all four feet. DAN: Because it’s not
just the look of the hoof but the structures inside
the hoof are being affected. DR LYDIA GRAY: Exactly. And we used to think about this
as being contracted tendons. So it’s the deep
digital flexor tendon that is pulling
on the coffin bone and changing that coffin joint. But now we know that
there’s more structures than just the tendon affected. They call it the
musculotendinous unit. So the whole back of
the leg is affected in pulling that shortened– DAN: Which is then going
to affect the movement of the entire limb. DR LYDIA GRAY:
Yeah, and what can lead to the discomfort
and the performance challenges and the– not life expectancy, but career
expectancy, career span, yeah. DAN: OK, so continue to work
with your vet, your farrier, get on the same page, get
radiographs, and figure out what your time frame for
your horse’s trimming cycle is going to be. And manage their comfort
and gauge it from there? DR LYDIA GRAY: Yep.


5 Responses

  1. Re-Rider Suzanne

    February 7, 2019 7:30 pm

    Good diagrams, would have liked a few more examples. Compensation injuries to look out for probably a whole other video! Thanks.

  2. Anne Cam

    April 29, 2019 5:45 pm

    My pony has 2 front feet that are very clubbed. I have had her for 8 years and she has never had a lameness issue. However, about 6 months ago, after a trim, she became completely lame. I noticed that she had been trimmed way down and I attributed that to her lameness. It continued. My vet took xrays and said because she was born with club feet, her coffin bone was already rotated to a certain degree and the trim changed her angle and put more pressure on her toes. Still all this time later, she is lame. I have gone long periods and not trimmed her hoping she would grow more hoof wall. Not happening. I tried glue on shoes, but she has so little hoof wall, they would not stay on. I've tried boots with padding and they helped for a while, but lately, she seems to be hurting even with those on. I have noticed that she is leaning way in on one side and her knees looked puffy so I've been giving her bute for that. It's a day to day struggle to make her comfortable. I'm wondering if casting (suggested by someone with a foundered horse) would help. Your thoughts? I hate seeing her in pain. She already has to stay in a bare paddock because she's allergic to the grass molds. She is such a sweet little girl, I hate to put her down but hate seeing her hurt too!!!

  3. karenaria

    October 7, 2019 4:30 pm

    Don't only look at the feet. Clubfoot can be caused by issues elsewhere in the horses body from dental, back, hips, or elsewhere. Diet can also be a factor. The horse needs to be looked at evaluated and treated as a whole. We may only be seeing the outcome and symptoms in the foot/feet caused by other issues in the horse. Looking only at the feet may cause us to focus on an area where a more insidious problem has manifested and not get us to the cause.
    Thanks for the good video.


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