Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Pigeon Toe (in Growing Foal or Adult)

Pigeon toe (fetlock varus) is an angular limb deformity in which the foot deviates inward at the fetlock. This sets up unequal forces across the lower limb joints and predisposes horses to arthritis and other injuries in the lower joints.

Horses with pigeon toe usually have excess inside (medial) hoof growth, and they paddle when they walk or trot. When viewed from the rear, paddling horses swing their front limbs to the outside.

In a youngster, growth across the growth plate (physis) can be altered with surgery. However, once growth plates fuse (at about 8 weeks of age) there is nothing that can be done to influence the conformation.

Management after that involves compensatory hoof trimming or shoeing, and reduced expectations. Some horses with mild variations of this abnormality have successful performance careers.

Skills I might need

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Is there still something that can be done surgically to help the situation?
  • How much improvement can we expect if we do surgery now?
  • Are the growth plates fused yet?
  • What corrective hoof care do I need to provide?
  • PREVENTION

    Know normal conformation and recognize deviations. For young horses, contact your vet promptly to discuss surgical options before they are no longer available.
    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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