Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Club Foot, Flexural Deformity (in Adult)

Synonyms: Box Foot, Donkey Foot, Mule Foot

Club foot refers to a hoof that is more upright than normal. It is often associated with a concave front (dorsal) hoof wall, high (often contracted) heels, and widening of the white line from mechanical stretching of the hoof wall attachments (the laminae). Adult club foot requires a completely different approach to treatment than juvenile club foot.

In many cases, mild club foot is not associated with lameness or decreased performance. Many great performance horses have managed to perform well with a club foot. However, there is a greater likelihood of lameness occurring in club feet than in normal feet. There is increased sole bruising and other problems of abnormal weight bearing in horses with club foot. Radiographs may show chronic changes to the coffin bone from excessive concussion, and excessive pull from the deep flexor tendon.

In most cases of adult club foot, it is not possible to simply shorten the heel to create a normal conformation. The problem with club foot is abnormal forces generated in the hoof. The natural concussion dampening of the lower limb is lost.

A grading system is used to describe severity:

Grade 1 – Three degrees greater angle than the opposite, pronounced coronary band.

Grade 2 – Growth rings, broken forward.

Grade 3 – Dorsal hoof wall is obviously concave.

Grade 4 – Angle greater than 80 degrees will require surgical approach.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Will this conformational abnormality interfere with my expectations for this horse?
  • Does the problem cause lameness?
  • Is there anything that can be done to help the problem?
  • PREVENTION

    Recognize the problem in young horses and treat it then. Be on the lookout for this common condition in adult horses. Consider the grade and work with a qualified veterinarian and farrier to manage the problem effectively. It may be critical to shoe or trim the horse on a short interval in order to "keep up" with the problem.
    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

    RELATED REFERENCES

    Dryden V. Managing the Adult Club Foot. AAEP Proceedings, Focus on the Foot 2013:75-77.

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