Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Crooked Leg, Poor Limb Conformation (in Adult)

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If you are considering purchase, be sure to have a purchase exam performed.
  • If you want information on how to manage horses of this conformation to reduce the likelihood of lameness.
  • To ensure a correct diagnosis, have your vet examine the horse.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • If you want information on how to manage horses of this conformation to reduce the likelihood of lameness.

Very few horses have perfect conformation. In many cases, mild deviations from correct conformation do not cause the horse problems. However, some conformational abnormalities are taken much more seriously than others. A critical factor is the proposed or current use of the horse.

We generally tolerate less deviation from normal conformation in performance horses. But even this statement has its exceptions, because it depends on the particular deviation and particular discipline. For example, a horse with small feet and a pigeon toe may not be a good candidate for show jumping because show jumpers need to have relatively correct and heavy lower forelimbs due to repeated overloading of these forelimbs on landing. However, the same horse might be perfectly acceptable for pleasure use.

There is no guarantee that a particular conformational defect will cause problems. Problems are simply more likely than with a horse of perfect conformation. In almost all disciplines, there have been winning performance horses that have had poor conformation. Cannonero II won the Derby and Preakness in 1971 with a very crooked leg. Everyone knows the story of Seabiscuit’s apparently poor conformation. Generally, however, good conformation for a purpose predisposes to good performance.

WHAT TO DO

First, when you are evaluating limb conformation, be sure to stand the horse square, and on level, even ground . Compare right limb to left limb for reference. Stand in front and stand to the side. Take photos directly from the front and side, and take them of both normal and abnormal limb. Share these with your vet. When in doubt, contact your vet who can assist you in determining whether a particular conformational issue might cause problems for your horse given your chosen discipline and desired use.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet considers conformation in light of what the horse is expected to do. If you already own the horse, the question is whether management or shoeing can be changed to help preserve soundness in the face of the conformational defect. It can be hard to predict the future soundness of a horse with a limb conformational defect. In the case of a pre-purchase exam, we try to predict whether a horse of a particular conformation will be able to perform a certain discipline and remain sound.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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