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Equine Health Resource

Front Limb or Limbs appear Bow-Legged

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

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

    A bow-legged appearance is where the knees (carpi) deviate outward (carpus varus).

    This may be a conformational defect or result from a collapsed joint on the inside of the carpus due to lost cartilage that results from arthritis. Carpal arthritis is especially common in retired race horses and older horses. In older horses, carpal collapse is a progressive problem that can ultimately be crippling.

    Many of these horses are also pigeon-toed.


    Feel the knees (carpi) and compare them to one another. Do you notice swelling or heat? Consider the appearance of the hoof and how it is growing. Is it out of balance? Assess lameness at the walk and trot. Flex the limb to assess for pain response and range of motion.

    Take a photo of the limbs from the front, and send it to your vet for discussion.


    Your vet assess the severity and cause of the problem with physical and lameness exams. Radiographs may be an important test to gather more information. If this problem is not conformational in nature, your vet may provide treatment options.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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