Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

Flexural Deformity Fetlock Joint, SDFT

Synonyms: Contracted Tendon, Contracted Foal, Contracted Fetlock, Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon (SDFT) Injury


The term "Flexural Deformity" refers to excessive flexion of a joint. This usually relates to excessive tension within one or more of the flexor tendons. If the tendons that support the back of the fetlock joint are too "short" or tight (relative to the length of the cannon bone), the result is a very upright fetlock joint.

The structures involved in this syndrome in young horses are, to varying degrees, the superficial digital flexor tendon, the deep digital flexor tendon, the suspensory ligament and the joint capsule itself.

Like flexural deformity involving the hoof (the deep digital flexor tendon), foals can be born with this disorder (congenital), or can acquire it during growth (acquired). Each of these syndromes is likely to have a different cause and is managed differently.

In cases of acquired flexural deformity, over-nutrition, imbalanced nutrition and underlying lameness can be to blame. The problem can be present on either front or hind limbs.

DIAGNOSIS requires history and physical exam, assessment of the area, lameness exam, and possibly x-ray and ultrasound.

TREATMENT- Treatment depends on many factors but generally is surgical. The effective length of the deep digital and superficial flexor tendons can be changed with check ligament operations (inferior check, and sometimes superior check). In very severe conditions, even the superficial digital flexor tendon can be cut.

my role


I might observe

You might make these observations when a horse has this condition.

Very Common
Less Common
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Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • Why does the foal have this disorder?
  • What treatments are available and how successful are they?
  • Would I expect to see this disorder in progeny of this horse?
  • How should nutrition be modified to manage this problem?
  • What exercise protocol is best to manage this problem?

Select for horses of good conformation. Ensure that nutrition is balanced. Do not overfeed energy to growing foals. Appropriate hoof care is also important in managing and preventing flexural deformities.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP