What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Toe of Hoof Raises Off Ground when Weight Bearing


The deep digital flexor tendon attaches to the rear of the coffin bone (P3) within the hoof. Any disruption to the deep digital flexor tendon of the lower limb can cause a horse's toe or foot to raise off the ground while bearing weight.

This usually occurs when some or all of the tendon fibers are cut in an injury (usually to the back of the pastern or cannon bone), when the tendon is mechanically ruptured, or it may accompany chronic navicular syndrome. Often you will also see severe lameness or a sagging fetlock.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If severe lameness accompanies this sign.
    • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
    • If you do not notice lameness.

your role


What To Do

Confine your horse to a stall and call your vet immediately. Wrapping the limb will not help much but if your horse must be transported, splinting the limb with the toe flexed can help protect the area. Horses that recover after injuries to the tendon may still have mild elevations of the toe.


Your vet assesses the structure and function of the lower limb, especially the deep digital flexor tendon. In addition to assessment of the limb and lameness evaluation, ultrasound and radiographs may be required.

your vet's role

Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How lame is the horse?
  • Is there a wound or swelling in the lower limb?
  • Does your horse have a history of an old injury or chronic lameness of that limb?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP