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


Hind Limb and/ or Hoof Swings Outward at Walk or Trot


Horses may do this as a consequence of their conformation, weakness or lameness. If they are reluctant to flex the hind limb, then the only way to advance it may be to swing it outward. For some horses, this may be their "normal way of going" and they may perform fine while moving this way. But this observation is also commonly made in horses affected by neurologic conditions like "Wobbler Syndrome", and other diseases affecting the spinal cord.

Certain breeds tend to move this way, especially some of the gaited breeds like Tennessee Walking Horses. Shoeing and trimming can also affect the arcs of flight of the feet, contributing to this observation.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
    • If this is associated with severe wobbliness and it seems to have just started.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp>101F/38.3C), or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the problem is subtle or slowly changing.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Consider the situation. Is this a horse you are planning to purchase? Is this something that you only just noticed? Do you notice other apparent problems with the horse, like stumbling or lameness?

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying special attention to the limbs and any signs of weakness or wobbliness. Compare the travel of the hind limbs to one another. Does this seem more obvious on one side or the other?

What Not To Do

Do not ride your horse if it you feel it could be unsafe to do so.

your vet's role

If the problem seems severe or is worsening, your vet will want to perform a physical and neurologic exam, and possibly a lameness exam on the horse. Other diagnostics might be necessary to determine the nature of the underlying problem.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the age and breed of the horse?
  • Has anything changed with respect to shoeing or trimming?
  • When was the horse last shod or trimmed?
  • Have you noticed a change or has the horse always seemed to move this way?
  • Is the problem getting better, staying the same, or worsening?
  • Have you noticed any other problems like tripping or poor performance?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • Do you notice any apparent unsteadiness or wobbliness?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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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
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP