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




"Pigeon toe" refers to conformation of the limbs such that when viewed from the front, the hoof from the fetlock down deviates inward. This is much more common in front limbs. Pigeon toed limbs usually grow excessive hoof on the medial (inside).

Horses that have pigeon toe conformation usually paddle when viewed from the front. In this gait, the hoof rolls over the outside wall at breakover and the hoof travels in an arc to the outside.

Pigeon toe conformation results from crooked bones, usually in the lower limb. The only opportunity at correcting the bones is in a very young growing foal. In older horses, the growth plates are closed, the bones are "set" and the problem can only be managed, not fixed.

Pigeon toe is considered an undesirable conformation. This conformation and way of going loads the lower joints of the limb in a very uneven way. Depending on severity and use of the horse it may increase the likelihood of arthritis and ligament injury of the lower joints. It also loads the hoof unevenly causing overloading of parts of the hoof and soft tissue injury like bruising of parts of the hoof. Horses with severe pigeon toe may not be suitable for performance use.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • For foals under 3 months of age, involve your vet immediately.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Work with your vet and farrier to shoe or trim hooves to minimize consequences of this conformation.

your role


What To Do

Understand that this problem arises out of a conformational abnormality, usually in the lower limb. The hoof grows unevenly because of the unequal forces on inside versus outside. As the hoof grows longer, it worsens the problem. Understand the difference between management of pigeon toe in an adult from the necessity of diagnosis and early treatment in the growing foal.

In the adult: While shoeing or trimming is important in keeping the hoof from overgrowing, the limb cannot be straightened through shoeing or trimming (unless the whole problem is from poor hoof balance to begin with and that is rare). Shoeing or trimming must be kept on a short interval (6 weeks) and seeks to minimize the torque created by the unequal loading. This is done in many different ways by practitioners of different types but the basics include attention to balance and shortened breakover.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to correct this conformation through trimming, without professional guidance. That is usually not possible and can result in other problems.

your vet's role

Your vet can help evaluate a horse that is pigeon toed and provide you with your treatment options.

In the young horse, your vet can make a diagnosis and recommend options. In the older horse, a lameness exam and radiographs are diagnostics that help your vet better understand the impact this confirmation might be causing, whether it be lameness, soft tissue injury and/or arthritis.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When was the last shoeing?
  • Do you work with a farrier that you trust and can communicate with?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Is your farrier shoeing or trimming in the same way as in the past?
  • What is the shoeing or trimming interval?
  • Has your farrier managed this problem in any special way?
  • Do you notice any lameness?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP