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


Excessive Bend in Hocks, Sickle Hocks


Sickle hocked conformation is common in Quarter Horses and draft breeds. Mechanically, sickle hocks place the hind feet far forward, engaging the hindquarters. It is an advantageous conformation for pulling and some other disciplines. It is common and desirable in draft breeds. Care should be taken to have a purchase exam done before buying a horse with obviously sickle hocked conformation.

It can also be the long term appearance of a horse that has had collapse of the hock joints following having hypoplastic (underdeveloped) tarsal bones as a foal. That condition ultimately often leads to chronic arthritis and lameness, and may lead to fusion of the lower hock joints.

Excessive sickle hock conformation loads the front part of the hock and predisposes the development of hock arthritis and strain of the tarsal plantar ligament (curb). That said, many horses with moderate sickle hocks are able to perform well at their chosen discipline.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you are considering purchase, be sure to have a purchase exam performed.
    • If you want information on how to manage horses of this conformation to reduce the likelihood of lameness.
    • To ensure a correct diagnosis, have your vet examine the horse.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If you want information on how to manage horses of this conformation to reduce the likelihood of lameness.

your role


What To Do

If your horse has sickle hocks, talk to your vet about your intended use and how you may minimize the disease processes associated with this conformation.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to normalize conformational faults through corrective shoeing or trimming without expert advice from qualified farriers and your veterinarian.

your vet's role

Your vet considers this conformation as a factor when they evaluate your horse for lameness or purchase.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are you considering the horse for purchase, or currently own the horse?
  • Do you notice any lameness?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP