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


Back at the Knee, Calf-Knee


This is a serious conformational fault of the front limb, wherein the cannon bone angles backwards causing the carpus (incorrectly referred to as the knee) to be positioned too far rearward. When viewed from the side, the limb does not appear straight but is bowed backwards at the carpus.

This conformation puts stress on the front of the carpus and may contribute to the development of fractures of the small carpal bones and carpal arthritis. It is considered highly undesirable in horses expected to perform, especially race horses. However, mild calf-knee may be tolerated in pleasure horses.

  • 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.

your role


What To Do

Do not purchase a horse with this conformation without having a purchase exam performed. Talk to your vet about whether your expectations are reasonable given the conformation of the horse. It is vital to select horses of good conformation for your intended use.

For a horse you already own, you may need to lessen work and reduce your expectations in order to reduce wear and tear and the chance for injury. You should regularly monitor this area for reduction in range of motion, swelling and heat. Be on the lookout for lameness. Take a photo and send it to your vet for discussion.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to straighten a horse's conformation through shoeing or trimming, without expert guidance.

Do not purchase a horse without a veterinary purchase exam.

your vet's role

As with any conformational abnormality, your vet assesses this in light of many factors, especially the horse's use and presence or absence of lameness. Vet's consider this conformation a "red flag".
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Was a purchase exam performed before buying the horse?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • Are you considering the horse for purchase, or currently own the horse?
  • If you are considering purchase of the horse, can we schedule a purchase exam?
  • Is there heat, swelling or pain in the area?

Related References:

Bennett D. Principles of Conformation Analysis, Volume 1. Gaithersburg: Fleet Street, 1988.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP