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


Hoof too Upright, Club Foot


Differences in hoof angles between feet are common and are not necessarily a problem in sound horses. They can be simple conformational differences, and there is a wide range of what is considered normal.

In some cases, an excessively steep-angled hoof results from a relative shortness of the deep digital flexor tendon, a critical tendon which runs down the back of the limb and attaches to the lowest, rear (palmar) part of the coffin bone within the hoof. This excess tension lifts the heel and causes the hoof to be more vertical with respect to the ground.

In most cases, there is also a deformity of the hoof, including a dish to the front of the hoof wall, obvious growth rings in the hoof wall which are wider at the heel, and a dropped or convex sole. In some cases, there is chronic sole bruising.

Like many mechanical problems of the limb, the longer the problem exists, the less possibilities there are for treatment. The best approach is to discuss any conformational defect with your farrier and vet at your earliest opportunity.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.

your role


What To Do

Compare the appearance and angles to that of the opposite hoof. Assess the hoof from rear and side. Feel for digital pulse and heat in the hoof.

Assess lameness at the walk and trot. Take photos of the side of the limb with horse standing on flat hard surface, and send them to your vet and farrier for evaluation.

What Not To Do

It is usually not desirable to try to match the hoof angle to match the other hoof. This often results in lameness and a long-term worsening of the problem.

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

Do not take a "wait and see" approach with young foals and legs. Although some foal's conformation improves with time, there may only be a small window of time in which treatment could change the outcome. If you are not certain, work with your veterinarian.

your vet's role

Your vet and farrier will consider the nature and severity of the problem, in light of your work or performance expectations and the age of the horse.

Management of hoof abnormalities like this are best handled through cooperation between vet and farrier.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • Does the front (dorsal) hoof wall appear dished or concave?
  • Is one foot or multiple feet affected?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Has your farrier managed this problem in any special way?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • How does this foot compare in heat and pulse to the others?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP