Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Can horses have club feet?

Horses have a disorder that is called club foot. It's a deformity of the coffin joint - the joint in side the hoof - which results in an uprighthoof with long heels and a prominent coronary band - the top of the hoof sticks out.

Club foot is actually quite common in horses and can be congenital or acquired. If its acquired it's sometimes caused by an imbalanced diet and excessive exercise, or by an injury in young foals. The foal's diet should not have too much energy content (in some cases, club foot corrects itself on weaning, indicating the mare's diet is the problem). Club foot can cause permanent lameness and secondary conditions as the horse matures.

Treatment generally consists of limiting the foal's exercise (not fun for foal or owner) and adjusting the shape of the foot with a therapeutic trim. These days it's also common to give an intravenous antibiotic which has a side effect of relaxing tendons - this can cause the foot to drop back into a normal position. The limb is also often wrapped. In extreme cases, they may partially cut the check ligament. Adult horses with club foot often require special shoes and pads, and seldom perform well.

Severe club foot on a Quarab mare. Image source: Eadgyth via Wikimedia commons.

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