Bouncing Knees a Problem?

Q. I have a 6-year-old Quarter Horse gelding that I trail ride in the mountains. He is noticeably "over at the knees." Often while riding, one knee or the other will wobble forward and back when we pause. He doesn't appear lame or swollen, but the bouncing makes me wonder if his tendons are sore. Most of my rides have uphill climbing, and I don't want to Bute him for every ride (three or four times per week). Do you think that the bouncing indicates discomfort? Is there anything that I can do to make him more comfortable?


A. Being over in the knees (also called bucked knees, knee sprung, or goat knees) describes a conformation in which the knees are forward of the vertical plane formed by the radius above and cannon bone below. Generally this conformational problem is more favorable with regard to soundness than its opposite, back in the knees (also called calf knees or sheep knees). Most that I have seen were present at birth and usually, but obviously not always, corrected before one year of age.

Those that persist tend to be intermittently forward when the individual is standing, especially when he's tired. I suspect the popping forward is simply a function of bearing weight on a limb or limbs that are less than ideally constructed for stability. In most instances, this apparent instability is either less obvious or not present when most of these individuals are in motion. To the best of my knowledge, this is more of an inconvenience than a problem. I do not think pain is associated, and I have not noted a tendency for those horses to have or develop particular problems. Personally I would not try to correct this via trimming or shoeing, nor would I treat this horse any differently than a more normally conformed individual. This horse, which is reportedly sound, has lived with and adapted to this less than ideal conformation for six years. So I believe that the old cliche, "Don't fix it if it isn't broken," applies here.

About the Author

William Moyer, DVM

William Moyer, DVM, is the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M and is President-elect of AAEP.

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