Club Foot (Book Excerpt)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from Breeder's Guide to Mare, Foal, and Stallion Care by Christine Schweizer, DVM; Christina Cable, DVM; E.L. Squires, PhD. This book is available from  

Acquired flexural deformity of the coffin joint is often referred to as "club foot." The foot's appearance can vary from dished with the heel raised to a boxy shape with the hoof wall nearly perpendicular to the ground. In very severe cases the foal or horse might walk on the front (dorsal) aspect of the hoof or fetlock. Mild cases might require only a decrease in nutrition; in young foals, weaning might work. Hoof trimming, along with a shoe with an extended toe, might be necessary.

If this conservative therapy does not work, surgery to cut the inferior check ligament is warranted and often very successful. Severe cases often do not respond well to treatment, including surgery, unless the entire deep digital flexor tendon is cut, which is a salvage procedure only. The prognosis for athleticism in these cases is guarded. The key is beginning treatment early. A delay in treatment or diagnosis can lead to undesirable results. Young foals should be evaluated daily to ensure they are not beginning to develop contracture or other developmental orthopedic diseases.

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