Front Foot Flick

Q. My 12-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse often "flicks" his left front foot when putting it forward. His previous owners said it was only a cosmetic problem, but my friends say it hurts him when I ride. However, after our latest three-mile ride, he didn't show any pain. What could cause this, and might he be in pain?


A. Your horse should see a veterinarian who is familiar with walking horse gaits and has experience in examining lame horses. This vet will do a thorough lameness evaluation, which might include hoof testers and nerve blocks to localize the soreness, and possibly radiographs or an ultrasound examination to determine if he is sore. Does he do it when he's not ridden? When going up or down hill? In both directions on a circle? Many gaited horses develop uneven gaits because of the way they are ridden, or he might need a shoeing change.

Many things might be causing this that aren't serious; however, if it's very obvious, then you should have a professional examine the horse and determine if it is important. Once you have a diagnosis, you can then work with the veterinarian to correct it if he/she thinks it's important. The foot flicking is not diagnostic by itself, but the fact that you indicate it is only in one foot makes it significant. Go prepared to ride your horse for the veterinarian's examination.

About the Author

Dean Scoggins, DVM

The late Dean Scoggins, DVM, was an Equine Extension Veterinarian at the University of Illinois. His obituary was featured on, article 8578.

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