Un­der­stand­ing club foot

Ab­nor­mally up­right con­for­ma­tion of a sin­gle foot is rarely just a “hoof prob­lem.” The im­bal­ance can af­fect a horse’s whole body. But most cases can be treated or man­aged read­ily.

EQUUS - - Contents - By Heather Smith Thomas

Ab­nor­mally up­right con­for­ma­tion of a sin­gle foot is rarely just a “hoof prob­lem.” The im­bal­ance can af­fect a horse’s whole body. But most cases can be treated or man­aged read­ily.

You are al­ways up for new chal­lenges, so when your friends de­cide to take dres­sage lessons, you sign up, too. But after watch­ing you ride, the in­struc­tor pulls you aside and says, “Just so you know, you’re only go­ing to be able to go so far with this horse in dres­sage. He has a club foot, and his strides will never be even.”

You stare at your horse’s front feet, but the dif­fer­ences are tough to spot. Sure, one hoof is slightly nar­rower and steeper than the other, but no horses’ hooves are ever per­fectly sym­met­ri­cal. And your horse has never taken a lame step in his life. Is this re­ally a prob­lem?

Prob­a­bly not. At least not for your horse, your far­rier as­sures you later. At­ten­tive trim­ming is keep­ing him sound, his gaits are com­fort­able to ride, he car­ries you hap­pily over the trails, and he has al­ways been able to do what­ever you have asked of him. In fact, he may even be able to do more. Horses with mildly clubbed feet have com­peted and won at the high­est lev­els of many ath­letic en­deav­ors, from en­durance and jumping to bar­rel rac­ing and cut­ting. As­sault, the “Club-Footed Comet,” won 18 races in­clud­ing the 1946 Triple Crown de­spite hav­ing a club foot on the right fore.

Still it’s a good idea to keep tabs on the con­di­tion of the up­right foot as well as how your horse moves over­all to catch any de­vel­op­ing prob­lems early. Here’s what you need to know.

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