Filly with Club Foot

rfsm.jpgThis is a 9 month old filly whose right front foot is clubby. It has been shod on the recommendation of several vets and farriers who believe the tendon is ‘tight’ (despite no evidence to indicate this), and shoeing it and gradually lowering the heel is expected to correct this situation.

The toe wall has begun to bulge out,  possibly  as a result of the shoe ‘holding’ the bottom of the foot while the rest of the foot tries to grow outward.


lfsm.jpg The left front leg is shown for comparison. Note the differences in the angle of the long pastern bone (P1)  in relation to the  short pastern bone (P2)







The heel is excessively high causing the club-foot appearance, and cannot be corrected on a six week trimming schedule. It needs to be lowered frequently (e.g. once a week in small increments) in order to keep ahead of the growth rate.  The rapid growth rate is indicative of a pathology that keeps the heel growing faster than the other foot.  It should be eventually lowered to about the height shown in Fig. 2 with the blue line markup.



rfoutsideb.jpg    rfmub.jpg

Fig. 1                                                           Fig. 2

 After the heel is lowered, or concurrently, the other imbalances, can be addressed. They are most likely created by the presence of a shoe preventing the foot from growing at the rapid rate at which a foal’s would, resulting in unevenness. They may even correct themselves once the shoe is removed and the heel is lowered. If not, the foot should first be trimmed at the outside toe (red line, Fig. 4), to lower the longwall on the outside. This long wall is probably contributing to the convex shape on the outside.  The inside heel (diagonally opposite the outside toe) should also be lowered so that the hairline at the heels eventually line up (Fig. 3).


rfheelmub.jpg   rffmu.jpg

Fig. 3                                                          Fig. 4

See another case of a clubfooted filly that was corrected with frequent trimming here

For a related study on how conformation can predispose a foal to club-footedness, please see this post.

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  1. Hey Christina,
    My farrier came out yesterday, looked at the x-rays (he had not seen them yet). He said the bones look great to him, especially the sole depth on the right. He said he would actually like to see more sole depth on the left than there is right now, and will work to make it deeper. He took off the shoe, brushed her heels back, controlled the flares a bit, left the toe alone, and said he couldn’t believe the difference from when he put the shoe on. I got to know him a little better, and found that he prefers to leave all horses barefoot unless there is a problem, or a heavy work schedule. I will get some more pics asap of her beautiful barefoot self. In the end he said he’d like to take the credit, but he believes it was a protein problem that made her muscles contract, not the ligament. I changed her grain from 16% protein to 10% and cut her ration in half about a week before he put the shoe on (one month ago). I think there were other things at work here, and you were right on in your diagnosis. I sent the x-rays and photos off to a podiatry vet at Rood and Riddle in KY, and he said he saw no problem whatsoever. I still don’t know why the original vet encouraged the surgery after looking at the x-rays, and I’m not sure how to approach him either. At any rate, I don’t think she even needs the splint. I’ll get those barefoot shots to you soon.
    Thanks for all your help, Molly

  2. Hi Molly
    Glad to hear you’re happy with how things are progressing. Do you mean to say the shoe is now off for good? (If so, great :-))
    I have to say, I’m not aware of large amounts of protein causing muscle contraction. And, the sole depth on the left looks more than adequate to me.
    Keep us updated on the progress, and send along pictures as this foot improves.
    Be sure to keep her on a frequent trimming schedule.

  3. Your blog has been tagged as Horse Approved. :o). Great blog, I am adding it to my site and I plan on visiting often.

  4. Hi Christina,
    I just got the comment you left on my site. Yes that was the page where your blog is now listed. I did a silly thing and forgot the blogs that I tagged as Horse Approved. I am a mom of three kids and I suffer from “mommy brain”. Anyway, your blog is listed on this page now.

  5. Hello i’m a farrier out in San Francisco California – i deal with alot of clubby feet – the photos you show don’t look to bad but the pastern bone angles should all align of course including the coffin bone- i had a arab mare that was quite clubby- we’d lower the heels to what would be considered normal with the other foot and within a couple weeks the heel would be all grown back out . Now you should know the Deep flexor tendon will not stretch. So if you cut the heels down what you are in essence doing is just putting alot of stress on the navicular bones and you’re going to be pulling on the coffin bone – remember that deep flexor tendon attaches to the back of the coffin after it wraps over the navic bones. So sometimes in severe cases you’ll see bruising of the sole right at the tip of the coffin bone area from that coffin bone being cranked – so go easy and try things out – there’s no real direct answers in a case like this . if you’re not riding the pony hard you’ll be in alot better shape of course. when i graduated from the mastery course of farriers in Oklahoma in 1991 i felt like there was something still missing about shoeing and careing for horses. so i did alot of research and testing and found something not taught – it’s an amazing method of shoeing and understanding – i’ve not had one lame horse in 16 years. i’m putting together a website to spread this much needed information to the public. i’ve seen much too much destruction of horses due to improper shoeing practices that are taught all over . website below
    john silveira

  6. The hoof wall and hairline are just part of a “Capsule” surrounding the bones and soft tissue within. What’s important is Bone alignment. You must trim a foot to put the bones in alignment – that means the right heel height as well as a level plane of the bottom of the foot. it’s not really important what the hairline is doing. If you hold the foot up but close to the ground then place your face directly over the foot there and flex the foot up and down you will see a travel line. You must trim the foot at a 90% to that line of travel to keep the bones in the foot from binding on a side to side basis. The bones don’t TILT inside the foot – they ONLY travel in a straight line forward and backward in a track in the bones. I know it’s difficult to understand here by text but hold your wrist in front of you(palm up) as if you were holding a horse’s foot. now grab your wrist with the other hand and flex your grabbed hand up and down. You see it travels alot that way – Now with your wrist still pointing up try to twist your wrist while still grabbing it so that your thumb points toward the ground – or your pinky to the ground – You see how little movement you get that way? it’s the same with a horse. you have to trim the foot 90% to the up and down movement to keep the bones from being tweaked. you have to keep the foot “Square”. Hairline doesn’t really matter – it’s just the capsule. Of course heel height is important .

  7. I’m afraid I must disagree. The hairline is your best indicator, absent radiographs, of the position of the coffin bone inside the hoof capsule. The hairline is the exterior covering of the coronary corium which produces the hoof wall and is where the coffin bone is attached to the hoof capsule. It is very malleable, like a ‘water balloon’ as one vet I know put it. Push on one end, the other pushes out. Pete Ramey discovered this recently when he did some foot dissections, which can be seen on his website. He removed the hoof wall and showed how pressure on the bottom affects the shape at the hairline.

    Yes, the bones will indeed ’tilt’ inside the hoof capsule in response to uneven pressure. Granted, not as much as they move in the A/P direction as you describe. The joint space will change and become narrower on one side and wider on the other. Eventually the joint will adapt into this position and arthritic and boney changes will result. (You can see an example of this on Xray in this post).

    The main reason for a level plane of the foot is to apply a flat shoe. If the walls need to be trimmed ‘unevenly’ to correct a problem, the bare foot can accommodate this correction and the foot will actually change, sometimes in as little as a few minutes, to become level.

    The problem with keeping the foot ‘square’ is that you work from the bottom (the ground surface) up rather than from the leg, down, and this is a self-referential method ignoring the issues the leg and foot present. Using the hairline as the guideline works with the horse’s anatomy.

  8. Hairline working with the anatomy as a guage for level is soo untrue and inaccurate. Most people know the hairline can be jacked on the medial side compared to the lateral side or vice a versa independant of what the bones are actually doing inside the foot / i see it all the time. If you’ve ever seen actual bones of legs ( you probably have ) there is very little space inbetween the joints so an unlevel foot will have the effect of pinching the joint laterally or medially dependant on which side of the foot is shorter or longer “Irregardless” of what the hairline is doing “Period”. What cannot be disputed is the feet break over in a line of travel ( a plane of movement )when you look at the ground surface of the foot in relation to that plane of travel the ground surface of the foot simply must be like a “T” square at a 90 degree angle to that line of travel – simply put any deviation from that will put bind on the joints and again i’ll say “Irregardless” of what the hairline is doing – it’s simple mechanics . The hairline “Moves” and changes but what does NOT change is the formation of the “BONES” they’re “NOT” going to adjust to an UNLEVEL FOOT – NEVER. The instant one side of the foot is longer than the other in relation to joint travel the horses foot is out of balance and in jeoprady of lameness – and i don’t need to quote anyone else to know that as the truth.
    I think you’re mistaken when you say working with the foot “Square” is working from the ground UP as you put it – it’s quite the opposite – when i pick a foot up it’s “ALL” about the leg and the bones and joints – when i flex the foot while holding it to establish it’s axis of travel and trim the foot to 90 degrees of that it’s guaranteed “Guaranteed” when placing the foot back on the ground the joints will be in alignment – i work from the leg down – the very last thing i take into consideration is the ground ( The ground is simply a “GIVEN” and something “WE ALL” stand on – not just horses.
    Your comment suggesting the “MAIN” reason for a level plane of foot is to fit a flat shoe is an obvious indication you’re not grasping the concept – i can do a terrible job of triming the foot and make the ground surface of the foot totally uneven – but as long as it’s still trimmed 90 degrees to the line of travel of the foot i’m still guaranteed with a capital G that the bones will be in alignment from the medial lateral perspective and be damned what the hairline is doing which could be just about anything !!!
    i posted a quick dirty video on my blog at showing how i establish level irregardless of what the hairline is doing. “Everyone” i explain the concept to realises the practice is indesputable and fixed in basic “Laws” of how things work – don’t want to sound so cliche’ but here goes ” Laws of the universe”..

  9. I’ve been reading your blog once in a while and decided to reply for the first time, thank you for writing all of this.
    love it!
    קידום אתרים

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