I just love your site and have gotten so much good
information from reading it. However, there is one thing that you haven't addressed
and that is the club foot and uneven heel syndrome and l imb length disparity
issues. I have been looking at a horse for sale who has this and trying to read
as much as I can on it to see whether I should buy her or not. It would be great
to see something on your site that addresses these issues. Thanks again for your
wonderful site! Terry
Your best bet is to have a veterinarian and/or farrier
examine the horse and make a determination. Read this about veterinary pre-purchase
cover the subject of club foot, mismatched feet and other topics in our book Horse
Hoof Care and in "Common Problems" Chapter 11 of Maximum Hoof Power.
Here for your convenience are a few excerpts from Maximum
FOOT A DP imbalance
at the other end of the scale from LT-LH is the club foot which is essentially
a short toe-long heel. This type of imbalance often affects a hoof that has been
non-weight bearing for a period of time, because of an injury, for example. In
this case the club foot is usually temporary in nature and can be coached back
to a normal shape by judicious trimming and proper exercise.
Another type of mild club foot is caused by excessive wear of the bare toe from
pawing, toe dragging, or poor quality hoof wall. This type of club foot can often
be controlled by application of a half shoe, also called a tip shoe. Usually made
from the toe portion of a light shoe like a training plate, the half shoe protects
the toe of the hoof and leaves the heels bare to wear off in a normal fashion.
The ends of the half shoe are tapered and/or set into the hoof so there is not
an abrupt step where the shoe makes the transition to the quarters of the hoof.
If the toe of the hoof is worn back, the toe of the half shoe can be extended
out to the normal point of breakover. A side benefit of the half shoe is that
it cannot be stepped off!
A more serious type of club foot is caused by a contraction of the flexor muscle-tendon
unit that attaches to the coffin bone (Figure 5-DC). This club foot may occur
in one or both feet. It most commonly affects the fronts. The reasons for this
contracture are not clearly understood but as the tendon tightens, it pulls the
heels of the hoof off the ground and they tend to grow very long. The horse's
weight is shifted on to the toe which causes excessive wear and a dishing of the
Trying to forcibly lower the heels of this type of club foot is rarely a good
idea. In most cases, such an approach will make the club foot worse. It is better
to support the heels by an elevated shoe or a shoe in conjunction with a wedge
pad. If, when the horse is standing squarely, there is 1/4 inch of space between
the heels of the club foot and the ground, the amount of elevation should be 1/2
inch or more. This procedure allows the heels to bear weight, takes some weight
off the toe, and lessons the constant strain on the deep flexor muscle-tendon
unit. Sometimes this will break the contraction cycle, allowing the muscle to
relax enough so the hoof can be gradually lowered down over a period of weeks
to a more normal angle. In other cases, the horse may never be able to have its
heels lowered but may be comfortable and even useable with the elevated heels.
Foals with mild to moderate club feet, if diagnosed and treated early, have a
fair chance to perform unencumbered as adults. Advances in glue-on shoe technology
allow corrective shoes to be applied to foals at a few weeks of age. However,
it is difficult to predict which foals will respond to treatment. Yearlings that
have had extensive corrective trimming and shoeing to correct club feet may appear
normal but radiographs may show malformations of the coffin bone. Changes in the
coffin bone usually indicate a poor chance for the young horse to perform as athletes.
Mismatched feet, or high-low syndrome, usually affects the front feet. One hoof
tends toward LT-LH and the other tends to be clubby. Some farriers report that
over half of the horses they shoe have mismatched feet to some degree.
One approach to dealing with the high-low syndrome is to lower the heels of the
steep hoof and elevate the heels of the low hoof so hoof angles match. Where the
initial difference between the feet is slight (less than 5 degrees) this method
usually works fine and will not affect the horse's performance.
However, if the difference in toe angles is 5 degree or greater, it is usually
better not to force the hooves to be the same angle. Mismatched feet on a sound
horse are more "balanced" than matching feet on a lame horse. This is
why some farriers shun the use of a hoof gauge as a trimming guide. They feel
that it is better to align the hoof and pastern of each foot visually and to evaluate
the horse's movement when determining how to trim.
To attain dynamic balance and an even stride, it may be necessary to shoe a horse
with two different shoes on the fronts. For example, a horse might wear a squared-toe
egg bar on the low hoof and a thicker, full-toed plain shoe on the steep hoof
(Photo 11-13). The egg bar will provide support for the low heels and the squared
toe will help speed breakover. The thicker shoe on the steep hoof will make up
for the extra weight of the egg bar on the low hoof. The lower hoof seems to have
more natural "action" anyway and the steep hoof may need an even heavier
shoe to balance the movement. This symmetry of limb movement is more important
for horses that are being judged in the ring on the correctness of their gaits.
With most horses, however, it is sufficient to concentrate on shoeing to provide
When trimming mismatched feet, it is easy to trim the steep hoof too short. That's
why it is best to trim the low hoof first and then the steep hoof only enough
to match the toe lengths. One method of evaluating relative toe lengths is to
stand the horse on a flat level surface and view the knees from the front. The
bumps on the insides of the knees should usually be the same level. If necessary,
a rim pad or wedge pad can be used to elevate the low hoof.