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Sickle Hock
  1998 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

 

Dear Cherry:

I have been trying to find out information about sickle hock in horses. How does it affect a hunter/jumper?  Is it a major concern?  How do you feel about a horse that has sickle hocks?  What is it exactly and how do you determine if your horse has sickle hocks?   S


Dear S:

    Excessive angulation of the hock joints (sickle hock).  When viewed from the side, the angle of the hock joint is decreased so that the horse is standing under from the hock down.  The plantar aspect of the hock is under a great stress, especially the plantar ligament.  A horse so affected is predisposed to sprain and strain of soft tissue support structures on the plantar hock region.  This is called "curby conformation".  From Horseowner's Guide to Lameness by Ted S. Stashak, DVM in collaboration with Cherry Hill.

    When you view a horse from the side, the point of his hock should be below the point of buttocks with the cannon relatively straight.  A deviation from this might be a horse with an entire hind limb that is set under too much (often called standing under behind) or a limb that is set out normally but with a hock that is too angulated (sickle hock).

    Some horsemen rationalize that a horse that stands under or has sickle hocks will collect easier or stop with its hind legs under it better and this may be true to some degree but soundness problems often occur and especially if traction devices are used on the shoes.

    Of course, as with any conformational aspect, there are "degrees" as in slightly sickle hocked to extremely sickle hocked.  Your best bet if considering purchasing a horse for jumping with this conformational trait is to have a veterinarian evaluate the horse and also have a very respected knowledgeable horseman experienced in jumping that is in your area evaluate the horse.  If you already have a horse with sickle hocks, learn how to monitor the limbs for early soreness.

Cherry Hill  

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