Hello my friends. Would like to thank everyone who comments on these articles, i'm glad to hear they make a difference in your comprehension of your horse's feet.
Today i want to touch on Club feet / the club footed horse. It's quite common to see clubby feet , can't say i've ever seen rear feet with the condition so it's pretty safe to say club feet occur on the front feet as a rule. Though extreme clubby feet can cause problems the good news is i've shod quite a few club footed horses that i've never had a problem with at all and that is with the horse being used nearly every day.
So what is a club foot? In my experience it's either completely a genetic condition where the bones of the foot have just developed and grown this way , particularly the coffin bone , or the horse has a short deep flexor tendon which demands the foot grow more heel to relieve the stretch being placed on that tendon , the later is the least severe of the two.
Let's look at a couple photos , one picture is worth a thousand words. Below is a left foot quite clubby , to a point it concerns me while the right foot is completely normal ( long and due for a trim but normal ).
This is a example of another club foot . If you want to start to notice you'll see in clubby feet it's almost without fail the bones ( pastern bones and in severe cases even the coffin bone ) are stuffed and pressed toward the front of the horse's hoof wall, It's just Packed right up against the hoof wall . As the horse needs to walk during the forward motion those bones are being pressed even further against the front of the hoof wall.
You'll also notice in nearly every case the bulbs of the foot are very large , in this case you can see that because the bones ( pastern bones ) are so forward the bulbs become extra large ( the rear of the coronary band )
In this severe case below you can also see the horse is forced to stand on the tip of the coffin bone, not only are the bones smack against the coronary band but that poor coffin bone is straight up and down , and you'll usually see all that Dish Shape to the hoof wall at the toe. look at the length of the heel as well which is quite long, With that coffin bone already pointing straight into the ground you'd not want to shorten that heel because the deep flexor tendon attached to the rear of the coffin bone is going to be forced to stretch more than it already is in turn driving that already rotated coffin bone more straight into the ground, that coffin bone can only take so much twist before it starts to rip through sensitive tissue within the foot causing internal bleeding of the foot as it rips through blood vessels.
Having a club footed horse becomes an exercise in judgement when it comes to shoeing or trimming to maintain the soundness of the horse unfortunate to have the problem. There's no way to really assess just how exactly to trim the foot / feet for optimal foot care. Finding the happy medium is somewhat a trial and error method if you will. Since you'll not want your horse standing on the tip of the coffin bone it's usually a good idea to shorten the heels but just how much becomes the question - remember we don't want to drive that tip of the coffin bone further downward. Use caution when trimming - Don't take off too much heel all at once.
I've seen quite severe club footed horse's have the heels over time shortened all the way back to normal through constant trimming down in that area but i wasn't sure it was the best thing to do to the horse. The result ( i wish i had the photo ) was the foot looked more like a parrot beak to use the only analogy i can think of and i'm sure the deep flexor tendon was stretched to the max.
What i usually do is leave a little bit of the flare at the toe there to balance the timing of breakover with the more normal foot so the horse is more balanced in the way it's trotts off and some kind of middle path when it comes to heel length.
For your information you should also know clubby feet are talked about/rated on a scale from one to ten - one being the least amount of clubbiness and ten being the most severe. i might say up to a 5 is workable and achieving some balance between the feet is possible but from 5 through 10 you're going to have some serious considerations with your horse when it comes to lameness prevention/ exercise extreme caution with what kind of work the horse is being asked to do. Know that with proper carea club footed horse can be managed and have a long and healthy life.
This has just been a bare bones basic explanation. If you have any further questions please feel free to ask . Direct your questions to me personally - John@Care4Horses.com
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