Club Foot or Upright Foot? It’s All About the Angles

Proper diagnosis is important to determine a maintenance plan

Pictured Above: A club foot is a morphological change in the hoof that’s due to a shortening of the musculoskeletal tendinous unit of the deep digital flexor tendon, says Vern Dryden, an equine veterinarian and farrier. The contraction creates a downward pull on the third phalanx. Photo: Vern Dryden

It’s not uncommon to observe minor asymmetries in any horse’s feet. But when there is a significant difference between a pair of hooves, typically the front, the unevenness may be attributable to club foot. Club feet are estimated to be present in 5% to 20% of the equine population.

Horses with significant disparities between a pair of hooves often are separated into two categories: an upright foot, or a club foot.

Severity Of Asymmetry

The distinction between using upright foot and club foot boils down to the severity of asymmetry between the two hooves.

Farrier Takeaways

  • An upright foot can be a club foot and vice versa. The severity determines the grade and course of action.
  • When a club foot is addressed early with nutritional, trimming and shoeing changes and/or surgery, horses can have successful careers.
  • Club feet are highly inheritable, although one breed is not more predisposed than another.

“The club foot has a bad stigma about it,” says Vern Dryden, an equine veterinarian and farrier with Bur Oak Veterinary and Podiatry in Lexington, Ky. “Sometimes we say it’s an upright foot when it’s used to describe mild asymmetry in cases that the horses can have a successful career. But…

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Katie navarra

Katie Navarra

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer who draws from her experiences owning and showing horses, and inter­viewing the industry’s leading pro­fessionals.

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