Q. I have a pony with a rather upright foot. The other three are normal. The heels on the upright foot seem to grow faster than the toe, which tends to break off.
From the front, the hoof is quite straight sided as well. Is this a club foot, and if it is, is it a severe case?
Will trimming the heels right back cause an inbalance in the leg? I don’t want to make the horse unsound, but he does need to be a safe ride.
He moves beautifully and is not hindered by this foot in any way. How best should I trim this horse for his benefit?
Tammy, Santa Barbara
A. Hi Tammy,
Your horse does appear to have a grade 2 club foot (see Dr Reddens club foot grading system [The hoof angle is 5-8 degrees greater than the opposing foot with growth rings wider at the toe. The heel will not touch the ground when trimmed to normal length.] ).
This is evident by the dorsal wall dishing, and the growth rings being wider at the heel than the toe. As you’ve noticed, the hoof is also narrower than the other front when viewed from the front.
The club foot needs to be treated as a club foot, and should not be forced to match the other foot. When trimmed and maintained correctly, the chances are your horse will have a long and healthy career.
Club feet can occur due to various reasons, but for the first instance, so long as your horse is sound, the treatment is fairly straight forward. Trimming the heels back to the widest part of the frog ( normal farrier practice ) will bring the bearing surface of the hoof back underneath the horse to where it should be again. If this causes the heels to be off the ground when the horse is stood on a hard surface, then a wedged heel shoe should be used to support the foot.
If the horse can stand with his heels on the ground then a flat shoe can be used. We would then rocker the toe of the shoe so that the rocker is fairly well vertically beneath the dorsal coronary band. This will ease the break over strain on the foot, and help with rehabilitating the hoof.
What we would anticipate if the foot is set up correctly, is to have even growth rings around the foot over several trim / shoeing cycles. I suggest shoeing only for the fact that often these feet don’t hold up well at the toe, and can wear away or chip excessively.
This will of course be your decision and he may well hold up just fine barefoot with the heels trimmed back and a rocker rasped in the toe, but experience tells me shoeing is still your best option.