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Equine Club Foot

The equine club foot is defined as a hoof angle greater than 60 degrees. What we see externally as the equine clubbed foot is actually caused by a flexural deformity of the distal interphalangeal joint (coffin joint). Causes include nutritional issues, heredity, position in the uterus or injury. The condition is most often encountered in young animals and can be either congenital (they are born with it) or acquired. Often one front foot is worse than the other. Cases can be very mild or quite severe. A foal with coffin joint flexural deformity that is left untreated or treated unsuccessfully often suffers from lameness, chronic hoof abscesses, and laminitis. In the very young foal medical treatment may include oxytetracycline to relax the tendons on the back of the leg, splinting, and corrective trimming with toe extensions. When these medical therapies do not work or in severe cases surgical therapy involves cutting the accessory ligament (inferior check ligament) of the deep digital flexor tendon to allow manual manipulation of the joint and hoof capsule as well as allow the soft tissue structures to lengthen and assume a more normal orientation. Horses with more mild cases may be managed throughout their life with attentive trimming and shoeing.