Horse Conformation Changes: From Toeing-Out to Toeing-In

What could cause a change in an adult horse’s leg conformation?
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horse conformation
A hoof imbalance resulting from trimming and shoeing could cause an apparent change a horse's lower limb confirmation. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q. I went to visit a friend and her 8-year-old Quarter Horse, and I noticed the horse was toeing in. I have known this horse since his birth and have pictures of him from over the years. Up to two to three years ago he was slightly toeing out. His legs turned out from the knees. This horse has had soundness issues in the past involving caudal heel pain in the right front and some undiagnosed lameness in the right hind, and he was out of work over the winter because of back issues. When I saw him the other day he was standing base narrow with both feet turning in. My first thought was his farrier must have caused the change, but could soundness issues be to blame?

Lynn, via e-mail

A. Conformation is a highly judged trait in horses. We evaluate it in the show ring, the sale ring, the foaling pasture—everywhere. Conformation can also be a major determinant of an individual’s athletic ability. For example, a horse with straight, “posty” hind legs may be less able to perform a sliding stop or a rollback turn

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Written by:

Josh Zacharias, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, is an Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate who practices at Countryside Large Animal Veterinary Services in Greeley, Colorado. His interests include equine lameness, surgery, and podiatry. In addition to working as a surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Zacharias is a farrier with nearly 15 years of experience in therapeutic shoeing applications. Much of his caseload includes Western performance horses.

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