Not all horses have symmetrical feet, and one of the more common problems horses develop is a "club foot" appearance. This problem might appear at birth or develop later in life. Horse owners and veterinarians can identify it based on classic signs and grades of severity.

Robert Hunt, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, in Lexington, Ky., recently tackled the topic of club feet in horses during the in-depth seminar "The Foot from Every Angle" at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) Convention, held Dec.1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

He defined a club foot as having an angle greater than 60 degrees (the angle the dorsal hoof wall makes with the ground). Usually there is at least a five-degree discrepancy between the affected foot and the opposite foot.

"Initially, an owner may recognize a space between the heel and the ground that develops slowly over two to three hoof trims," Hunt explained. "The second sign is that the coronary band appears square and full. Then, the foot appears boxy with a dish in the front of the hoof wall. And eventually, the frog becomes quite recessed, the hoof contracts, and the horse appears ‘back at the knee.’"

With this change in its biomechanics, Hunt said, "The foot is prone to injury since loading on the foot moves forward, altered from its normal, heel-first landing."

A more accurate description of a club foot is to call it a flexural limb deformity of the coffin joint. Hunt reported that, in most cases, shortening of the musculotendinous unit (which runs down the back of the leg) that shifts th