“I challenge you to every day to improve your powers of observation,” began Ric Redden, DVM, founder of the International Equine Podiatry Center in Versailles, Ky., during the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas. “Believe half of what you see and everything you understand.”

Redden explained his methods for evaluating foot flight and limb alignment in horses to the veterinarians in attendance. “This approach is beneficial for assessing horses of any age, from diagnosing limb deformities in foals to identifying potential high-risk factors in prepurchase exams of adult individuals,” he said. “This methodical protocol allows us to better understand variations in distance and structural angles that fall within the range of normal, as well as alterations that are not compatible with soundness. Using a systematic, methodical approach for every exam offers a useful means of enhancing our ability to record small details that may otherwise be overlooked.”

Typically Redden begins his examination by watching a horse walk away from him and toward him repeatedly, as well as assessing the standing horse. As he observes the horse, he envisions imaginary dots on each joint and a few other locations to evaluate how the joints and limb align. For example, he noted, in a horse with bowed forelegs, knees will appear bowed to the outside (away from the midline) when viewed from the front and compared to the area of hocks and heels on the hind limbs.

When viewing the horse from the front, Redden said to assign imaginary dots in the following seven places: <