Q. A friend of mine has a new stallion, and his first crop of foals was just born. When they were born, all seemed fine. As they have been brought in to be weaned, we have started to notice that the foals all have the worst-shaped feet we have ever seen. They are all walking on their tiptoes, and their feet are very upright. One foal has been put down, as it could not walk properly. Will all of the foals that this stallion produces have similar problems?
Hayley, via e-mail
A. The condition you describe is commonly known as "club feet." It is properly referred to as a flexural limb deformity of the coffin joint. It is an acquired condition that usually happens between the ages of one and six months. It is recognized by a characteristic "boxy" shape to the foot with excessively long heels and worn toes, and often the anterior hoof wall acquires a dished appearance. This appearance is due to tension by the deep digital flexor tendon on the coffin bone, causing it to rotate back, resulting in weight-bearing mainly on the toe.
The underlying problem occurs through an imbalance in length of bone to the musculotendinous unit. It is thought that during the periods of rapid bone growth in the lower limb, where tendon lengthening might be disproportionately slow, it causes excess tension of the flexor tendons on the coffin bone.
Flexural limb deformities are part of a group of conditions known as developmental orthopedic diseases. Genetic predisposition to rapid growth is a major contributing factor. Overfeeding and nutritional imbalances are also in