Q: I have a really good horse, but her right front foot is pigeon-toed. I need to use her for 4-H, but will this get worse as she gets older? And what can I do to help her? —Rainey Facer; Layton, Utah
A: Don’t feel too bad about your mare, because there is no such thing as a horse that has perfect conformation or limb alignment. Most are such good athletes that they can compensate for these problems.
Any combination of several possible deformities in the leg may result in a “pigeon-,” or turned-in, toe. The abnormal turn may begin in the knee and/or fetlock joint, or a bone such as the radius or metacarpal may itself be twisted.
Whatever the cause, in a horse with mature bone structure like yours, your farrier needs to trim and shoe with the goal of making it easy for your mare to break over—or roll her foot forward—over the side of her hoof, beside the toe, because that’s how her leg is made to function. When your mare moves, she will paddle or wing out on the side with the deformity, but this is seldom a functional problem. No attempt should be made to correct the paddling because it will make your horse sore.
Over the long term, your mare will be more likely to develop sidebone0 or ringbone0, but if her feet have been cared for well, she should remain sound for ordinary light use, such as trail riding.
Mike Miller, MD, CJF, AWCF