Pigeon-toed -- or "toed in" -- horses have front feet that point slightly inward toward each other. The condition is extremely common and can be due to genetics or hoof health. Genetically pigeon-toed horses cannot be cured after the age of 12 months, as their bones are too hard. While the condition does not cause problems in the majority of horses, a horse that is pigeon-toed due to problems with uneven foot growth can be helped with trimming. Trimming relieves uneven stress on the horse's joints; however, remedial trimming of a foot should only undertaken under a farrier's advice, as incorrect trimming will unbalance the foot and exaggerate any problems.
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Tie your horse up securely and stand at its left shoulder, facing the tail. Run your hand down the back of the left foreleg and gently lean your weight against the shoulder until the horse picks up the leg.
Hold the leg by the cannon bone (shin) and gently flex the foot upward toward the cannon bone. If the foot is more or less in line with the cannon, the horse is not severely pigeon-toed and can be helped with trimming. If the foot falls toward the inside of the cannon bone, the condition is severe or genetic and should only be approached by an expert.
Pick up the leg again and examine the foot carefully. A pigeon-toed horse will have uneven wear on its feet, with the outside of the hoof worn more than the inside. The aim is to have the foot looking even and symmetrical. Identify any uneven areas of wear or places where the wall of the hoof looks thicker than the rest.
Stand facing the horse's tail. Pick up the left foreleg again and tuck it between your legs from behind, resting it on your right thigh. Use the rasp to remove any ridges from the outside edge of the hoof, working with firm, even strokes. Reducing the height of the outside edges will cause the horse to roll its weight onto the outside.
Discuss specialist shoeing with your farrier. Pigeon-toed horses are often fitted with remedial shoes to encourage them to redistribute their weight, but these shoes should only be fitted by an expert. The process of curing a pigeon-toed horse will take months or even years, but the feet should be trimmed often and kept flat and even to encourage recovery.
Tips and warnings
- Always consult a farrier before trimming a foot. Many pigeon-toed horses do not require any intervention, and the joints of older horses will have adapted to the condition. Incorrect trimming can cause unrelated problems or greatly exaggerate the original problem, causing permanent damage to the horse.
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