If you have ever come across a pigeon toed horse, you might be wondering what causes this condition, how it first develops, and whether it can be treated – as well as the impact that the condition has upon the horse.
Pigeon toe is a relatively uncommon disfigurement of the legs, and it can cause a variety of walking issues for the horse, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with this condition and recognize what – if anything – needs to be done to keep the horse as healthy as it can be.
Pigeon toe can vary in severity, so some horses may have it much more badly than others, while some horses barely seem to suffer from it at all.
Horses that do suffer from it may benefit from careful handling and some will require ongoing care and veterinary attention in order to live happy lives, as it can otherwise be extremely uncomfortable for them.
Pigeon toe is unfortunately not possible to cure unless the horse is very young.
If you have a horse with pigeon toe, it’s important to take the time to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the condition and what it may mean for you and your horse.
However, this condition is better than “toe out,” which is the opposite deformity and causes major weakness in the legs. In some cases, pigeon toe isn’t too bad!
What Is A Pigeon Toed Horse?
A pigeon toed horse is a horse that has hoofs that deviate in from the fetlock, generally in the front limbs, but occasionally in the back.
Often, the hoof will grow excessively on the inside, and this can result in an awkward stance or gait, depending on the horse and the positioning of the leg.
Pigeon toe is the result of the horse’s bones being crooked, especially in the lower half of the leg, and it cannot, therefore, be corrected once the horse has become an adult.
Sometimes, pigeon toe in a very young horse may be correctable, as the growth plates will still be open and the bones won’t have fully set, but this is a job that must be taken on by an experienced vet, and it is not easy to do, so it won’t always result in success.
As soon as the foal has grown, there is no way to correct pigeon toe, and all that an owner can do is manage the condition as best they can.
Pigeon toe can lead to all sorts of complications for the horse, especially if the condition is not managed well from the start.
It is crucial to understand how to look after your horse and minimize stress on its legs if you have one that suffers from pigeon toe, or the condition may get worse as the horse grows.
Horses with this issue are at greater risk of arthritis and soft tissue injuries, such as bruised hoofs.
Does A Pigeon Toed Horse Have A Deformity?
In general, pigeon toe is considered a defect, because it means that the horse’s legs are not in the perfect position to bear weight, and therefore extra stress is put upon the lower parts of the limbs, which can cause injuries.
It is fair to say that this is a deformity, and most vets will recognize it as such – as will breeders, which often leads to reduced prices for horses with this issue.
Often, pigeon toe will be most noticeable when the horse is standing, but depending on the severity, it may also be noticeable when riding the horse or when performing for events.
It’s a good idea to ride a horse that you are thinking of buying to get a feel for its movement and see how affected it seems to be.
Although pigeon toe is considered a deformity, it is not the worst out there, and in many cases, it will not have a major impact upon the horse – if it has any at all.
Many riders find that they don’t need to do anything special, although in some cases, proper management will be crucial to keep the horse healthy and comfortable.
Is Pigeon-Toed Hereditary In Horses?
Pigeon toe often is genetic, but it is not necessarily hereditary; many healthy mares and stallions can produce a foal with pigeon toe, and a pigeon toed horse is perfectly capable of producing a normal foal if it breeds.
However, it is possible for parents that have this condition to pass it on to their offspring, so be aware of this if you plan to breed a pigeon toed horse.
It should also be noted that this condition can be caused by the environment, and neglect (especially of the feet) is a sure way to cause it.
If you know that a horse has developed this issue as a result of poor farrier work and bad care, it should be safe to breed the horse, without the risk of its offspring continuing the fault.
In general, pigeon toe develops while the foal is in its mother’s womb, and it should be possible to detect it while the horse is still young. It’s important to try to do this, because it may be possible to correct the fault if it is caught early enough.
Whether the horse gets the fault through genetics or its environment, it is likely to be lifelong, so the more you can do at a young age, the better.
It is a good idea to look out for pigeon toe whenever you think of buying a horse, because a pigeon toed horse may need some careful treatment in order to thrive in your care. Although this condition is usually reasonably easy to manage and can easily result in a very capable and healthy horse, it is still worth consulting a vet before making a purchase. If your horse has bad pigeon toe, it could suffer from various complications, so it will need you to understand how to look after it and minimize the risks associated with this condition.