Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Thinking about Clubfeet in Arabian Horses

Lest I forget, the next Horse Lovers' Blog Carnival will be hosted right here on Feb 21. The theme is All Things Equine which means all things, not just horses but, donkeys, burro, zebras, you name it, if it's an equine you can add your blog post. You can submit an entry Here Entries must be submitted by Feb 20, 2007 by 5:00 pm PST.

It's long been thought that clubfeet are a genetic disorder most prevalent in Arabian horses. In the past few years there is another school of thought emerging. As owners, trainers, veterinarians and farriers become more open to alternative treatments for horses, they are also accepting the possibility that external forces may contribute to clubfeet in some cases.

In my post An Arabian Mare's Death Due to the Halter Division's Dirty Little Secret. the clubfoot developed by the Arabian horse was a direct result of an extensive injury to her neck and shoulder. The clubfoot developed in the horse after she was mature. It progressed to the point that the foot was straight up and down with a 90 degree angle. This steep angle and the pain the mare was in from the initial injury caused laminitis in the mare. There will never be any way to know for sure had this mare received treatment for her injuries right from the start whether or not she would have survived this injury. But I believe there is evidence to suggest that is a possibility.

My personal experience with this issue is twofold. I own a mare that I foaled out as a baby. I was working as a groom in the facility where she was born. The filly did not manifest a clubfoot at birth nor for the first year or two of her life. She did get a bad case of epiphysitis as a yearling and spent an extended amount of time looked in a stall. Several years later I saved this mare from going to a livestock auction where she would have most likely ended up at the killers. By this time, she had developed the clubfoot. She has had several babies for me and not one of them has even a tendency for a clubfoot. I suspect that her clubfoot is connected to her early problems but I've been told the odds are that it is too late to correct the cause.

My second experience with a clubfoot and its cause is far more obvious. Eight years ago I had a filly born that was a badly windswept foal. The Arabian mare had gone a month over in her gestation and the foal was quite large. The only signs of dysmaturity the filly showed were the windswept syndrome and a low IgG. She was so badly windswept you could see the impression of her head in her left flank. Her legs and body were very crooked, all curving towards the left. She had difficulty with her balance but she didn't let it stop her from standing. She was determined to handle the world on her terms.

The vet who examined her told me not to worry about how crooked she was. He said she would straighten out just fine on her own given a little time. Af first it looked like he was right about that. Within a couple of weeks the filly was pretty straight and by about a month she seemed to be as straight as the other filly I had that year.

At two months I had this filly elvaluated by a trainer friend of mine and she was very interested in showing her at halter. Since the filly had the attitude for halter and also seemed to appreciate the added stimulation of being worked with on a daily basis and conditioned. I was planning on doing just that.

However, by the time the filly was six months old she looked like an entirely different horse. Her hip was mishapen. Her back was dropped. Her neck was short and upside down. Her throatlatch thick and both front feet were now club. I took the filly in to my trainer friend anyway because she wanted to see her, not believing there could be that dramatic a change in such an outstanding filly.

We decided to have Dr Louie Enos examine the filly. Dr Enos is a veterinarian with a degree in equine surgery and is trained in chiropractic and other alternative treatments. He has developed his own method of treatment, which includes chiropractic type adjustment followed by what he calls the re-education of the tissue memories of the horse. I had used Dr Enos before with great success.

To examine my filly, he had me walk in a straight line away from him. It only took a few seconds. As I walked back towards him, he explained he was going to take the filly and walk away from me. He wanted me to draw an imaginary line from the point of the horse's tail, through her whithers and then her poll. He said her spine should run straight along that line.

As he walked away with my filly, I was shocked at what I saw. The filly's back crossed the imaginary line three time before coming to her withers. Then her neck went off to the left and came back but never touched the line, even at her poll. This filly was still extremely bent from being so cramped in her mother's uterus.

Dr Enos worked on the filly for over three hours, adjusting her then stretching and bending her and adjusting some more. By the time Dr Enos had finished, the filly's spine and neck were perfectly straight. He had also adjusted her pelvis since she had manifested one hip lower than the other.

Conformationally, the filly had returned to what was her original shape. She had a deep beautiful hip, her back was no longer dropped, her neck was long and high set and correctly shaped with a beautiful fine throatlatch. The angle of her shoulder had changed back to the beautiful laid back shoulder she was born with. Her hooves needed to be trimmed to remove the extra heel she had grown because she had been moving incorrectly to compensate for the pain she was in.

To this day, this horse has never had another problem with a clubfoot, not even one instance of growing excessive heel. The original incidence resulted solely from her being windswept. She is an extremely talented athlete who would have been a cripple without the intervention of Dr Enos.

Not all incidence of injury that can result in a clubfoot in a horse are as dramatic as this one. Depending on the sensitivity of the horse, something minor could conceivably contribute to a horse developing more growth on its heel. Some horses will tolerate a lot of pain before they will compensate, other horses will tolerate very little. Also, some horses will not show obvious outward signs they are in pain but will use themselves differentlly to compensate any of which can result in the horse bearing weight improperly on the front feet which can in turn stimulate more growth on the heel.


  1. This is a great post! If a chiropractor can help humans, why not horses, etc!! The pictures of your Arabians are beautiful!!!

    Do you have a banner that I could post on my sight to promote the ALL THINGS EQUINE Carnival?

  2. This is very interesting. The Blue Roan filly we have was about three weeks overdue and huge at birth, her legs were swollen and bent at the knees for days after she was born and I had to actually physically lay her down after 24 hours because she just couldnt get down and she was so tired. She also had an odd appearance when she was born but fortunately they all straightened out quite quickly. The same mare who had her had the black and white baby that we have now and he was also huge at birth. I had to help her foal as his one leg and nose were coming out but the second leg was bent at the knee and she was struggling. I had to straighten out the other leg so that she wasnt straining so badly and woops out he came. Man he was so big and his spine was curved quite badly, looked like he had a big bump along his back. I was worried about that but it has straightened out nicely too. I must send you some of the pics that I took when he was 12 hours old. For some reason this mare always has her babies late evening, both were born about 10.30pm.

    I am so glad that both these fillies had you to look out for them, it is heartening to know that we make a difference even if it is small it is certainly a start and hopefully we can make more people realise what is right and what is wrong.

    We board a thoroughbred mare every winter and her owner comes up to see her every evening when he finishes work. He was telling me this evening about a Morgan horse he bought years ago that had been turned out in a big field, with lots of trees etc. When he asked the owner where the horse's water was the owner said he had never given it any water!!!!!! There was no river or pond in the big field but somehow this horse had survived five years without having been provided with water. He said when he got him home he had to be really careful to not let the horse take too much water too quickly as he was scared it would colic. I hate this kind of ignorance. In England it would never be tolerated, things need to change here too.

    Okay that is my blurb for the day LOL. Thanks for another great article.


  3. Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by at Turf Luck. What a great site you have going here! A visit to the Belmont Stakes in 2005 launched my interest in racing and horses, so pretty much everything on your site is news to me.

    It's funny I should discover you after reading an essay by Jane Smiley that discusses how the there's so little mixing anymore between folks who show horses and those who race horses. She's found that retired thoroughbreds often do well in other forms of competition, like dressage and jumping -- apparenty, at one time, all manner of "horse people" had more interaction, or were at least more aware of each other. I'm guessing you'd have some insight into that -- and I'd love to read it.

    Thanks again for all your comments - they made my day.

  4. I know nothing at all about horses, other to enjoy their beauty. This was a fascinating post, and I'm glad it had a good outcome.

    I'm like Janey Loree. I want to add your Carnival to our BLOG VILLAGE Community NEWS sidebar, but it will do better with a banner. I'll put up the text link for now.

  5. Thanks for talking about clubfeet. I saw a couple club and extremely toed in mares on my quest for my horse last year, despite over the phone being told "Yes, they have perfect legs." I am interested in learning more about horse chiropractors as well. I had a horrible stress injury in my right shoulder from lifting my 40 lb camera over the past 12 years. I was worried I wouldn't be shooting by the time I was 35. After a year of therapy and a great chiropractor, I feel back to normal. So I am sure they can do wonders for horses as well.

  6. Wow I love your blog. I hope you and your horses continue to grow and be successful partners. Feel free to check out my blogs

  7. I have four horses, an Hanoverian gelding, a Canadian mare and two Standardbred fillies. It is my intention to breed the females to their purebred counterparts.

    I am so pleased that I stumbled across your site as I want to know as much as possible all that can happen in the situation.

    I will bookmark and be returning to your site often. Thanks!

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