OATK in thoroughbreds

Can anyone speak to me about the prevalence of “over at the knee” legs on racehorses ? I’m curious to know if it’s a genetic fault being bred into them, or if it’s a developmental issue from being worked hard at a young age.
I’ve had more OTTBS than I can count and nearly every one has had some degree of being OATK. To the point where when I’m looking to purchase another I completely gloss over that fault as nearly every single horse listed has that going on.
Keep in mind these are lower end horses at small Canadian tracks , not your high end KY bred racehorses.

Can anyone weigh in on the reasoning behind this fault , or at least tell me I’m not the only one noticing it ?
And have you ever seen (a horse being OATK) create serious soundness issues ? Or is it something you generally see more as a blemish than a structural risk ?
Thanks !

I see a ton of over at the knee that’s actually heel pain from bad shoeing. Fix the feet, the horse is straight. Bad shoeing is rampant at lower end tracks, so no surprise when a ton of those horses are popping over. :woman_shrugging:

1 Like

That would make a lot of sense actually.
I have yet to get a racehorse who’s feet don’t make me immediately cringe.
You’d think proper shoeing would be a priority when comfortable feet could be the difference between losing and winning a race.
Add that to the long list of things about the racing industry that I completely fail to understand.

1 Like

In general if you see OATK in a race horse, you know it’s from remodeling from the stresses of track/racing & shoeing angle. OATK is largely human-made, not genetic – although I have seen one or two young horses with conformational OATK, which is a flaw.

IMHO a total non-issue for non-racing pursuits, provided there are no injuries as a result of the OATK conformation.

Like Simkie said, OATK can be a postural change because of chronic heel pain. Bad angles are very common for race horses, because they’re shod with longer toes and underrun heels because there is a perception this improves breakover. It also improves the likelihood of soft tissue strain and soreness.

Fix the feet and you should have a nice horse on your hands.



I don’t think racehorses are shod that way on purpose, I think it’s just some bad farriers and lots of bad practices. Generally speaking, common sense is shorter toe, better break over. About 10 years ago it was all the rage—Assmussen was doing it— to square the toe on everything, which I hated. But I don’t know anyone going for a long toe on purpose.

Bear in mind that cheap on or newly off track TB feet are generally going to be universally crappy regardless of the quality of the farrier, because when a horse is at the bottom and not performing the owner stops paying bills, and they don’t get their feet done every 4 weeks. Even if a good farrier is shoeing, they can’t do much with overgrown feet.

Sorry, that doesn’t really answer OP’s question, but I just hate to see people grousing about racetrack farriers. Cheap tracks mean no money, no money means as long as you can go between shoeing, and that’s why you see the crappy feet.

I have seen them shod that way on purpose. Trainers at the track are requesting longer toes “for better breakover”. It has been like this for years - at least long as I have been involved in rehoming OTTBS (early 2000s). I have never gotten a TB from the track that has not had this trim style - and many of my TBs came from quality connections, not bottom rung trainers.

Have you been to the track recently? I don’t know many actively racing horses that are not at the very minimum reset before every race… I dislike using “always” and “everyone” but it hasn’t been my experience at all that the low end claimers go longer without trims. If anything it is the opposite, they are run more and reset more in light of it.

The bad feet at the track are because of hard concussive work, poor angles, and them being 1-2 years old (generally) and shod while they still have lots of maturing to do, even in their feet. It all comes together for pathologically unhealthy hooves that can sometimes take years to revert.

Guess I’ve had the privilege to be among excellent racetrack farriers and good horse management. Our 2 year olds would be barefoot until they started galloping in earnest, and we started them late. IME, cheap horses aren’t reshod before every race; they’re running every 2 weeks. I have seen bad farrier work on good horses and great farrier work on cheap horses. Guess it all just depends.

Thanks everyone! This has been quite informative. And I feel less crazy knowing that it’s not just me seeing things (because if I stare at any horse long enough I can pick something that is off - even if it’s not there haha).