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If The Shoe Fits #3

Randy Sublett

(Randy, a practicing farrier, writes articles oriented to horse owners.)

So winter is over and spring is in full swing. You have gone to the sale barn and bought yourself a new mount. Well, now that the horse is paid for and at home in your barn, I guess it might be time to take a look and see what it is that you have purchased. I told you before and I'll tell you again: You should have looked before you bought, but the color of the horse was just right wasn't it? Sucker!

In the ideal conformation, the weight of the horse is evenly distributed over the hoof and all of the joints are in proper alignment. When the joints are in alignment, there will be no excessive strain on the joints or other structures of the limb. A foal may not be born with ideal conformation, but through careful trimming of the feet, proper exercise and good nutrition, most horses can obtain a good degree of this conformation.

Toed-out conformation is very common but the causes can be hard to identify. Congenital - meaning inherited - cause much of this deviation, but a major cause is one that is most often overlooked. If your horse has a relatively short neck and is fed on the ground all of the time, the way in which the animal must stand in order to feed will cause a toed-out deviation. This, coupled with lack of proper foot care, is a sure thing for toed-out. A narrow-chested animal coupled with a base-wide conformation are also causes of a toed-out condition. In the toed-out horse, the pastern bones are twisted. The cannon and the knee can also be affected. In the toed-out horse, the weight is distributed over the inner half of the foot, causing this area to wear down faster. Trim the foot lower on the outside and the foot will turn back in; however, there is a limit as to how much this can be done.

The toed-in deviation is just the opposite of the toed-out condition. Imagine that. To turn the feet outward, trim the inside of the foot lower. Remember, there is a definite limit to how much can be done to correct the alignment of the limb and joints. The rule of thumb is to never trim one side of the hoof more than 1/4" in difference from the opposite side. So if a narrow chest with a base-wide conformation can cause a toed-out deviation then guess what? A wide chest with a base-narrow conformation will cause a toed-in conformation. See, this isn't so hard.

Knocked-kneed horses should be left at the sale barn. In foals this condition can sometimes be corrected by placing the animal in a cast. Not cheap. In the older horses the foot needs to be balanced and jar calks placed on the shoe to prevent the foot from twisting during the phase of the stride just before the foot leaves the ground. Not cheap.

Bow leggedness is often associated with a base narrow conformation. This deviation is congenital or may be caused by bad nutrition or rickets - same causes of the knocked-kneed condition. Again a balanced foot is about all that can be done, although it won't hurt to upgrade Trigger's feed some.

The cause of offset knees is purely congenital. Bad breeding. This deviation is clearly visible, as the cannon bone will not descend from directly under the knee. Instead it will "exit" the knee to the outside. Not good. Splints will often be the result of offset knees because of the uneven weight distribution and misalignment of the joint. The job of the farrier is to trim the foot so that the strain placed on the inside of the leg is relieved.

Randy welcomes comments or questions about his articles.

Randy Sublett
P.O. Box 9
Telluride, CO 81435

e-mail Randy Sublett

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