EQUUS - - Equus -

A fix for forg­ing

Q:My 16-year-old Bel­gian Warm­blood geld­ing strikes the un­der­side of a front hoof with the toe of a hind. I hear the click at a work­ing walk only. No other gaits seem to be af­fected. As far I can tell, this seems to hap­pen only on the right side. The front of the hind hoof does not ap­pear to have sus­tained any dam­age. When I first heard the click, I put bell boots on the front hooves and an­kle boots on the hinds, but that ar­range­ment had no ef­fect. Do you have any other sug­ges­tions? Sten­nis True­man Mem­phis, Ten­nessee

A:You are de­scrib­ing forg­ing. This oc­curs when, at either a walk or trot, the toe of the hind foot comes for­ward and strikes the heel or bot­tom of the front foot just as it starts to leave the ground. If the horse is wear­ing shoes, the rider will hear a dis­tinct metal­lic click with each step. Usu­ally, it means that the front foot is too slow in leav­ing the ground to avoid the ad­vanc­ing hind foot.

Over­reach­ing is a more se­vere form of forg­ing. In this case, the toe of the hind foot lands on the heel bulb of the front foot be­fore it leaves the ground, either pulling off the shoe or lac­er­at­ing the heel.

Many fac­tors can cause a horse to forge, in­clud­ing ag­ing, fa­tigue, im­proper rid­ing, lack of fit­ness, faulty con­for­ma­tion or over­grown hooves. One pos­si­bil­ity that is of­ten over­looked is lame­ness. A horse with fore­limb dis­com­fort that causes a short, “stilted” gait or lack of ex­ten­sion may be­gin forg­ing. If your horse forges and you’ve no­ticed any ab­nor­mal­ity in his gait, I would rec­om­mend hav­ing your vet­eri­nar­ian eval­u­ate him for lame­ness.

If lame­ness and other phys­i­cal fac­tors have been ruled out, the so­lu­tion to forg­ing will likely be found in farriery work. Your far­rier will first ob­serve the horse mov­ing at both a walk and a trot to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the gait ab­nor­mal­ity. Then he will con­sider ways to in­flu­ence the tim­ing of the gaits. The goal is to speed up the breakover of the forefeet, to slow down the ad­vance­ment of the hind feet, or both.

To speed up breakover in the front limbs, the far­rier will first trim the toes so they’re not too long. Then the toes of the shoes may be mod­i­fied to en­hance breakover---the tech­niques may in­clude squar­ing, rolling or rock­er­ing. Some far­ri­ers and vet­eri­nar­i­ans rec­om­mend putting lighter shoes, such as alu­minum, on the front feet to speed hoof move­ment.

Some will use a shoe that is too small in hopes that it will be harder to pull off, but in fact, this usu­ally com­pounds the prob­lem. It is im­per­a­tive that the ap­pro­pri­ate size shoe be used to pro­vide the proper ground sur­face and sup­port.

A bet­ter ap­proach is to trim the hind feet to pro­vide as much ground sur­face as pos­si­ble, which can help slow them down. A hind shoe with the heels fit­ted well be­yond the but­tress of the foot will tend to keep the foot on the ground longer, de­lay­ing breakover of the hind limb. Tracy Turner, DVM, DACVS,

DACVSMR Turner Equine Sports Medicine

and Surgery Big Lake, Min­nesota

Forg­ing oc­curs when, at either a walk or trot, the toe of the hind foot comes for­ward and strikes the heel or bot­tom of the front foot just as it starts to leave the ground. THIS MONTH’S EX­PERT

Based in Big Lake, Min­nesota, Tracy Turner, DVM, DACVS, DACVSMR, owns Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, which spe­cial­izes in sports medicine, lame­ness and surgery. He earned his vet­eri­nary de­gree from Colorado State Uni­ver­sity and has pre­vi­ously served on the fac­ulty of the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois, the Uni­ver­sity of Flor­ida and the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota. Turner has been a con­sul­tant to the Fédéra­tion Equestre In­ter­na­tionale and United States Eques­trian Fed­er­a­tion, and he has worked at three Pan Amer­i­can Games, one World Eques­trian Games and two Olympic Games.

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