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Q&A: Understanding forging

Q I own a five-year-old 14.2hh part-Arab mare. A week after buying her I fell off and broke my ankle. Before my accident she hadn’t any physical problems.

While I was injured – a period of about six weeks – a friend rode her for me. When I began to ride her again I felt scared and lacked confidence.

Now every time I trot she seems to click her two back feet together and I’m worried this could be hurting her.

I mentioned this to my farrier, who comes out to shoe my mare every five to six weeks. He said the next time he visited he would put shoes on which would prevent her doing this. What will these shoes look like?

This clicking hasn’t made my horse lame but I would like to know what causes the problem and if it could hurt her?

Martin Humphrey replies:What your mare is doing is referred to as interferingŒ. This is when one limb or hoof gets in the way of another and, with four legs on the go, there are many ways for a horseto hit itself. Interfering is more likely to happen when a horse is young, overweight and fairly unfit.

You may be right in believing your horse is hitting one back foot with the other one. This is a variety of interference called brushing. You should be able to see marks on the insides of the hooves where they are being hit.

No serious damage is likely to occur, though sometimes the insides of the legs may be wounded at the coronet, pastern or fetlock.

Your farrier needsto make sure the edges of your horse’s shoes are filed smooth on the inside so any damage will be limited. He should trim the hoof to shorten it on the inside and leave the outside longer so she will widen her back legs when she stands and when she moves.

In extreme cases, the shoe may be thickened on the outside or extended further to the outside than normal with a ‘lateral extension’ or ‘trailer’. The inside of the shoe may be cut short – this is what is called a three-quarter shoe.

I think it is more probable that your mare is not brushing but forging – hitting a front foot with a back foot. This is just an irritation for the rider but isn’t likely to cause any damage to the horse.

There are special shoes, suchas the diamond-toed shoe, used to prevent forging but usually all we do is shorten the toes on the front hooves so they can get away from the ground (or ‘break over’) quicker.

There can’t be much wrong with your mare if she wasn’t doing this prior to your accident, unless she has developed some sort of muscle or joint problem which is causing her to move differently.

There is no reason for you to be worried. Minor adjustments by the farrier are probably all that are needed and as you both get fitter she will most likely grow out of it

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