Examining hard ground lameness

During summer, when the ground becomes hard, some horses will feel uncomfortable and their stride will shorten on unlevel ground or when turning tightly.

One possible cause is a reduction in the range of side-to-side movement in the pastern joints. No name is given to this condition, although it could be considered as a pre-ringbone syndrome. Although not obviously lame, the horse will definitely be “off” or perhaps slightly pottery.

Afflicted horses will find cambered roads difficult to walk on andwill often try to walk on the crown of the road or the verge.

Good sympathetic farriery will extend the chances of a long working life.

Artificial surfaces also reduce the demands placed on the pastern joints and allow the horse to move freely. Working horses on a yielding surface may help preserve their joints for longer, putting off the day that stiffness will start to set in.

Warning signs

Uneven shoe wear is a sign of the foot constantly landing on one side. When this happens, the pastern joints have to absorb the unlevel footfall and, eventually, this constant stressing results in a reduction of movement in the joints, trauma within the joint and the onset of complications.

Using roadnails or studs to stop the uneven wear will compound the problem as the symptom, not the cause, is being treated. Trimming the worn side of the foot will reduce the problem and this is what nature would do if the horse was unshod.

Conformation faults are a common cause of the foot being constantly twisted in one direction on each footfall. A skilled farrier will recognise the fault and trim the foot accordingly to try to minimise the twisting effect. It is important not to overcompensate for one conformation fault and risk causing damage somewhere else.

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s summer horsecare special which investigates the effects of hard ground in this week’s Horse &Hound (19 June), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week at a reduced rate.

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