Overreaching in a Young Horse

Also known as “forging,” horses with overstrides can injure themselves and pull shoes when their hind feet make contact with their front legs. A vet offers advice on how to prevent problems.

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Overreaching in a Young Horse
Bell and brushing boots can protect the legs of a horse that forges. | Photo: iStock

Q. My young Warmblood is currently barefoot and has a huge overstride (her hind leg steps in front of where her front foot leaves the ground at the trot), which is desirable in dressage. She occasionally catches her front heels both in turnout and when I’m riding her. I’m concerned that this will get worse when we start shoeing her. Do you have any recommendations to prevent her from bruising her heels or pulling shoes when shod?

A. In my experience, young horses—particularly larger breeds such as Warmbloods—often have an uncoordinated movement pattern when first entering training, and interference (contact) between legs is common, similar to a toddler or young puppy figuring out their legs. This might occur until they become physically mature (generally around 5 or 6 years of age) and develop confidence in their movement.

Leg protection in the form of bell boots and splint boots or polo wraps might be needed during training activities and when the horse is turned out in large spaces such as paddocks or pastures

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Written by:

Casey Gruber, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he specializes in podiatry and emergency and sport horse care. He’s a graduate of Colorado State University.

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