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View Full Version : Why do some horses twist their hind leg/foot at the walk?



SRF1
Jun. 8, 2009, 02:56 PM
Hi Everyone,

My mare (whom I suspect may have EPSM and is on the diet) twists her hind leg/foot out after landing, mostly noticible at the walk. She tends to do it more with the right hind than the left. It tends to be worse in deeper footing than on the hard ground. It is also more noticible when she is on a circle. Any ideas? Is it serious or can it lead to other problems? Vets dont say too much about it when I ask, but it really bothers me that she does this at times. :no:

Thanks!

marta
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:07 PM
and would also love to hear the explanation.

one of them recently went through a battery of diagnostics for a RF and LH lameness issues, including a bone scan, and as far as i know, hocks were in no way implicated in his lameness issues. but the twist is so dramatic that even his rump moves!

Cataluna
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:11 PM
My mare does that if she's overdue for a visit from her chiro. When her alignment gets out of wack her hind left twists like that.. it's a pelvis/stifle thing for her. After she's adjusted it stops immediately.

Fantastic
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:11 PM
Hock wobbles or twists usually occur from improper medial-lateral imbalance of the hoof; high on the inside.

Do you know how to assess the med/lat balance of the hind feet? Pick up a hind leg and hold it above the fetlock on the cannon bone. Let the hoof "dangle". Look down the "horizon" at the hoof med/lat balance. The view of the horizon should be level if the med/lat balance is correct. If the new is slanted or tilted one way or another, that means one side is too high. I hope this makes sense!

Can you post some pictures of the feet?

Janet
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:17 PM
Not sure the exact cause, but the more dressage work Music does, the less pronounced it becomes.

BECAUSE of the twist, both my vet and my farrier told me NOT to use studs on Music unless she is in severe danger of injury from slipping. The studs would prevent the rotation, and the twisting force would, instead, be exerted on the joints, with possible damage.

Laurierace
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:26 PM
I don't know if it holds true for foot twists but whenever I see hocks twisting I give a series of estrone injections as it seems that its really looseness in the stifles that causes the hocks to wiggle. Its worth a try.

mvp
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:31 PM
Usually called "wringing the hocks" the twisting movement comes from the hind leg somewhere from hoof to hip being not straight somewhere. You can see it at the walk because the gait is most slow and the weight-bearing phase is longest and slowest. That gives you time to eyeball the way that the horse transmits power from the ground up. They do it at all gaits because it's built into the hoof and skeleton.

So, yes, look at the hoof for the same distance from the hoof wall to coronet band at the quarters and heels of both sides. If one side is shorter than the other, that is both a cause and effect of something else. By the way, this shoeing intervention is the easiest, cheapest part of the solution.

Uneven feet is usually an effect of skeletal problems higher up. Of the possible twists and turns each bone of the leg might take, the most common cause of hock-wringing is a rotational deviation in the hock. That means that the stack of bones composing the hock joint collectively make a slight cork-screw like turn. For horses like this (like people) they may not bear their weight perfectly evenly on the hoof wall, hence creating a problem in their hooves that the rest of their skeleton dictates.

There are shoeing, correct riding and maintenance solutions for hock-wringing horses. Theoretically they are weaker and more prone to injury but in practice, I don't think it's a huge deal. I could be wrong just because I got lucky with mine.

SRF1
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:46 PM
Thanks everyone for the quick responses! Her walls appear pretty even and balanced. MVP what shoeing and mainenance solutions do you do? She will also just stand with that foot pointed out when she has these episodes.

DDoodle
Jun. 8, 2009, 03:58 PM
My horse has had the problem since he was 3 - I have a 1 degree wedge pad on the inside of his right hind - and he is great. I started him at a higher degree, but after they build up muscle you can lower it. No studs for him either. He has evented thru Training and is doing 2nd level dressage at 16 years old. Most vets frown on this solution and I have to say my farrier was not sold either - called New Bolton and talked to the vets/farriers and they all said it wouldn't help. But it did and if he goes without it - he will start the twisting in a couple of weeks. My vet is an old timer and says it works. And it does!

Good luck!!

mvp
Jun. 8, 2009, 04:02 PM
Wait a sec. So your mare doesn't move this way always? If so (and taking footing into account) your problem may have source other than a conformational defect built in.

She may do her "toe pointing" thing after hard work because she has stressed the muscles in her right hind a bit more stabilizing herself. Or she may point the toe in the left hind because her habitual way of going makes her push harder with the more stable-feeling leg. Make sense?

Ask your farrier to explain "angular deviations" and "rotational deviations" to you. These anywhere in the leg can contribute.

My horse-- where the rotational deviation is the most pronounced conformational flaw in his hind end-- typically lands on the outside heel and quarter then twists his hoof along the ground during the weight bearing phase of his stride.

That means, left unshod or not shod with this problem in mind, the outside heel and quarter will be shorter than the inside one. If your horse doesn't have this problem, you have probably done almost all you can with shoeing to correct the problem. My farrier also widens the web back there (outside quarter and heel only) to provide my horse more support there.

There is a 2006 article about this in American Farriers Journal.

SRF1
Jun. 8, 2009, 04:15 PM
MVP,

She will go months and be fine. It seems when the dressage work gets harder to a certain level (ex. changes, collection) then it pops up. I was wondering if the weakness may be due to the EPSM. She has had some SI issues in the past but was doing really well with accupuncture. The standing toed out seems to correlate when the twisting episodes occur. It is definately more noticable in the deeper footing (Soft tissue?).

buck22
Jun. 8, 2009, 04:36 PM
this shows how to sight from the hock down:
http://www.thehorsemechanic.com/hoofcare.html

SRF1
Jun. 8, 2009, 04:58 PM
Thanks Buck22,

Great article!!

SRF1

tidy rabbit
Jun. 8, 2009, 05:09 PM
My horse with kissing spine used to do this twisting profoundly. Did it from the time I bought him up until recently.

The two things that changed were
1) I got his back problems under control. Spinal injections, massage work, new saddle.
2) I pulled his shoes. I don't know if pulling the shoes has anything to do with it or not, but based on the posts above, it probably does.

mvp
Jun. 8, 2009, 10:47 PM
I'd look at her heel balance as the article clearly illustrates.

Then watch her walk from behind and also study her conformation standing still. If you think she's not perfectly straight from hock to coffin bone (and most are not), I'd ask my farrier what he sees in her conformation and suggests for shoeing.

For a horse moving up in work, working in deeper footing, more strength is required behind. Remember that the horse is transmitting force from the ground to the hip. Whenever that doesn't travel in a straight line (due to deviations) muscles need to do the work of stabilizing the leg. If she toes out, I'd guess that her stifles are taking up at least some of the slack for imperfect conformation below that. As I'm sure your dressage basis has taught you, these are big, open joints surrounded by comparatively little muscle. They take time to strengthen.

In any case, I'd ask my farrier to shoe her very generously behind, with a wide web, and perhaps some extra behind her heel. I would not ask for trailers intended to straighten the limb while it's on the ground. To do that would simply "stick" the hoof to the ground and increase the torque on the joints above. This is the same reason that the other poster pointed out that her hock-wringer shouldn't wear caulks behind.


Hope this works, and please let us know what you learn from your vet and farrier.

BornToRide
Jun. 8, 2009, 11:51 PM
Not sure the exact cause, but the more dressage work Music does, the less pronounced it becomes.
That's a big clue right there - most hock twisting comes from a muscle imbalance in the hindlegs and is best addressed with exercise and bodywork :) The muscle imbalance may come from previous trauma or conformational issue.

Uneven hooves from incorrect trimming however can also be a contributing factor, but is not the root cause in all cases.

Kristiesunny
Jun. 9, 2009, 12:10 AM
Uneven hooves from incorrect trimming however can also be a contributing factor, but is not the root cause in all cases.

phew, glad you added that last clarification, otherwise I thought you were going to say that it is all due to trimming.

CC
Jun. 9, 2009, 08:33 AM
My appendix QH with EPSM also twists at the walk. But he also has a slight gait deviation at trot where he will swing his hind legs out and then set them down. It is more pronounced on his right side which is his weaker side. When he was in steady, moderate work, this decreased.

OTOH, my one TB gelding also twisted. He had some sort of undiagnosed lameness problem in his hindend. Vet thought something in his hips and he also had one arthritic hock. He did go better when shod behind and my farrier was very good at keeping him balanced so the twisting would subside somewhat but not entirely.

LMH
Jun. 9, 2009, 08:59 AM
Hock wobbles or twists usually occur from improper medial-lateral imbalance of the hoof; high on the inside.

Do you know how to assess the med/lat balance of the hind feet? Pick up a hind leg and hold it above the fetlock on the cannon bone. Let the hoof "dangle". Look down the "horizon" at the hoof med/lat balance. The view of the horizon should be level if the med/lat balance is correct. If the new is slanted or tilted one way or another, that means one side is too high. I hope this makes sense!

Can you post some pictures of the feet?

I am not certain if even usually true?

I don't believe siting a foot like that would take into account limb deviations, would it?

I have a horse that torques like that-no amount of trimming has fixed it. He is older, weak in his hind end and he twists.

M/L imbalances certain can be one cause but there are others.

Tom Stovall
Jun. 9, 2009, 09:03 AM
SRF1 in gray

My mare (whom I suspect may have EPSM and is on the diet) twists her hind leg/foot out after landing, mostly noticible at the walk. She tends to do it more with the right hind than the left. It tends to be worse in deeper footing than on the hard ground. It is also more noticible when she is on a circle. Any ideas? Is it serious or can it lead to other problems? Vets dont say too much about it when I ask, but it really bothers me that she does this at times. :no:

When a hind is landing flat on a level surface, if the horse is wringing a hocks, there may be a genetic component involved (e.g., base narrow conformation). Horses with this conformation must rotate their hocks abaxially as the hip passes over the coffin bone in order to move in a forward direction and sometimes present with flare to the medial side of the hoof. [Extra credit: Why?] :)

On the other hand, when only the right hind is involved, if the hoof is noticeably lower on the lateral side when sighted along the SFT from hock to ergot, it might be the result of a phenomenon called "Right Handed Disease," in which the operator is allowing his rasp to get away from him, creating a relatively flat solar surface, but one that is tilted to the lateral side.

Assuming a short toe, imbalance issues are usually most evident on a hard, level, surface. If your horse appears to be worse on one side in deep going, this presentation suggests the presence of some pathology, rather than DNA or operator error.

LMH
Jun. 9, 2009, 09:21 AM
SRF1 in gray



Assuming a short toe, imbalance issues are usually most evident on a hard, level, surface. If your horse appears to be worse on one side in deep going, this presentation suggests the presence of some pathology, rather than DNA or operator error.

What kinds of pathologies (just a few examples please:))

Tom Stovall
Jun. 9, 2009, 09:46 AM
LMH in gray

What kinds of pathologies (just a few examples please:))

Just a few of the pathologies that can cause a horse to move one hock abaxially when moving forward: Anything involving new bone on an articulating surface; sprains, strains, fractures, chips (especially if a joint is involved), joint mice, wall abscesses, puncture wounds, etc., and a partridge in a pear tree.

The vets I know like diagnosing esoteric unilateral hind end pathologies almost as much as they do root canals, prostate exams, and similar experiences. :)

chicamuxen1
Jun. 9, 2009, 10:07 AM
Probably the most common cause of this is the horses conformation. Horses who are base narrow will land and twist as they push backward on each foot. Base narrow means that the horses hindlegs do not drop straight downward from their hidquarters, instead they angle inwards so the two hind feet are closer together when on the ground. These horse often will have brushing or inteference problems, rubbing or nicking the inside of their ankles or cannons with the other hind foot.

I have had two base narrow horses and when watching them from behind I've seen clearly the twisting motion that this conformation causes. a friends older Morgan does the same thing. When the hind feet are barefoot they will wear the walls very unevenly because of the twist. Her farrier was concerned so he experimented with shoeing options and just caused her lameness. Left alone she seems fine. My 11 yr old endurance horse is still going strong in spite of the twist but it may contribute to eventual hock arthritis, but heck, most horses get that anyway.

Take a look at your horse from behind, standing still and walking/trotting. quit watching the twist and look at whether the horses legs angle inward as they come down to the ground. If they also look almost like they land on a line centered under the horses belly instead of further out under the hips, your horse is simply base narrow. if they are sound then don't mess with it. trying to cahnge conformation with shoeing changes may lead to stress and lameness.

chicamuxen

SRF1
Jun. 9, 2009, 12:48 PM
Thanks again everyone for all the input! It has given me a lot to think about plus it has been a great learning discussion. She used to be trimmed very high on the inside wall and would wear her outside walls to nothing. I have a new farrier for the past year and she is doing much better with no crumbling of the outside walls. I have also put her on a GREAT foot supplement Formula 4 feet and it has done wonders also. I am not great at judging conformation but she is slightly cow hocked. I am not sure if this is what you mean by base narrow. The strange thing about her is that she will not do it for months while in regular work and then it crops up. Mostly the right hind but sometimes both and sometimes it will switch legs over the course of a few days which is why I was wondering if the EPSM or if one side of the SI joint gets stuck may be playing a role in this. Surprisingly, she is an absolutely lovely mover with a huge floating stride.

MintHillFarm
Jun. 10, 2009, 12:21 AM
My feeling and that of my blacksmith, is Fred, my 15 y old OTTB has his left hind ankle attached crookedly.

The outside of the hoof, when you look from it frontways, is shallow and his inside has a bit more spread. He really torgues the ankle when walking as it is the slow gait. Not as noticable at the trot and canter...he has never been lame and manages fine.

He has a pretty easy life with winters off and no hard pounding. I do however think that this conformation flaw has made it very difficult for him to do his lead changes, even when turned out, though he moves great with a very loose way of going and an enormous stride...

mvp
Jun. 10, 2009, 08:02 AM
There is "good and bad" versions of this.

Many breeds are base-narrow in a precise and planned way. They narrow from the hips to the hocks and then, (in theory) are straight from the hock to the ground. That helps them transmit power from the ground to the center of the body they will support, without having to actively reach under, toward the center line with each stride.

The kind of base-narrow that people worry about is the sort that progresses from hock to hoof. It can be accomplished by any number of conformational problems, especially "angular deviations" where the lateral side of a bone is longer than the medial side. In other words, for example, the inside of the cannon (sp?) is a little shorter than the outside.

I'll bet that in most of these "bad base narrow" horses, the lateral side of the heel and quarters is more crushed than is the medial side. I think this is the correction that can be made by farriers. It does help these horses out, especially over the course of a career. I know, I know, it ain't "natural" or as God intended when He designed that particular horse to some curiously imperfect specs, but it does work.

BornToRide
Jun. 10, 2009, 11:42 AM
You can find this issue in dogs as well - saw a Golden Retriever yesterday who had this problem too :)

tidy rabbit
Jun. 10, 2009, 02:09 PM
You can find this issue in dogs as well - saw a Golden Retriever yesterday who had this problem too :)

Did you suggest corrective shoeing?

lstevenson
Jun. 10, 2009, 09:05 PM
On the other hand, when only the right hind is involved, if the hoof is noticeably lower on the lateral side when sighted along the SFT from hock to ergot, it might be the result of a phenomenon called "Right Handed Disease," in which the operator is allowing his rasp to get away from him, creating a relatively flat solar surface, but one that is tilted to the lateral side.


Hey Tom, I've got a horse with a high medial wall/heel on the RH, and my farrier swears that he never takes off anything on the lateral side. But we never seem to make any progress on making him more laterally balanced. How agressive do you suggest we get to fix him? It would involve taking off a lot of inside heel which my farrier is not really comfortable doing.

I'll have to check if he twists that leg during movement or not, I've never noticed him doing so.

Tom Stovall
Jun. 10, 2009, 10:24 PM
lstevenson in gray

Hey Tom, I've got a horse with a high medial wall/heel on the RH, and my farrier swears that he never takes off anything on the lateral side. But we never seem to make any progress on making him more laterally balanced. How agressive do you suggest we get to fix him?

Assuming a full mouth, if he's not hitting, hurting, or wringing his hock, I probably wouldn't try to fix him.

It would involve taking off a lot of inside heel which my farrier is not really comfortable doing.

You can find out how removing medial wall will affect the horse by taping a wedge pad crossways on the hoof, thick side lateral, then moving the horse at a walk on a hard, level, surface. DO NOT ask the horse to move faster than a slow walk with this setup as it radically changes the relationships of the articulating surfaces of the bones that comprise the coffin and pastern joints and approximates the removal of medial wall in roughly the same proportion as the thickness of the pad's lateral side.

I'll have to check if he twists that leg during movement or not, I've never noticed him doing so.

Get somebody to lead him away from you on a hard surface; if he has to move his hock laterally in order to get his hip over his coffin bone, he's got a problem.

In_The_Ribbons
Jun. 11, 2009, 02:53 PM
I know a horse that does it, but only when the footing is extremely deep, and usually you can only see it when he has to walk in a tight circle.

He does it equally with both hinds. He is a bit cow-hocked, so that is probably the reason.

However, I've never seen him twist his hinds when the footing is hard or shallow, or when he's walking in a straight line.

lstevenson
Jun. 11, 2009, 08:16 PM
Thanks Tom.

mvp
Jun. 11, 2009, 08:35 PM
I'll bet the horse who does this only in deep footing is a little weak behind. Just like us running on the deep, dry sand on the beach, it takes more muscular energy (or stretched ligaments) to stabilize all the joints from coffin to hip in that kind of situation.

Condition thoroughly and realize that deep and heavy footing produces it's own, specialized kind of hard work.

Kairoshorses
Jun. 11, 2009, 08:51 PM
My big trakehner gelding does that, but he's very bow legged in the back...and the farrier showed me that he's not straight. He held his hind leg up and flexed the ankle...and it did NOT fall in a line.

But he's NEVER had a lame step (uh, except when he had EPM and his hind end sort of gave way), and he's a trooper; came back from EPM, and is doing Novice and ready to move up to Training.