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dragging hind toe

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  • dragging hind toe

    Ok, so my 5 year old wb drags his right hind toe, but here's the thing-- he only drags it when trotting, not walking or cantering, and not when he's going over trot poles, caveletti (about 10" high), or when he's a little more "up." I've had him about a year, and it has gotten better, and the video i've seen of him as a baby didn't show any evidence of it at all. He's been checked out by a chiro and the only thing he said were that he reacted at his belly points. So.. any ideas? Does this seem like a strength/laziness issue? If so, is there anything specifically I can do to keep strengthening it? Thanks for your help and let me know if you need any more info!
    Follow my instagram @snafflesandwellies for all things horses + fashion!

  • #2
    What does your vet say ?


    • #3
      A vet evaluation would be my first step. I think OCD can begin to show symptoms within that age range. Sometimes a dragging hind toe can indicate a stifle issue.

      Just an idea... a five y/o horse is sometimes still growing, maybe it's something the horse will grow out of?

      Making sure the horses feet are trimmed and shod properly is another thought.

      One lazy toe dragging horse I rode years ago went better in aluminum shoes.
      Last edited by alterhorse; May. 5, 2013, 01:45 AM. Reason: Spelling


      • #4
        My horse used to drag both hind toes, it was mostly out of lazyness (he was about 10 at the time.) You could 'chase' him out of it under saddle by getting him moving faster but he would just rush. I have been lunging him over trot poles with a chambon once a week to encourage him to get his back up and he no longer flattens his toes in the back. His hocks are moving much better now too. If the vet clears him, you might try something like that. If side reins work for your horse I'd start there, my horse just got above them and went around upside down, so we tried the chambon and it has worked very well for him.


        • #5
          Most horse start out with a weaker side. Just like humans who are right handed or left handed, one side is dominant. That could be all that it is, and if so, it should gradually get better with correct training that gymnasticizes and straightens the horse on both reins. If you pay attention, you probably feel that the horse is not taking an even contact now in both reins, and his barrel may press against one of your legs more than the other.

          So I would not jump to conclusions that this is a veterinary issue especially in a young horse. However, I have known horses that were NQR for one reason or another--could even be something very subtle like a spine/peripheral nerves issue. That could be true even if the horse vets sound because we are not in the habit of xraying or doing MRIs on spines without serious symptoms. But if the horse flexes sound on a vet exam, then I would just work him with a lot of emphasis on riding him dressage STRAIGHT with his front legs equally between his hind legs at all times. Do straightening exercises such as spiraling on a circle and shoulder fore, and see if you can get that right hind underneath him.
          "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


          • #6
            Horses will also drag their toes if their SI is out. As other have said it also could be due to lack of strength as well or some other issue. Good luck. I hope it's as easy as doing more pole work, shoulder in(fore) or a chiro adjustment that makes the difference.


            • #7
              Something is not right up high for him. If have the vet and a better chiro evaluate.
              chaque pas est fait ensemble


              • #8
                Besides your horse's health and fitness, are you sure you're riding him to tempo at the trot?

                When my horse drags a toe (as she did yesterday), my trainer instructed engagement. (Which is also the antidote to rushing, but a lot easier to type than to achieve!)


                • #9
                  Lameness- hock, stifle, or neurological (SI or something further up).

                  A young horse dragging one toe is a big red flag! Especially because you know he didn't do it as a youngster. Good luck!


                  • #10
                    A very good sports medicine vet who travels the east coast and treats some very high end horses told us that dragging one hind toe more than the other can be indicative of a stifle issue - usually IUPF to one degree or another. In mild cases where there is no obvious "locking" of the patella, there is a often a momentary "sticking" (sometimes very difficult to actually see), which causes the horse to lose confidence in the ability to bring that leg forward comfortably. End result is the horse brings the leg forward a bit more slowly and cautiously, and can develop a "toe-dragging" habit in an attempt to avoid the "sticking". In one example this vet showed us, the horse's stifle ligament felt "like jello" as he described it, when it should feel "like rebar".

                    If it is IUPF, he usually recommends a procedure that combines ligament puncture/blistering. The puncture is similar to splitting, except that instead of a scalpel, he uses an 18 gauge needle in various locations along the ligaments. This procedure helps separate the fibers within the medial and middle distal patellar ligaments, which contract and shorten as scar tissue fills in. As part of the procedure, he also infuses a counter-irritant ("blister") adjacent to the ligaments. This also causes scar tissue, which further helps contract and shorten the ligaments. End result is the patella gets more secured into a location where "sticking" or upward fixation is less likely to occur, and the horse is more confident bringing the leg forward. This vet told us he has done this procedure over 1200 times, and has had very, very good results. He just did it to a horse at the barn, so we will see how things turn out.

                    OP - your best bet is to get a really good sports medicine / lameness vet out to look at your horse, hopefully one who does a lot of work with high end performance horses and is up on the latest techniques. A generalist vet is probably only going to want to blister, and/or split with a scalpel (which is much more invasive).


                    • #11
                      Fly is thinking along the same lines I am. Have it looked at by a good lameness vet. One who has a bit more experience looking at lameness issues rather than general vet work. Might be a pasture injury that is not healing.
                      "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                      • #12
                        My mare had this problem following a stifle injury (blanket caught on a tree) she incurred as a youngster. After a couple years during which vet prescriptions of adequan injections, etc. accomplished nothing, a friend who is also a human physical therapist said the cruciate ligaments had become lax and needed exercises to strengthen them. At first we tried things he used with humans-- e.g. having the horse pull the leg against theraband resistance, but that didn't work for several reasons: not enough people to make it happen, not enough resistance in the therabands available.... Eventually we settled upon lunging over a "wagon wheel" of ground poles spaced so she had to pick up that toe at every step. After a couple months, I was able to start taking away poles without the toe going back to dragging and the problem was pretty much solved-- although I did, for several years, sometimes have to refresh her with the poles if she had enough time off to lose fitness.

                        Years after I started doing this with my mare, an article came out in The Horse Journal advocating the same approach (I forget whether it was before or after it was "Michael Plumb's...."). I've also heard of vets prescribing regular trot work through very deep sand for this problem, which seems based on the same principle.


                        • #13
                          My former mare was ultimately diagnosed as mildly neurological 2/5 in the right hind, 1/5 in the other legs. It took 4 years to get to the final diagnosis, after dozens of vets saw her and called her "sound". Jane Weatherwax called her one of the best moving mares she had seen in a long time. "Trainers" told me I was paranoid and just needed to work her harder, over poles, on straightness.

                          She never flexed off on any joint so the vets sent me away without ever getting xrays. When I finally insisted anyway, we found a chip in her stifle and figured that was her problem. Surgery and a year of rehab later her behavior was better under saddle but the dragging was worse. It was finally a resident at Davis that decided to have one of the neuro experts look at her. It was heartbreaking. Once I had the diagnosis and could see what they were seeing in the tests (and how they were doing the tests, and her reaction to them) it was so obvious. I still carry a lot of mistrust and anger for vets and trainers after my ordeal.

                          All this is to say, go with your gut, and find someone who really, truly KNOWS how to diagnose a horse holistically. It could be anything. Don't discount that little voice in your head. And honestly look at every possibility with a open mind. Good luck.
                          On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Perfect Pony View Post
                            My former mare was ultimately diagnosed as mildly neurological 2/5 in the right hind, 1/5 in the other legs. It took 4 years to get to the final diagnosis, after dozens of vets saw her and called her "sound". Jane Weatherwax called her one of the best moving mares she had seen in a long time. "Trainers" told me I was paranoid and just needed to work her harder, over poles, on straightness.
                            Don't beat yourself up or them. What would you have done with this mare if you had known sooner that she she had a neurological issue? Would you have retired her? Put her down? I have known several horses that were low grade wobblers (cervical spondylolisthesis) that have done quite well as lower level performance horses.
                            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by flyracing View Post
                              Lameness- hock, stifle, or neurological (SI or something further up).

                              A young horse dragging one toe is a big red flag! Especially because you know he didn't do it as a youngster. Good luck!
                              It could also be a soft tissue injury.

                              Another vote for a veterinarian or a veterinary clinic with a primary focus on equine sports medicine. They have the mileage and the equipment to come up with a diagnosis, and prognosis.
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • #16
                                My mare drags her toes more so in the walk, and I believe it is out of "laziness" but that laziness is induced by weaker stifles. My chiro helped diagnose this. She is happy to work and comfortable otherwise, I just think that the stifles make it harder to be more active naturally if that makes sense. Maybe it's similar for your guy?

                                Treatment: fitness, keeping an eye on comfort level, and shoeing. My farrier rolled the back toes to help with the wear coming from dragging her toes. She's on fairly hefty joint supplements as well, and will probably start adequan in a couple of years to help.

                                Good luck! Keep us posted


                                • #17
                                  My horse drags his right hing toe, turns out he had a bone spur in his hock.
                                  I started hock injections and it helped.


                                  • #18
                                    Agree with above with stifles, weakness, SI, hocks but to add one more thing my guy did it because of epm. He only did it in the trot also and not over poles or jumps.
                                    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                                    • #19
                                      It might be nothing but could very well be something. I echo those who say get it checked by a vet with a good reputation for lameness. Once you know what it is you can start to deal with it but right now you don't know.

                                      If it is something that will be assisted with strengthening work, I would ditto fish's recommendation re: lungeing over a wagon wheel. You can also use risers to raise a straight line of trotting poles or just slightly raise the inside end of the poles. I also like to vary it by raising ends of the poles, either in a circle formation or laid one after the other for ridden trot poles.


                                      • #20
                                        You might want to test for EPM as well, just as a precaution.