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Low Plantar Angles - Resolved? But how long will recovery take?

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  • Low Plantar Angles - Resolved? But how long will recovery take?

    I bought a young TWH mare 5 months ago. When I looked her over, I noticed very long toes on all 4 hooves, very elongated hooves, almost no heel under coronet bands, and she had clearly not had any significant hoof care in months (lots of dead frog tissue and overgrown bars on soles). But when I took her for an easy ride in the ring, I didn't see or feel any problems.

    I had her shoes removed for transport to my barn. Then I had my farrier trim her fronts (arrived with 45 degrees or sharper) and rears (arrived sharper than 50 degrees). My farrier trimmed her to increase the angles as much as we agreed was safe, trimmed her again 6 weeks later, then shod her again to allow her heels to grow out.

    While riding her in the ring about a month ago - just flat walk or running walk, her hocks tended to bow outward (laterally), she would often take short strides with her left hind leg, and she would occasionally "dip" both hind legs - as though she suddenly lost strength. To me, it was obvious that she was in pain. Also: I noticed that her hind legs often appeared "stiff" when walking in the videos I took of her. And standing at rest, she often tended to "park-out" in a "sawhorse" posture. I have since learned that these are all symptoms of Low Plantar Angles. But she gives me no resistance when I manipulate her hind legs (no obvious signs of pain in fetlocks, hocks, or stifles).

    I had my vet do a thorough gait exam. She basically determined that my mare had pain, but couldn't identify the specific area(s) - feet, fetlocks, hocks, stifles, or hips / pelvis.

    I did some reading on low plantar angles, and am fairly convinced that that is the issue with my mare. I put her on stall rest, trimmed her two more times, and left her barefoot. Her last trim took her almost to what I believe are the ideal angles for her conformation (approx 50 deg in fronts and 56 deg in rears). She now has about an inch of heel under her coronet bands, her hoof walls seem to be gradually expanding, and hooves are more rounded (not elongated, as they were when I got her).

    My question: I recently took her for a brief ride in the ring (flat walk and running walk) and filmed it. The bowing of her hocks is reduced - but not gone. The stride length of her left hind is only slightly shorter than right hind (and only intermittent). But I did see her do the hind-end "dip" thing twice in 15 minutes. So I know she still has some pain.

    So my question is this, if anyone can answer it: Will it take very long for her pastern and canon bones to realign to her new feet (and, ideally, positive plantar angles)? She still shows some signs of pain, apparently. Should I keep her on stall rest a while longer?

    FYI, she's still growing (has a much better diet, and appetite than when I got her), she's building bulk and developing muscle mass, and is on a supplement with MSM, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Hyaloronic Acid, and Hydrolyzed Collagen).

    Last edited by RichardX; Aug. 15, 2019, 09:19 PM.

  • #2
    The 'dipping' you refer to sounds very much like weak stifles. Stall rest is the worst. For that, keep her moving - be it turnout or work. During work - hill, backing up, cavaletti poles, those help build strength.

    As for the negative plantar angles.... been going through that myself. My farrier put her in "flip flops" in November. In June, we took new films. We now have correct angles, and have grown an additional 5 mm of sole depth. The plan is to keep her in these for a year, then try to put her in a more normal shoe and see if she can hold the angle on her own.

    As for your question about her pastern and cannon bones - keep in mind that what you do at the feet is affecting her all the way up the leg and into the spine. It will take time, time, time for things to readjust themselves. You say she's young but don't give an age - but I would think youth would be on your side (at least it is with humans).

    Well written and thorough post, thank you.


    • #3
      Agreed with ^^^, my horse will have the dipping feeling, sort of like they stepped in a deep hole for one stride, when he's not engaged because his stifles are weaker. The more they work and are outside, the better they are. Lots of stall rest=weaker stifles.

      My horse also had bad angles behind, long long toes with no heel, entire hind end was getting sore, etc. I had him xrayed and my vet and farrier decided to put steel with a leather rim wedge pad on his hinds. There was a big difference within a few days, but it took 2-3 shoeing cycles for him to feel significantly better. His angles weren't negative....yet....but they were rapidly on the way there. If your horse has had bad angles and been sore for a while, it will probably take a while for her to feel 100%.


      • Original Poster



        • Original Poster



          • Original Poster

            I seem to be having trouble with my posts. I meant to say thank you Obsidian Fire and skipollo. Sounds like you've been there, done that. I've had others tell me she has DLSD or some other serious issue. But I was convinced she suffered from LPA based on the DVM 360 article (above). Wonder if I can attach some video clips?


            • Original Poster

              Oh, and in response to your question, she's 3-1/2 years old. I know all the arguments for and against riding a horse of her age. So I've been limiting her under saddle time. BTW, when she's allowed to run free, she gallops like a racehorse and shows very few - if any - symptoms.


              • #8
                Have you done xrays of the feet? I was under the impression that one can’t necessarily tell internal PA from eyeballing the hoof. (Though it does sound like she needed corrective trimming in general.)


                • Original Poster

                  My vet recommended neural blocks and imaging (Xrays and / or sono) to better identify the cause / location(s) of pain a month ago. I told her I wanted to first get her to her proper hoof angles, and THEN do the imaging / blocking - if the trims alone don't resolve the problem. Got one more trim scheduled in a couple of weeks. At that time, I might call out the vet for Xrays, as the vet wanted the farrier present when she comes.

                  BTW, here's clip of our ride yesterday. (let's see if I can post it here). I know you all haven't seen her lengthy before and after videos, but I can assure you that: 1) her LH "short stride" is much better than before, and intermittent rather than sustained, 2) her hocks are still bowing on the inside leg of whichever lead she's on - but much less than before, and 3) her hind legs in general appear much less "stiff" than before. But you can see a one-legged "crouch" that Obsidian Fire and skipollo described at 2:10 and a RH toe-first stumble and fetlock-roll at around 3:25 in this video.



                  • #10
                    She definitely moves strangely behind. She doesn't look to be moving right in front either? Unless it is the martingale you are using which is causing her to drag her fronts through the footing?

                    I could be totally wrong too. I hope you get her issues resolved as she looks like a nice mare.


                    • #11
                      I would defer to the vet and get the xrays now. Hard to know what the correct angles are without knowing what is happening inside the hoof.


                      • Original Poster

                        Candyappy, someone else (who knows TWH's) posted that some folks refer to TWH's as "gumby" horses, for their occasional "swishy" movement. I was using draw reins - not a martingale - in that video - to keep her head lower and hindquarters gathered. I'd only been training her for 4 months before her soreness started. But here's a clip of her at a pretty good, slow running walk at the end of May. The only symptom you can see here was a slightly shorter LH stride:


                        • Original Poster

                          .... and a "toe first" step with her hind legs (a symptom of LPA). Yes, I agree with you S1969. I plan Xrays, with farrier present, in a couple of weeks. Just wanted to wait to Xray her plantar angles after her hooves were properly trimmed (as they are now).


                          • #14
                            She is very cute. It's impossible to tell from the video whether her issues are related to fitness or are a trimming problem. I would suggest that she doesn't need draw reins this early in her training, and that might actually be contributing to her soreness. Draw reins do nothing to keep her "hindquarters gathered." They only impede the forward motion, and if forced into a headset, make the horse very sore. You aren't forcing her into a headset in this video, but it's just a suggestion. If her hind end issues are related to fitness, she needs to be moving forward, especially up a hill and/or over poles or cavaletti. Forward-marching circles at the walk, where she is encouraged to reach underneath herself with her inside hind leg, will also help her get stronger. Only after her hind end is strong should you start thinking about the position of her head. HOWEVER, X-rays from the vet will give you the best guidance. Good luck.


                            • #15
                              Has your vet done a neurological exam on her? That hind end stuff doesn’t look dissimilar to how I’ve seen some EPM horses move.


                              • Original Poster

                                Did a full EPM exam. Negative.


                                • #17
                                  It is really difficult for most of us to tell much about a TWH. Their movement is just different from most of the horses we are familiar with. I have been told that stifle issues are common with young TWHs due to their conformation and movement.
                                  I agree that xrays and other diagnostics are needed soon. In the meantime I would do more straight line flat footed walking up and down slight hills if possible and without the draw reins in play.


                                  • #18
                                    The first thing you need to do is remove the draw reins because she’s bracing against them and rather than develop a soft contact, working through her back into her bridle she’s doing the opposite and over developing the underside of her neck
                                    Hind leg action looks wrong but that could be explained by the tension as she’s not going forwards correctly.
                                    Her back behind the saddle looks poorly developed, that’s going to effect the way she uses her rear end. Have you had her sacroiliac region checked? It can be done by rectal ultrasound.
                                    You'd need to provide clear photographs of her feet and legs to get a reasonable opinion on the state of them
                                    She might just need a decent farrier and more time to grow into herself before put under saddle.
                                    You say she moves well at liberty so might not be ready yet to carry the weight of a heavier rider and saddle


                                    • #19
                                      Your filly looks to have pretty classic wringing hocks(essentially medial-lateral instability of the limb) which is a common problem in the Tennessee Walking Horse, especially young horses with a very weak rear (lack of muscle.) Wringing hocks is considered a conformation fault in the breed and it is recommended against breeding horses with this problem and is more prevalent in some lines than others especially if the horse was bred to A)have along sweeping hear end and B)is from primarily padded performance lines. There are some old timers who breed for this movement thinking it will make a bigger backened... it mostly creates long term unsoundness. You will find that there is supposed to be some twist to the rear leg in order to accommodate the length of stride from behind and encourage bypassing the front hoof with the rear. Doing hill work and working to round her up will often help a lot with these horses although is not going to resolve the issue completely.

                                      I do want to caution that 56 degrees in the hind feet of most Tennessee Walking Horses will alter the movement in a negative way and many of these horses tolerate 52 degrees or under although every horse is different. If the angle is too high in the hind you will often see a horse who has an overall shorter, uneven stride behind, more "step" with the hind leg(up and down hock action) rather than a gliding swing forward of the limb, and intermittent lameness through the hocks and/or stifle. If you already have a young horse with weakness through the hock bilaterally, raising the angles too much behind is going to lead to further problems. For example, my 4 yr old filly appears to need almost 54 degree behind in order to achieve a neutral HPA however keeping her at this is also a way to have a very resistant filly who develops mild hock action, short uneven stride, and a slew of other issues. I had her breeder tell me the same would happen with her sire so they regularly kept him at 48 degrees behind. While I know it is ideal to have the neutral HPA, I did drop her to 50 degrees initially and there was an immediate difference.... very willing and soft horse, the nice gliding reach behind, and a deeper, longer easy going stride.

                                      How much experience do you have with this breed, especially ones who need to be brought back in to work?

                                      **not new here but had to make a new name since I no longer have access to my old login. boo**
                                      Last edited by Rudy14; Aug. 20, 2019, 08:06 AM. Reason: Mostly editing for poor spelling


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by knic13 View Post
                                        Has your vet done a neurological exam on her? That hind end stuff doesn’t look dissimilar to how I’ve seen some EPM horses move.
                                        I jokingly have told friends that the perfect TWH moves like a drunken German Shepherd with EPM.