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Dragging toes behind?

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  • Dragging toes behind?

    I have a call in to my farrier, hoping to hear back today or tomorrow, but I'm wondering if anyone else has some wisdom/ideas...

    Horse (8 y.o. OTTB) is barefoot all around, and has been for about 9 months. He's never worn hind shoes since I've had him, and normally he has great feet. He's trimmed about every 6 weeks, last time 03/14, about 4 weeks ago.

    Over the last week or two, I've noticed that his hind toes are wearing quite a bit, rounding over. Horse's hooves are all-around dark in color, but with the wear over his toes, I'm noticing white patches emerging on both toes. There's no chipping or separating, just rounded-off toes with these enlarging white patches.

    He SEEMS sound; I'm not noticing anything unusual. He's usually a lazy slog and when we start our warm-up, he will drag both hind feet quite a bit until he warms up... after a good canter, he's perked up and working normally, no more dragging. He's pretty much been this way since I've had him, for 2 1/2 years now. (He's ridden 3-5 days per week, not in very hard work-- I W/T/C 3x/week and maybe do crossrails one of those rides, and he's also used for W/T lessons 2x/week.)

    Any ideas?? Me being the paranoid sort, I'm terrified it's something horrible.....
    *friend of bar.ka

    "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"

  • #2
    He may be getting sore behind (hocks, stifles). If you're concerned get a good lameness vet involved.
    Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
    Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
    "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


    • #3
      SI very possible. And no coz it's a bilateral thing horse will not appear lame, but just unwilling to move forward, appearing lazy or lethargic.
      Does horse drag toes less on lunge then when under saddle? Does the horse feel worse than what can be seen from on the ground? Horse will look perfectly sound, yet to the rider it will feel labored.


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by Lieslot View Post
        SI very possible. And no coz it's a bilateral thing horse will not appear lame, but just unwilling to move forward, appearing lazy or lethargic.
        Does horse drag toes less on lunge then when under saddle? Does the horse feel worse than what can be seen from on the ground? Horse will look perfectly sound, yet to the rider it will feel labored.
        He's always had a bit of a hunter's bump, but a while back (mid-February) he came in from the pasture with a HUGE bump, same spot but favoring the right side, with EXTREME tenderness on the right hindquarter below the bump. Vet was called, determined that it wasn't a fracture, likely just a great big hematoma; Horse had about 2 weeks off, but trotted sound after 3 or 4 days. The bump took a while to go down, but now it looks no worse than it did before.
        *friend of bar.ka

        "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


        • #5
          He may have had a bad slip or fall. Eventhough the hunter bump is gone and horse is sound, with SI it's possible there is continuous inflammation in the area. Pain can be the SI joint, but also sacrociatic ligaments or the sciatic nerve.
          With the history of that bump I'd be inclined to say SI pain altering the hindlimb strides, resulting in the toedrag.

          You are probably not riding the horse at present? The biggest giveaway would be a better horse on the lunge than under saddle. Pulling bit out of your hands, more unwillingness to go forward vs in the past, lugging to one side, dipping back when first asked to trot or throwing head up but then nevertheless coming back to a contact, lacking propulsion, lacking push off in those hindlimbs.
          On the effected side to the detailed eye, there is often a slight outward swing to the leg when brought forward in the trot and landed slightly inwards.
          SI pain can be very vague & hard to determine when you watch the horse go on the ground, but the rider will feel it. Some may even feel neurological under saddle in the hindend if the sciatic nerve is involved as that would alter hindlimb sensation.


          • #6
            My current horse is a habitual toe dragger. With me on him, on the lunge, in the pasture. Its not terrible, and vet, farrier, chiro and I have determined its essentially a combination of laziness, conformation, and a tired back as we build the topline.

            While I was a little reluctant at first, hind shoes have helped tremendously, and he continues to get stronger. Regular accupuncture and chiropractic have helped ensure that he stays comfortable through the muscle-building stage until he gets much stronger behind.

            Good luck, and get your farrier and vet involved to see how to alleviate the problem. It may not be catastrophic, but the right shoes and bodywork can help him be more comfortable and do what you're asking him to do.
            Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.


            • #7
              This picture is still from last year and hurray at present we have no more need for the toe clips.
              But this is how you can prevent toe drag holes that can get past the white line & infect, a 3 clipped or a toeclipped hindshoe.
              My guy was in those for a couple of years. Addressing the SI has now resulted in not needing the toeclips anymore, but I know there's nevertheless still SI pain going on eventhough the toe drag appears to have resolved itself.
              Be aware because the clip hides the toedrag, it doesn't mean the underlying problem is fixed .



              • Original Poster

                I think my farrier is coming out on Monday, although I still need to confirm that.

                So does vague SI pain eventually just resolve itself, or is there something that can be done, other than trying to increase a topline and get him stronger? I'm not in a financial position to be doing all sorts of expensive therapies/injections/etc.; what's the typical prognosis?
                *friend of bar.ka

                "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


                • #9
                  Here's a good exercise to do :

                  Some horses just have low grade chronic SI pain thoughout their lives with up & down flare-ups resulting in poor performance, this can get better with strengthening work and perhaps some nsaid's at times.
                  Other horses need SI injections.
                  Some horses actually never return to previous level of performance.
                  So to answer your question, it's hard to say in what category your horse would fall. Bare in mind that of course you need a vet to diagnose the horse first of course.
                  FWIW, chiropractor(s) missed the chronic SI pain in my horse for years because he didn't palpate sore . And because he would be sound & flex sound upon clinical examination even vets missed it. Bonescan showed the SI inflammation. An SI block (not without risk, can injure sciatic nerve or puncture gut) will show immediate improvement.

                  Here's an interesting slideshow about SI pain & treatments :

                  And here when you read the clinical signs of those horses with positive SI nuke scans & post mortems SI lesion confirmations, the symptoms are very varied, hence it's often missed in those horses with just poor performance issues.

                  ETA, sorry just thought of this. In your horse to me, it sounds like eventhough there was a hunter's bump present in the past, this came on rather sudden, so horse may just have strained or hurt the peri-articular si ligaments, and rest would be indicated first before resuming work or in hand strenghtening work. (again this is assuming the SI is the culprit, a vet would need to rule out hocks & stifles to be sure)


                  • #10
                    It's also worth considering his overall fitness now. It's spring, we had a tough winter. If during the recent months your horse was out of work more than not, stuck in his stall more than not (due to a delightful winter) and now the weather is mostly nice (when we aren't being blown from one end of the county to the other) he is out and being worked, it could be something as simple as a sore horse getting fit. And with so many horses, I kind of expect some sore butts and stifles in spring. Dragging toes and "flat tires" at the trot are part and parcel of the refitting process. You do have to pay attention to make sure it isn't more than that, but make sure it isn't just that as well.
                    Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                    • Original Poster

                      He stayed in work all winter... we didn't have too bad a winter here this year (central PA), and we have an indoor, so I pretty much kept riding 3-4x/week straight through. ("Work" for him isn't very difficult; I don't usually ride for longer than 30-45 minutes, and that's certainly not a solid-hard-working 45 minutes by any means.)

                      With that being said, he's not very fit... he's always been a hard-keeper TB, plus we've had some barn staffing issues over the past month, and he's lost a good bit of weight due to feeding issues. (Fortunately that issue has been resolved, so he's improving in that regard.) Plus, our barn has just switched from rotational worming to doing FEC's; I got his first FEC result back this week and he's at 4,000ppg! We're managing that with the vet right now as well.

                      After reading your responses and looking into things more, he sounds spot-on for a lingering SI issue. Definitely plan on discussing this ith the vet at our nenext appointment, which should be sometime in the next couple of weeks.
                      *friend of bar.ka

                      "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


                      • #12
                        I agree that it sounds like a lingering SI issue. The dragging of the hind toes really points in that direction but then when you say he had a pronounced hunter's bump in Feb...I would bet quite a bit of money that he slipped and/or fell and has not fully recovered from that.


                        • #13
                          I always thought dragging toes indicted stifles? That seemed to be the case with my guy. He has gotten better over the years, particularly since we took the back shoes off (not sure why). He no longer has the scuff marks on his hooves.


                          • #14
                            It can very well be just stifles but when you read the history of the OP's horse, SI sounds more likely.

                            Also fwiw, wrong SI mechanics can lead to incorrect stifle use, not engaging the stifles correctly and having a shortened cranial phase with toedrag.

                            In my horse only now we know the stifle issue was brought on secondary to longterm SI pain.

                            With what I know today, imo many horses with lowgrade (and even obvious ) SI pain are missed, often the stifles and hocks are eventually the first ones to show the outward signs of the incorrect hindend use. Mostly because vets can easily block hocks or X-ray a hock/stifle and some minor changes may show up. Diagnosing SI pain is not easy, it takes a good eye to see the problem or advanced diagnostics, because the outward signs of many horses will be so different, they all compensate for the SI pain in different ways, some will walk base wide, other narrows, (talk about opposites), etc the study I linked above by Dr Sue Dyson proofs that very well. The SI region can hurt in different parts and the compensation in the hindend will be slightly different.

                            As a previous poster also mentioned fitness is a big part. Get a good amount of fitness on the horse, but if with reasonable fitness you continue to have the flat hindtyre, the toedrag, the lack of impulsion, not keeping the steady contact, some presenting with back pain (which in my case meant a couple of new saddles to no avail), I'd investigate the SI.


                            • #15
                              I tend to think of it as "back there somewhere" and probably won't offer much more than that w/o actually seeing the horse go. I think it can be as a result of a few things, not just SI or stifles.
                              Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                              • #16
                                DMK, most certainly, at the end of the day the advice we give the OP is to get it diagnosed by a vet, but helping the OP understand what could be wrong in the back, what symptoms to look for and hence what to tell the vet.
                                By sharing symptoms & outcomes of different horses, it may help others .

                                I certainly don't want to diagnose the OP's horse by just a few lines on a BB.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by Lieslot View Post
                                  ...at the end of the day the advice we give the OP is to get it diagnosed by a vet, but helping the OP understand what could be wrong in the back, what symptoms to look for and hence what to tell the vet.
                                  By sharing symptoms & outcomes of different horses, it may help others .
                                  This exactly, thank you.
                                  *friend of bar.ka

                                  "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"