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Dressage Horse-Toe Drags

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  • Dressage Horse-Toe Drags

    I have a 17,coming 18 year old Dutch dressage horse. He has school Intermediate and shown PSG at the age of 14. Since he was 15 he has done first level work...some natural horsemanship and hasn't been asked to work real hard the last two years. He is on turnout all day and at night in a 18x18 stall with large paddock. Last July he started dragging his hind toes really bad at the walk and trot, had the vet out...they said it could be mild neurological/wobbler...them took him in for a second opinion with Mark Revenaugh, Revenaugh said he didnt think it was nuero, he went through all the tests and was fine...flexed clean, ect. Revenaugh sent us home with Adequan and he was good too go, brought him home and we rode all summer without any issues and since then has been getting a shot of Adequan each month.

    Then this December the same horse has been catching his hind toes and dragging his hind toes again, so I talked with his farrier and the farrier said give Natural Balance shoeing a try. So on Jan 3, 2013 he nailed on some hind Natural balance shoes and everything went downhill. Of course I have not worked the horse hard because of the drastic change in break over...but, his toe dragging has become extreme to the point where he leaves snake tails all over the arena. Today I took photos and looking at the horses heel bulbs, the balance looks off too me.

    The horse is not lame with these shoes on at the walk or trot, but avoids canter. At the trot he is butt high and has a short stumpy stride while of course dragging the toes.

    I know the horse is getting up there in age, and it could be something up higher in the leg of SI joint...ect.

    Look at the photo, do the hind heel bulbs look off balance? I am getting the shoes pulled on Thursday, but am wondering if his problems could be related to hind shoe in-balance.


  • #2
    Interesting topic
    I have a horse of about the same age and stage and I notice he is leaving drag marks in the arena as well
    He also had been on adequan once a month
    but I had let it lapse for about the last 4 or 5 months as it was just an age protective type of measure and I read a few -ve reports but was thinking of putting him back on it to see if it would help as I am noticing the slight toe dragging again
    He also hasn t been in full work (just about 3 rides a week)as I have a younger horse who I have been concentrating on.
    I will be interested to see what is suggested

    On the natural balance shoeing issue
    - 6 months ago I sold a very sound 13 y/o horse I had had for 6 years without issue and the new owner put these shoes on and he was instantly very lame
    - On inspection by another farrier a few days later He had almost 2 inch wide bruises / abcesses around the top of the frog tip and took almost 2 months to recover
    I asked my farrier about these type of shoes before telling him why and his words "they are crap they cripple horses"
    which was exactly what happened.

    I do find if I LY out and get him active behind my older guy stops leaving marks - he has always been sound, and has no obvious issues
    He certainly lifts then high in the paddock as he did today whilst skylarking

    Hope you find a solution


    • #3
      Originally posted by narco123 View Post
      . . . so I talked with his farrier and the farrier said give Natural Balance shoeing a try.
      "Natural Balance shoeing" is not the same as nailing on Natural Balance shoes.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Tom Bloomer View Post
        "Natural Balance shoeing" is not the same as nailing on Natural Balance shoes.
        Thanks for saying this, Tom. I have had Natural Balance shoes on my horses before and never had a lame one. Now I understand the above discussion!


        • #5
          Si/hips/stifles/hock pain all cause toe dragging. Changing his shoeing clearly made him worse (aggravates the original problem). You need to go see the top farrier in the region and with dr. Revenaugh (and radiographs) adjust his shoeing to what he NEEDS, not just keep trying different styles.


          • #6
            As flyracing said: The problem is likely joint. That's the most common cause of toe dragging, and changing shoes isn't going to help the issue. It's time for repeat radiographs and flex tests. It could be that he is having an issue that adequan is not sufficient for and its time to move up to joint injections. Then, and only then, can you talk to farrier about shoeing correctly to support your horse's joint needs.
            Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.


            • #7
              My mare has dragged her toes since day one. She has some sort of issue with hock or stifle (long story) She leave those trails in the sand that you were talking about. She's better after warming up and cantering for the first time. She also is better if I do some leg yielding and lengthens. I do some trot poles too.

              Her's is joint related. Id agree that its time for another work up. I bet some hill conditioning along with it would be good.

              I put hind shoes on her if she starts wearing too much toe off. Seems to help.


              • #8
                It is definitely a hind end issue and most likely from my experience an SI issue. My current horse has this problem with his left hind. He had a really bad SI when I got him and it took me nearly a year through various exercises and such to strengthen the area and his toe drag is less. Adding back steel shoes made it much better.

                Has your horse had any Chiropractic work? I ask because this really helped my horse. You could visibly see when he walked from behind, away from me on a straight line, that the rotation in his SI joints wasn't even and there was muscle atrophy as well.

                I don't like to inject unless I have to so I worked with building muscle with hills and Pilates and some days its worse than others and he does continue to drag and will the rest of his life but it is much better.

                Good luck with your boy!
                Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
                Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
                Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
                Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook


                • #9
                  I'd be looking at hocks, SI, and stifles, and would have the vet out for radiographs of hocks, stifles and feet. Then I'd get the farrier back out after you have new radiographs for them to work from. And the chiro, after he has new shoes and after you and your vet have talked about his revised management plan.

                  Things to look for so you can discuss them with your vet: do the hind feet travel fairly straight, or do they strike their own unique flight plans? :-) are ground poles hard, or easy for him? When you ask him for more than his usual workload, what happens? Does he resist backing, or prefer to back crooked? What about hills and slopes?

                  All the above are things I've seen with my hock-stifle-SI horse. Shoeing behind makes a huge difference for him (and he was in NB shoes for a while). All the other management stuff helps, too. He still drags his toes but we have a plan that keeps it under control and we love him as he is! Aging sucks!


                  • #10
                    Have a vet chiropractor out for a lameness/chiro eval. Bet you will find your answers there.


                    • #11
                      For the least expensive method of dealing with this, I'd start with the obvious and a new farrier, or the old shoes. A new farrier is preferable.

                      Then I would have another rider, one with some upper level capabilities hop on him and see how he carries himself then. some of these big horses take a lot of rider (not lots of riders) to put together, particularly if out of shape, which should be your first priority. Cross training is an important aspect of keeping these horse strong and fit.
                      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.


                      • #12
                        A few month ago, my 6 year old was wearing his hind toes (both) so much I had the farrier come and put shoes on his hinds for fear he would do permanent damage. He is a mustang and normally goes barefoot.
                        I had a very good chiropractor (and vet) come over and in one adjustment, it radically changed his way of going and virtually eliminated all toe dragging. SI issues were the culprit. He had also developed a very unusual canter in that he would do a lateral gait instead of a 3 beat canter.
                        He has seen the chiro a couple more times and we are doing daily exercises to strengthen him (walking over cavalettis, back lifts, stretches, etc.) I wouldn't say the issue is fixed, but most of the symptoms are, and it sounds quite similar to your horse's problems.

                        I don't think it is purely a shoeing issue - that's fixing the symptoms, not the cause.
                        "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by narco123 View Post
                          I have a 17,coming 18 year old Dutch dressage horse. He has school Intermediate and shown PSG at the age of 14. Since he was 15 he has done first level work...some natural horsemanship and hasn't been asked to work real hard the last two years.
                          Ok... well... honestly. The totally not so politically correct answer, so brace yoursefl. Maybe he is dragging his toes because he is being asked to do lower level work which simply does not keep him strong enough.

                          Just because he is doing/can do only first level ring work, does not mean he cannot do any other hard work.

                          I have the same horse you do, only he is 19 this year. In addition to dressage work (which he can do more or less of depending up on the day, and really I only do about 2 days/week) I also trail ride him on some fairly hilly and rocky terrain, take him on long, flatter hacks, and gallop him up shallow inclines. He is a very sweet guy, but he cannot do collected work in the ring over, and over, and over every day. When I describe him to people, I say his 'collection mechanism' has a lot of miles on it.

                          There are a lot of other ways to put a sweat on a horse that don't involve ring work, or at least not straight dressage work.

                          In ring work we all aspire to be perfect. But the simple fact is, our bodies and our riding is far from perfect. We are not the SRS riders, after all. So lots of work on hills, at speed, over rocky/trappy ground with obstacles, is all stuff that can work as physical therapy to make up for the deficiencies and imbalances in our own riding.
                          "Friend" me !



                          • #14
                            I see this happen a lot when the heels are cut too low and the CB is in the flat or slightly negative angle. Then it causes all the stress in the hind end and back.
                            A slight wedge in the heels may help you but speak with the farrier with hoof in hand.
                            Charlie Piccione
                            Natural Performance Hoof Care


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                              . . . A new farrier is preferable.
                              . . .
                              Hopefully one that will not leave his medial heels jacked up 1/2" higher than his lateral heels.


                              • #16
                                That horse has massive jamming on the medial walls of both hinds. IMO, there is a problem in his feet from just this one picture.


                                • #17
                                  I think you have more than one thing going on here. It would make sense as others have indicated the medial heels are 1/2 higher than lateral... which what I have seen on horses like that (mine do grow more inside over the shoeing period) but the hock will twist outward which puts stress on the hocks. Have you had a spavin test? I imagine with vet seeing him earlier they did?

                                  I have a big retired Dressage horse that has arthritis in three places in his neck and sacro issues which at first vet thought neruo. Hocks are clean but will drag his toes... so sounds like you will just have to work with the vets to figure this out.

                                  I sure hope you figure it out very soon.
                                  Live in the sunshine.
                                  Swim in the sea.
                                  Drink the wild air.


                                  • #18
                                    I am with Isabeau Z Solace on this one....

                                    I have seen this issue on many an occasion on horses that are not properly gymnasticised. This is not at all to point any fingers or suggest the OP is a bad rider. I am speaking from a "been there done that" perspective and thanks to my awesome coach, I have learned a ton on how to properly work my horse. While I agree that riding outside the ring on hills and varying terrain is ideal, many of us are relegated to riding indoors this time of year. I have to be extra diligent in making sure my horse is using herself correctly which of course is a product of making sure I am riding correctly.


                                    • #19
                                      Not much to add except that my daughter's 19 year old DWB gelding, dressage schoolmaster, drags his hind toes. We haven't been able to find any reason nor any solution. We've been told that others spent a lot of money and time on this problem with no success either. We live with it.

                                      I did mention to my daughter that we could use him to do the rows in the garden this spring. She didn't laugh.
                                      "The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp


                                      • #20
                                        Interesting that this topic should come up now. My 27 yr. old, who I just hack around and do light schooling with, has been off behind in the same way. I also noticed the left hip dropping too. He's always been a bit lazy behind (except when doing his lovely floating trot in the field w/o me) but lately he hasn't been happy while trotting.

                                        Vet who specializes in chiro/acupuncture will be coming next week, which should help a lot. He hasn't had an adjustment in a year so he's overdue. Oh, he's barefoot, trimmed by a LaPierre trained trimmer. Also getting Pentosan monthly but I suspect something higher up, like SI/stifles. He's also built butt-high.

                                        I'll be following this thread closely.