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High heel, low heel & resulting muscle asymmetry...

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  • High heel, low heel & resulting muscle asymmetry...

    Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? If so, I would like to hear your stories.

    We've figured that my gelding has issues w/ varying heel height, and so this has caused his muscles to become asymmetrical. How would one go about fitting a saddle on a horse with very asymmetrical muscles? And I mean an obvious bulge on one side of the withers, and a complete drop off on the other side. The goal is to correct the heel height in the hopes that this will help to bring the muscles back into symmetry. But in the meantime?? The saddle always seems to be on a "tilt" - for lack of a better descriptor. It is especially troublesome at the canter. I am a balanced rider, but felt very frustrated on this horse!

    Anyone with any input/stories/tips is very welcome to respond... I have never come across this. This isn't something I've ever known to look for in a horse, but I just couldn't fit a saddle on this guy, and an EMT finally caught on to the problem. He is 12, and I'm assuming he has been battling awful saddle fit for his whole life, due to this issue.

    Also stories on correcting heel height?? I know that there are varying schools of thought on the best way to accomplish this. Any input is valued.

    Last edited by Pasture_Ornament; Oct. 1, 2009, 05:31 PM. Reason: Perfectionism. ;o)

  • #2
    You can fit the fuller side and shim the slighter side.


    • #3
      This is a topic that really intrigues me and if you look at my history you might find some older threads about this with lots of good info.

      My gelding had a high LF and a low RF. It was hugely extreme. Careful, frequent trimming has helped a lot. It does start to get wonky again once in awhile.

      I think riding and working on the muscle asymmetry would help him even more, but he is retired now so that is out of the question.

      I'd have a saddle fitter out. As LMH said, you can shim as needed. A saddle that is a little too big and padded up is better than one that is too narrow.
      We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


      • #4
        I have an 11yr WB with the same issue. You can only correct so much of his feet. I have an excellent farrier who's got his fronts as good as pos, but they will never equal, nor will he ever deviate from his splitlegged grazing stance, which is what you battle against when the foot grows down (well uhm, forward in the low foot's case)

        Saddlefit, can you say .... "nightmare".... So often by various saddlefitters & companies was I told, by a Mattes correction pad, no, buy a Prolite correction pad, oh no, buy an airinflated Korrektor, oh no, buy the latest Thinline correction pad.

        Sure I've got them all in my basement. Unless you feel like cutting away in the shims and layer to find that perfect shimming option, very often with bad shoulder assymetry, you start cantering the not so totally balanced horse and the saddle twists diagonally and the rear panel sits on his spine. I've spent countless hours shimming, to just become increasingly frustrated.
        One said, shim the dippy shoulder, other fitter said, you need to shim both dippy shoulder & shimming opposite hind diagonal rear shim.... countless trials, nothing worked.

        At that age with a pronounced difference, I'd say get a good saddlefitter out that can flock for asymmetry. After x number of fitters I finally found a fitter that understood his problem and for the first time in 3 years of owning this horse I can now wtc without having to adjust the saddle for it sitting on his spine. My boy even has the added difficulty of having some mild scoliosis, on top of the shoulder asymmetry. Such a relief to finally sit on him not having to worry about the damn saddle shifting.
        My horse goes so much better now.

        Edited to add : Shimming is great if you are only dealing with "muscle" atrophy, imo often with the hi/lo horse you have the leg disparity problem (one leg longer then the other), hence the shoulder blade has a different position from the opposite one, so you never truly muscle them up totally equally.

        Edited to add (2) : http://www.equethy.com/page12.htm, see 1/3rd down page, clubfoot & saddlefit.
        Last edited by Lieslot; Oct. 1, 2009, 08:10 PM.


        • #5
          I really can relate to this thread. My horse is high low and it is very annoying riding an unbalanced horse. It would be a great if custom pads could be ordered that were build up more on one side.

          I have a great farrier who does a wonderful job of keeping my horse balanced. My horse is trimmed every four weeks and because of the farrier's skill our horse is actually fun to ride. It has taken a long time but my horse is starting to build up some muscle on the weak shoulder side. He is still unequal but he is much more even than he was a couple of years ago. He also stands square for the most part.

          Also, since I ride Western most of the time - I use two pads. One pad is made with some rubber grippy stuff which helps the saddle not to slip. I use another pad on top of the rubber pad since it had cushion.

          Good luck with this issue. I think you best solution would be continue to work closely with your farrier.


          • #6
            Sorry, you are dealing with a base problem in the horse, trimming is not ever going to make horse have matching feet. I would bet the hind hooves also do not match, though opposite of the fronts. Usually LF and RH, match, with RF and LH matching. Like a tippy table.

            We have one horse like this, and she has been a REAL education for husband the Farrier. She had a short leg for about a year, it went away, never came back. Anyway, she matched over the hind end, both sides of rump, spine, up to the shoulders. One shoulder was more developed than the other. However no one ever notices, because she is so striking in looks, they only see her head!

            We did a lot of exercises, working her twice on the low foot, getting her equally balanced in moving, so she was not "left-footed", favoring that side. Since I mostly rode her Western, the saddle fit was not a big issue, except for finding one wide enough in the front, with shoulder height for withers. Her saddles stayed in place, bending or straight, no twisting over her spine. I do use THICK western pads, since riding means she is out at least a couple hours. Not doing ring riding or shows with no padding or the "fashionable" pad of the month under saddle.

            Her issue, when we found it, was that she had broken her neck as a yearling. Only sign presented was lameness for over a year. She improved to just being short-strided as a 2yr old, so the goal was to get both fronts reaching the same stride length. There was no soreness in leg from withers to ground surface, with nerve blocking showing no changes. We gave up then, and followed Vet advice to just work her twice as much on the bad side, develop muscling and strength so leg was more useful. Program worked, she was broke out at 3yrs, lightly ridden, but got lots of long-lining. Both ridden and driven from 4yr old onward.

            She was a hard working girl, excellent performance horse in a number of areas, though Combined Driving was her best, Advanced level. We never asked her to jump.

            We found the neck damage from breaking after a clinic where she was free-lunged and a nose twitch on the right foot landing, was pointed out. She had never collected to a vertical nose well, and this problem was real apparent at the clinic, trying to figure why with the free-lunging. Funny how we never looked at her trotting straight at us!!

            We have her still, retired now, still has uneven hooves. But we KNOW why they don't match!

            I would not purchase a horse with unmatched pairs of hooves again. This is the only horse we ever got because she was beautiful, and I loved her at first sight! Owner would not sell at first, could not guarantee soundness ever. We struck a deal, I didn't care about the lameness. Husband went along, even though we both dislike lame horses. She sure has given him grey hairs over the years with her foot problems, and constant adjustments!! All you could say was she was consistant in constant changes.

            So suggestion is to find underlaying cause of unevenness, you probably won't be fixing anything on body at this late age. Corrective trimming is not going to help, farrier has to deal with what is in front of him. She was always kept shod except the last 2 months each time she was bred. Needed that hoof spread for big foals weight she carried. Might be a spinal problem, previous damage on your horse. Breeder figured our horse had done a somersault downhill in the pasture to get a neck injury racing to the gates with other yearlings. BIG growthy filly as a yearling, over 15H on pasture grass. Could be extra clumsy with such rapid growth. Filly had placed 3 or 4 in her halter class at Devon before the lamness appeared, well made, good mover then.

            Good luck in diagnosing specific problem with your horse.


            • #7
              Originally posted by goodhors
              Sorry, you are dealing with a base problem in the horse, trimming is not ever going to make horse have matching feet. I would bet the hind hooves also do not match, though opposite of the fronts. Usually LF and RH, match, with RF and LH matching. Like a tippy table.
              Very Very true, the diagonal pairs front & hind are a match and I'm also off the opinion that you won't get those feet to ever totally match.
              But an experienced farrier can help the horse so it moves balanced within its unbalance so to speak and a saddlefitter that understand this kind of problem, how a horse moves as a result, combined they can help you back to a point where it feels you are actually riding a normal horse and feel you can sit straight yourself and work on building up even muscle in the horse.

              I never thought of this, but you're right western saddles are probably easier to suit this.

              Very interesting about the neck issue.


              • #8
                Reactor Panel Saddles...

                Two of my crowd are long toe/low heel horses. My mothers gelding was pretty well fixed thanks to diligent weekly trimming, good Dressage riding, and lots of work. He's the reason I own a Reactor Panel. With the shims, disks, and booties I could fix that saddle to be even every time he changed shape.

                My mare is less of a pronounced issue, but she is slightly off. Hers doesn't affect her shoulders as much and is far easier to deal with.

                Pity those of y'all dealing with it, it's a PITA!


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for all the responses. Sorry to hear that others have struggled a lot with this. In my gut I think this guy has had some sort of injury in the past, and maybe that has more to do w/ the total asymmetry than the heel heights. His history is pretty much unknown to me, but I think the people who sold him were just looking to get rid of him before he broke down. They didn't want to deal with any of his issues. So far, it has been a PITA! But, it is actually nice for me to know that this guy probably wont ever be perfect, and therefore we will just do the best with what we can. I was thinking of trying to shim one side of a saddle pad, but that does just sound extremely frustrating. I mostly do a lot of trail riding in a western saddle. I believe it is wide enough for him... and he seems comfy esp. when I ride with an Air Ride pad, but that is when I find that the saddle really starts shifting. I will try a real thin grippy pad underneath to see if that helps matters.


                  • #10
                    A towel folded in half worked well with my western saddle before I went with the RP. Any flex panel saddle will be easier to shim up, IMO.

                    Pull the shoes, trim him once a week, and you can probably help it the most. That's what we did with my gelding. He was a TWH that was padded for about 18 months, so he DID have damage done to the feet despite being in a sound barn. Horse had crappy feet.

                    Also, he had long standing thrush in his heel crack. We put Tomorrow Mastitis treatment in there for probably 3 months and it finally heeled from the inside out and he grew a foot from then on! It was amazing.

                    Only took 3 years to sort this guys issues out.


                    • #11
                      Google Limb length disparity by Dr Esco Buff.


                      • #12
                        My Nate has an issue, which Stefffic found out once when riding him. The saddle always has the sensation that it is slipping off over his left shoulder, every saddle I try. I have bought and sold and tried more saddles on this guy and nothing works except to ride bareback and it's no issue. I used to think it was me but hubby, Warren, Andrew and Steffie both experienced the same issue. You are CONSTANTLY "adjusting" the saddle back while riding. Bareback is really the best way to ride him and that's how I usually ride him.

                        Stefffic, can I try your reactor saddle on him?
                        I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

                        Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.