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Sound horse suddenly will not lift hind feet

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  • Sound horse suddenly will not lift hind feet

    Quick question that has me guessing until our vet comes out in a few days. We have a gelding who has been very sound, is still sound at the w/t/c, when he first came there were no signs of the following until a couple days ago. He is about 9 years old, no previous soundness issues. He refuses to lift his hind legs for farrier, or riders to pick his hooves. He is not afraid, this is not a problem that would indicate he's just being difficult. He does not act as though he is in pain, he will stand just fine, continue eating etc ... If you go to pick up the right foot, he will plant it in the ground, if you to manage to pick it up about 4 feet off the ground its as if it goes limp, the other foot pivots a bit and he slams it down or slightly kicks out; not in a violent way though. Same situation with the other leg. What has me worried is occasionally when you manage to relieve some of the weight off the leg (both legs) he shakes a bit, not his entire body but his hind end. Yes I know what that points to but any opinions would be appreciated. He is due to have his SI injected, I realize this could very well be a factor but find it so odd that up until a couple days ago lifting his feet was no problem at all. As stated the vet is scheduled to come out, but would love to hear some feedback in the meantime.

    - He backs up just fine
    - Lunges and rides very sound on the flat, slightly short step in the hind but has always been this way
    - Tracks up correctly (hind foot reaching front foot's track)
    - Not much of a toe drag once he walks a few steps
    - Does not trip often, takes irregular trips just like any other horse
    - No problem jumping (we have not jumped since this problem started)
    - Clean lead changes about 95% of time, always when asked correctly by a professional.
    - Good to decent muscle in his hind end
    - Has never had a problem similar to this, just started suddenly one day.

  • #2
    My horse randomly started with a problem like this in around May 2012. I think mine might have been farrier induced, and there was some lameness at points (though not always). You can probably find some of my old threads on this if you search under my name. My horse's problem seems to have a muscle component to it (possibly PSSM or similar). He improved immediately on robaxin. Now maintaining well with vitamin E and selenium, magnesium supplement, and soybean oil (basically treating him like he has PSSM and a magnesium deficiency).

    Are your horse's hindquarters muscles super tense? I could see my horse's butt quiver it was so tight and sore. It seems that the inability to hold his hind legs up was due to muscle cramping.


    • #3
      I'm not a vet so this is just my own story: Have your vet consider whether the horse has shivers, which may be what you alluded to, in your suspicions. It is neurological, and characterized at first by an inability to comfortably lift one or both hind feet to be picked or shod. Maybe he snatches the hoof up quickly and can only hold it up for a moment before slamming it back down. That's typical. It is not always characterized by an inability to back but that is a common symptom. I don't know whether it comes on as suddenly as you described it; that is the only thing that sounds inconsistent with what I know about this. You can't tranquilize him into better behavior for the farrier. This is a reflex; it's involuntary. The good news? This is not always the end of the world. My horse has it and he goes just fine w-t-c and jump (up to about 3'6" but occasionally we go higher) and he is 15 years old. He is absolutely the soundest horse you could want, as to performance, and the only issue is this inability to hold one foot up. I've had to pull his back shoes and after a 5-6 week period of adjustment (during which his hooves looked like they "exploded"; don't freak out if you have to pull the shoes) they look good now. It takes 3-4 people to help hold him up for the farrier once every 5 weeks for a trim. I've even trained him, when I lean on that side, to just tip his foot forward so that the tip of his toe is on the ground, and from there I can pick the hoof or paint the sole with Venice Turpentine, etc., or even smooth off the rough edges of the foot with a rasp. He can hold that tiptoe stance for a long time. I tried the low-carb, high-fat diet and it made no difference whatsoever. Best of luck; I hope you get a good vet report but if it is shivers just know that it is not always so terrible. I'll take this over many of the other health and behavioral issues I see in my barn every day.


      • Original Poster

        Thank you for these replies! I considered shivers ... I know that all horses could be different but yes, the fact that it came on so suddenly threw me off. When I can lift his leg up, which is not very high because he bears all weight on each leg when the opposite is lifted, he doesn't necessarily lift it and slam it back down, he literally puts absolutely NO effort in lifting it. Also when the foot is dropped, he'll drop it on his toe (the tip) and bend the ankle so much as if he can't put his hoof flat on the ground again, the ankle bends back so much that it looks like he might break it, it's pretty odd. He does finally reposition his hoof so it's flat but the first time today I had to push him immediately onto his other leg so I didn't take the chance of him injuring his leg elsewhere.

        The odd thing is he picks up his back feet just fine when walking forward to me after I try to pick his foot off the ground.


        • #5
          EPM, hope not, but worth a check....


          • #6
            Sounds like the beginnings of a neuro problem, such as EPM. The sooner the vet sees, the better.
            Inner Bay Equestrian


            • #7
              I'm no vet, but I had a similar experience about a month ago. My horse would pick up his front feet fine, but i had to "drag" his back feet up to clean them. He wasn't lame and just stood there eating his hay. I was a bit worried but it was during a really hot week, and he doesn't fair well with the hot weather. My trainer suggested giving him a couple days. Luckily it did go away and he is fine now, so for him I'm pretty sure it was both laziness and orneriness. I did however notice his haunches were a bit tense, so I did rub some gel sore-no-more all over his hind end and haunches. I have dealt with a serious SI issue with Forrest as well, so I always look in those areas first and have buckets of sore-no-more on hand for just in case.

              Good luck with your guy.
              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


              • #8
                That does sound possibly neuro to me...but it really could be anything. Horses are so difficult to figure out sometimes. Unless it gets worse, I would probably monitor it for a week and then have the vet out if it does not improve.

                FWIW, we did end up pulling my horse's hind shoes as well because he simply would NOT permit himself to be shod on the hinds. We would stand to be trimmed and was fine for front shoes, but as soon as the farrier even approached his hind end with a shoe, he would lose his mind trying to get away. Very odd behavior for him. I think that had more to do with a traumatic experience with a former farrier (the one that was shoeing him when the situation first became apparent). Anyway, we noticed an immediate and dramatic improvement in his problems as soon as we took him barefoot on the hinds. The soundness issues he had been having since the manifestation of the hind leg problem also improved dramatically. He LOVES not wearing hind shoes, and it makes the whole process with him much easier now that he is not wearing shoes behind.

                So basically...no idea what his problem is/was...but I'm just happy that it has improved. I hope you can figure your guy out!


                • #9
                  Not to add to the confusion, but maybe he has sore soft tissue in his hind legs. Specifically, DSLD/ESPA. The suspensory ligament begins to lose integrity and become lax. It's a genetic condition.

                  I'm guessing the sensation to the horse is that it's like having sprained ankles. The condition can affect one or both or all legs. BUT, it tends to manifest most obviously in the mid-teens, altho there are signs along the way.

                  The vet confirms this with ultrasound, and can distinguish the condition from a routine injury by the many little tears visible (not a single one an injury would present).

                  My horse has it, and there were short episodes of not wanting to pick up the hind feet.


                  • #10
                    Had 2 horses suddenly do this and both were actually FINE in back, both had suspensory issues in FRONT and it hurt to put the weight on the front end.

                    Both were fine if they were moving and distributing the weight on all fours. But standing still with that dead weight going forward? Not so much. Oh, my old mare with the bad hocks also did not like to flex them to pick them up for me when they were bothering her (when it was cold mostly).

                    Known a few that did this due to back end problems but they weren't mine so don't really know the details other then it was a back end injury/condition.

                    Have your vet start with a good lameness evaluation all the way around. Could be something systemic or neuro, of course. But start with the lameness and you will probably uncover something pretty quick.

                    If it makes you feel any better, have seen them with EPM, wobblers, high fractures, and assorted other conditions. They all picked their feet up...they might fall over doing it but they were willing to pick them up.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #11
                      We just went through something similar to this. We had a Chiropractor come out, he did his adjustments and found that our horse had a pinched Sciadic nerve going to his stifle along with his muscles on the right side of his lumbar was off. We have to stretch his hind legs a certain way and lots of trotting for next 10 days.


                      We are on our 6th day, and we have a different horse, didn't think he could move even prettier then before. My farrier sure will be happy.
                      "An ordinary trainer cannot hear a Horse speak, a Good trainer can, a Great trainer can hear them whisper and a Top Trainer can HEAR them Think." John O'Leary


                      • Original Poster

                        Our vet comes out tomorrow. In case anyone is interested I will give an update in the afternoon.

                        He typically does have SI problems and due to the fact that he was recently pulled out of a pasture on a break he is overdue for his SI injection. Crossing fingers that this will be it. So confusing as this was so sudden, not a gradual difficulty to lift.

                        Today he was able to lift the left just fine. Lifted his right leg perfectly after squeezing his chestnut but not when asked normally or giving a little tug on the lower leg.


                        • #13
                          Shivers, SI, sore in front someplace, would be my first three guesses. Doxy for Lyme in my neck of the woods..... I've been thru it all. Lets us know what your vet finds! Yes, Robax. for now too and make sure there is no pulse to any of the feet.