Horse Shopping – Horse #7

I found this horse’s sale ad and hesitated about sending it to my husband. She just looked too much like Shasta.

He’s very attached to Shasta and at various stages of the horse shopping adventure has stopped to ask me if I think maybe he can just keep riding Shasta. I told him from the beginning that I think he should get a horse that doesn’t look or act like Shasta or otherwise he’ll spend every interaction with that horse comparing it to Shasta.

And I was right, because he wanted this horse regardless of potential issues. I made the mistake of putting my husband in charge of talking to the seller. I was getting a little burned out on talking to people on the phone so I figured he could do this one. I told him to make sure he asked if anything was wrong with the horse, why is it for sale, etc. So he talked to the seller and scheduled an appointment for Saturday.

Then, as we’re driving to our 3:30 appointment, the seller texts to say she’s scheduled the farrier for 4:15 so that way we can see the horse move before and after the farrier. And I’m like, uh what’s wrong with this horse’s feet? And my husband says she has a minor club foot. Wait, what?! Ugh, I was not aware of this. My husband actually did a lot of his early riding on a club-footed lesson horse so he didn’t realize it was a problem. I know some horses do fine with a club foot. And in some brief internet searching, it does seem like some people have done endurance with club-footed horses, but it’s not easy and a lot of the commenters said they’d done it before but would never want to do it again.

Anyway, we were already on our way, so I figured we might as well go look at her. We arrived and the foot looked pretty bad. Of course she was shod and her feet were overdue. The farrier arrived, cut a lot of long toe off, rolled the toe, and really got her to a much better place.

However, her movement at the trot wasn’t much improved. I actually don’t think she’s lame, just short-strided on the one leg and therefore looks uneven.

So here’s the weird thing. When we finished lunging her, we were standing around talking and watching her graze.

And this is how she stands. Always. Like she will not put the right leg in front. And if she needed to move a step forward to reach new grass, she’d take this little crippled step with the right, practically fall down, and hurl the left leg forward again. You can see how this position really emphasizes the club foot thing.

And I started wondering if this is a chicken or the egg sort of thing? Like did the club foot create this or does grazing like this all the time create the club foot. I know club foots are formed at birth or in the first year, but I do wonder if this behavior hasn’t made it worse. And it’s not just the hoof that’s out of whack at this point. This stance has changed the musculature in her shoulders as well.

She doesn’t look this deformed when standing straight, but you can see how awkward this position is and how it puts unnecessary strain on muscles. I do wonder if forcing this horse to eat upright (hay nets, hobbles, who knows) might help her club-foot. The seller (who is a paid trainer, not the owner) decided after meeting with us and my pointing put the severity of this behavior that she needed to get the owner to do X-rays and see if there have been bone changes inside the foot. The price the owner wants for her is only warranted if she can be competitively sound. Right now she’s only slightly off so she’d be fine as a light trail horse or breeding stock, but the price would need to change.

It’s a shame too as this is a really nice horse outside of the foot issue. She’s well-behaved and trained, really sweet and friendly, and very pretty.

16 thoughts on “Horse Shopping – Horse #7

  1. Emily Rodgers

    I just read an article about breeding dressage horses with front legs that are too long so they can't reach grass and graze like this. Then all the unnecessary strain it places on the body. I have a feeling that the club foot came first, but I would not be surprised at all of she has something else going on that is causing the grazing like that, too. She might be guarding that shoulder…

  2. Alanna M.

    So I know a couple of horse that have a club foot. The current one is totally sound and used for dressage and trail riding. If you like the horse it would be interesting to pursue it with a vet to determine the severity. Although obviously if she's already lame that isn't a good sign. 🙁

  3. Megan

    I know a horse who had this sort of thing happening- club foot and a weird grazing/eating stance. For him, corrective shoeing made all the difference. They put a thick aluminum shoe on the lower foot and a regular shoe on the club foot to help even him out. That made all the difference in the world, he's now a lot more even muscle-wise and although he was never lame, he's moving a lot better. He also stands square now. It's taken a good year or so to really get him going.

    I probably wouldn't want to take something like that on unless it was the world's most perfect horse though, corrective shoeing is no fun.

  4. Olivia

    I don't think she's technically lame, she's just short-striding on the one leg, but I think a vet at an endurance ride would still mark it as lame.

  5. Olivia

    I really don't want to take this on. And it would be different if the horse was already performing and just needed to continue down that path, but we'd need to do all the fixing.

  6. Olivia

    That's like breeding pugs to not be able to breathe. Why do people insist on breeding animals to be incapable of using their bodies.

  7. Olivia

    You have? See I wondered if it could be caused by this instead of just being emphasized. The mare has a foal who doesn't have club foot and also grazes like this. But she can put either leg forward because she's not club-footed.

  8. Nicole Sharpe

    I've heard this theory too. However, almost all foals are born with a neck too short to reach the ground to graze so they all have to adopt some kind of strange stance when grazing. Since the first few years of life (as mentioned above) are probably the most important ones in club foot development, it seems unlikely that selection for super long legged foals is causing this. That doesn't mean it doesn't create strain though!

    So I did an absolute CRAPLOAD of reading on club feet when I first started riding Murray because he has one and I wanted to know how it might limit our progress. Knowing both that mild-moderately club-footed horses have competed at extremely high levels (including going to Rolex, Landioso has club foot) and that it can be a career ender, I was trepidatious about taking on a horse with a club foot. After more than a year of riding Murray pretty hard and going XC schooling, jump schooling, etc. etc. and never having an issue with the club foot, my vet said that she wouldn't be too concerned with it. Had he shown any kind of unsoundness or soreness on that foot after XC or demonstrated any kind of unsoundness at all in the year+ that I was riding him, she would have said run away. So there's a lot to consider.

    Re: horses developing a club foot by grazing… it's really hard to say. Maybe people say that they developed one from grazing, but how can anyone know if there wasn't something else going on in the foot that caused the horse to start grazing like that? Very chicken-and-egg. (But actually chickens came first, the hard-shelled egg is not an ancestral trait to the avian lineage.)

  9. Olivia

    I know horses can do well with minor club hoof. But this horse's hasn't been taken care of so I can't tell if she would be fine with the foot being kept up with proper shoeing or trimming. She might be fixable, might not. If she were traveling completely sound like Murray then it might be a different discussion – though I'd still be hesitating – but she's not.

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