My walker gelding toes out in the front.
Common problem with wide variation in condition and gait effect.
At his last trim, my farrier said it was because he was narrow chested and this causes him to wear down the insides of his feet first. He said he didn't need anything else besides the normal trimming.
His explanation for the condition is probably correct. Not sure I agree that a trim is all that could benefit the horse. Nothing can "fix" him, but there are things beyond a trim that can help. Much depends upon the extent of the conformational defect and your intended use of the animal. Your farrier is in the best position to judge those aspects of the situation.
But now, I'm wondering.
Firstly, is this something that can be corrected through proper trimming when it begins early in life? In other words, I want to know if he more than likely developed this as a foal and it got worse because it was not dealt with.
The correct answer is.... it depends. Early trimming (first 6 months) can alter load bearing. That load is transferred proximally to joints and, per Wolff's law, remodeling of the bone takes place to accommodate that redistributed load. This suggests that some early correction may be possible but... many of these horses do not present obvious indications that anything is permanently wrong until the epiphyseal plates undergo endochondral ossification. Even if we did identify the problem early on and "corrected" it, that "correction" could result in premature articular arthritis at the DIP, pastern, fetlock or even carpus/tarsal joints.
It's risky business no matter what approach we take and care should be taken to assure we do not create more problems than we solve.
Secondly, now that he does have this conformational issue, can anything be done to correct it beyond just your regular trim? Shoes, perhaps?
The condition cannot be corrected, either via trimming or shoeing. That said, a serious conformational defect can come with severe load imbalance problems creating additional stress on joints and the hoof capsule. Shoeing can often assist (not correct!) these horses, offering improved m/l and d/p balance of the loading forces. Proper shoeing could extend the use/longevity of these horses and reduce some of the secondary problems associated with load imbalance (excess wear at the medial heel, m/l distortion of the hoof capsule, etc). Do understand that no shoeing will alter the horses conformation. We can't "fix" them; we can only assist. Proper shoeing can also assist in improving associated gait/stride problems with interference, forging, paddling, winging, etc. It is very difficult to apply these mechanical changes via a trim since we can't put mass/volume where it does not exist.
Lastly, how will this affect his joints down the road?
If done correctly (trim and shoeing) the effect can be an improvement in the horses way of going and longevity of use. Done incorrectly, the results can be disastrous. Each case must be carefully evaluated as an individual. What works on one will not necessarily work on another.
His "quirk" by no means diminishes his awesomeness as a trail horse, or makes me love him less. I was just curious as to if there was something more I could be doing for him.
Thanks in advance. ^^
If he meets your performance expectations; is not presenting a deteriorating hoof capsule condition (wear does not exceed growth; distortion is either not present or controlled) and horse seems generally sound, count your blessings, stay the course and trust your farrier.
You could always get a second opinion but.... you just did that.
Seriously, you could ask ten farriers about this issue and you'd get at least five different opinions. Most though, would have the same general theme.
Bottom line.... farriers cannot alter conformation or correct conformational defects in a mature horse. Now you know why there is such emphasis on quality breeding.