Cow Hocks: Affects of Correction
Good morning..I apologize in advance if this is the wrong forum. This isn't so much a conformation question as I know the problem so much as a question on possible effects of the problem :)
I am considering a very nice mare. She's 17h, coming up on 5 yrs old, quiet, spookproof, brave and willing. She is easy and uncomplicated to ride and the gaits are smooth. The one major issue I see, however, is that she is cowhocked. The left hind isn't too bad but the right hind does have an outpointing toe, maybe somewhere along the lines of a 5-10 degree angle marking a straight toe as 0 degrees. This mare was started in 4 races, showed no interest in racing and has never been shod. The seller/owner/breeder is indicating she has been this way since she was foaled. Why they didn't attempt to correct the issue I don't know. The mare has never been lame and is schooling, very easily, 4'. My plans are for a dressage/hunter.
I know that corrective shoeing can help, however, I am concerned with the age, since she is obviously past her growth period. I realize the obvious course is a vet x-ray of the legs to show any current changes, however, I am more concerned that if the x-ray shows no changes, what the possible affects might be later on due to this late in the game correction. I am guessing, based just on past observations and general educational conversations with a farrier, that it would probably take at least 3 shoeings to align the tow (right hind) into the proper position without putting undue strain on the leg with a "one time does it" correction.
By the way...yes, I know I used the wrong version of affect/effect :). Not enough caffeine when I posted and then missed the editing time restriction for correction.
It has been my experience that it is not wise to correct mature horses. Cow hocks do not lend themselves well to early correction either.
The problem with correction on a mature horse is that you can only make the conformation fault 'look' better. You do it by leaving the inside of the hoof high (or long) and lowering the outside. This makes the horse land on the inside first and the horse pushes off with much more pressure on the inside. It is a recipe for disaster.
When I first started training for the public, I was brought a lot of Arabians. Many had been tried in the show-ring. They all were born with cow hocks that owners tried to make look straight. They interfered, over-reached, were half crippled and what not. Getting their back feet back to 'level' and shoeing them with the conformation they were given at birth straightened the problems out if not the legs.
Get a farrier that watches this horse travel (from behind). I would have him set up this horse where his feet land the flattest he can get them. You also do not want this horse twisting or turning a foot as he pushes off. All of these landing and pushing off problems create a LOT more stress on the joints above them. That is something you do not want if you want this horse to stay sound.
Watching this mare travel I didn't see a twist in the foot, either in the flat gaits or while jumping, and I was looking very hard. I WAS thinking the same thing though that I need a farrier to make a good eval, the only problem is the distance between her barn and my preferred farrier who isn't afraid to tell anything like it is.
Are you sure the mare is cow hocked? A certain amount of toeing outward, in appearance from the rear view, is normal conformation. the horse's legs MUST angle to the outside a few degrees in order for the stifle to clear the belly as the hrose lifts the leg to reach forward. But the the whole leg should be angled , not just from the hock down.
Are the rear canon bones parallel to each other from the rear view, from hock to ground?
This is a good article explaining leg faults
Leg Set: Its Effect on Action and Soundness of Horses
Yes...as soon as I pointed it out the owner agreed with me. When the mare travels to the left, the travel looks normal but when travelling to the right, there is a visible lifting of the right hind higher than the left which is common in cow hocks. Still, the canter is very smooth in both directions which is confusing as I would think that a higher lift in the leg would make the gait a little rougher in that direction.
In the article linked, I would say the mare is just a bit more cow hocked then B but not at the level of C. The hocks don't touch but there isn't a lot of room between them either.
I think the best bet is to let some more eyes look at her. While I have a decent background I admit I am also being picky at times. It could be I am seeing something that isn't as bad as I think.
No, 'corrective' shoeing can not help and any farrier that tells you so is only working on cosmetics, at the expense of further torque to joints. Any corrective type work on feet to change conformation really needs to happen before 6 months old or so.
It may be a true 'conformational fault' or it may be due to injury from her immature body being worked too hard. It's possible some good bodywork/chiro could help her if it's due to injury. But depends what you want of her too. If you're not wanting her to become an athlete or dressage star or such, it may not be such an issue anyway. Depending on what you want, I'd think that conformation worth considering.
My mare is very, very cowhocked. I barrel raced her for 12 years, and she's never been lame(discounting obvious injury) a day since I've owned her. She's now 19, and only has mild arthritis which is manageable with a joint supplement. I wouldnt worry all that much, just keep an eye on it.
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