Bowed Tendon on Hind Leg

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Dropped down egg bar shoe

Q: I have so enjoyed your Q&A board! My situation is this: I purchased a 13 year old pregnant Tennessee Walking Horse mare. I bought her out of pity more than anything.

When I called to inquire about the mare, I was told that she had a slight wind puff on her off hind foot. When I arrived, the mare had the worst bowed tendon I had ever seen. I asked the woman how long her "wind puff" had been there and she stated that it had been that way for about three months; said she "fixed" it by pouring liniment over the area. The mare had a horrible limp and the woman said she was only limping that way because her husband had ridden her 12 miles the day before and she was just sore. Needless to say, I loaded her up and brought her home.

I took her to the vet to see if there was anything that could be done, and he said the tendon had gone too long without treatment and nothing could be done to really help it. I had expected that and was not surprised. She is not ridden but receives a great deal of love and attention. She is kept turned out in 25 acre field with several other horses, and gets a modest amount of exercise walking around with them. In the area that I live (South Alabama), there is a great shortage of farriers. There is one who comes through occasionally but he does not show up on a regular basis. He told me that he is a certified farrier, and I have no complaint with his work, only that he cannot be depended on.

Now that you know the situation, here is my question. Now that she is very pregnant (about 10 months), I cannot pick up her sound hind leg because her bad leg will not support her. The way that she stands, with her bad leg cocked on the toe all the time, has caused her heel to overgrow and her toe to become very short. Because of this, her frog is contracted and atrophied. Her other three hooves are what I have always heard referred to as platter hooves- very flat, spreading and shallow. Can you offer me any insight? My main goals are for her to be as comfortable as possible, not sustain any more injury, and improve the sound hooves.

Thank you for your time, and I am so glad I found your site!

A: First of all, with the mare so far along in her pregnancy, I would do nothing until after the mare foals. Then let us see if she can be made as comfortable as possible, not sustain any more injury, and improve her sound hooves as you have requested.

Things to take into account are

A horse supports approximately 65% of its weight on its front feet

We are dealing with a mare that has platter hooves, as you describe them

The mare has a severe bowed tendon behind and one over-stressed hind leg

If this horse belonged to my client I would proceed as follows:

While the mare is nursing a new born foal, I would do no more than attempt to balance and level this horse to the best of my ability with correct trimming. When the foal is approximately 3 months of age or as soon as it is able to stay out of the mare's way, meaning it is unlikely to be stepped on by the mare, I would then commence with a horseshoeing regimen.

I would shoe the front feet with wide webbed rocker toed shoes, being sure to relieve all sole pressure. This hopefully will assist the mare in developing a cupped hoof. The importance of a cupped hoof is increased flexion, therefore increased circulation, and thereby improving the quality and health of the foot itself. Shoeing should be done at six-week intervals. Not seven or six and a half. Six-week intervals.

Now let's address the hind end of the horse. For the bowed tendon I would take into serious consideration the application of a dropped down egg bar shoe. At the very least this shoe will offer support higher up the leg to tendons and muscles above, allowing healing and strengthening as it does so. Generally speaking, a shoeing or two with this shoe will allow the lame leg to heal enough to support the horse so that you can pick up the opposite, over-stressed foot and shoe it normally. My thinking is that a normal shoeing on this over-stressed foot would be a wide web, extended a little longer at the heel than usual. A little longer could mean "past the ends of the heels.

I would like to make it clear that my suggestions are controlled by what I perceive is a true picture of the horse's actual condition, based on what you have presented to me, since I can not see the horse. There are many in the equine world that would say, show me the horse or I can not help you. That would of course make long distance help like this impossible. I am hoping that you have shown me an accurate picture of your horse with your e-mail description.

Horses with problems such as you describe should be dealt with as a team effort. The team consists of the horse owner, the veterinarian and the farrier. Seeking outside advice such as you have done can also be included. But no one individual is going to solve this horse's problems.

I would take a very serious look at this horse's diet, supplements and vitamins. These can make or break any treatment program.

I feel we need to address your farrier problems at this time. You stated you have a certified farrier and have no complaint with his work other than that he can not be depended upon. You make it worthwhile, and I can be depended upon to get there from Oregon! What I am saying is: Pay this farrier what he is worth and a little bit more. Give him the incentive to be dependable.

You have said that you enjoy my Q&As. Also read my articles. There are numerous references made in articles such as How to Save Money Shoeing Your Horse, where I have gone into great depth on how to select AND TO KEEP a good farrier. I do not want to keep reinventing the wheel, but:

Keep your horse on a regular schedule.

Treat your farrier as you would like to be treated if you were the farrier.

Have your horses ready for his arrival--caught, fed, watered and cleaned.

Provide him with a safe, comfortable place to work on your horses.

Treat him like something other than common labor.

And pay him with negotiable U.S. currency as soon as he has finished the work.

A cold drink, a hot cup of coffee, some warm water and soap and a clean towel, and a pat on the back go a long ways towards building loyalty and dependability for any farrier.

Just this morning, on my day off, I had a client of many years call me and say her baby (horse) was limping. There was no question, but I got into my rig and drove out and did what I could for her baby. The coffee and the money and the clean dry place to work were as always there and so was I. On my day off. Get the picture?

There are undependable farriers just as there are undependable people in all fields, but even the worst of them become more dependable for good clients.

Good luck with your "rescue project". It sounds like she has landed in a good home with a caring and knowledgeable owner.


Geronimo Bayard
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

Note: We received an immediate reply when we sent this answer to the individual asking the question, and were assured that their farrier was not undependable--but he was a part time farrier who worked out of state often and thus was not always available. This is a different problem altogether. They will have to decide if they can live with his erratic schedule or else get another competent farrier interested in coming to their area.

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.