Lame Horse on Trial

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Q: I am currently "trying" a young (4 yrs old) stallion, hunter. The problem is he has three different types of shoes on, and is not sound. On his left front he has a normal shoe and a normal foot. On his right foot the entire shape of the foot is different, it is thicker looking, the toe seems to roll over the shoe and mushroom out on the base, the shoe has a pad under it (not covering his foot only under the shoe), the shoe is "offset", and this shoe has two copper nails at the top! His back feet both have the same normal square toed shoes. Obviously the problem lies in his front. My question is, why did they do this to this young horse? Is the shoe trying to correct a larger hidden problem? Or is the shoe the cause of the problem? I have not spent the money to vet him, since he is so obviously off. So I don't even know what his x-rays look like. I would really like to try to help him. I only have until Monday, August 23rd so if you could get back to me A.S.A.P. I would really appreciate it, and so would he!!!! Thank you so much.

A: A few thoughts came to mind as I read your message. They are probably not what you want to hear, but here they are.

1. Why are you even considering buying a lame horse? Once you own a horse and it goes lame you do what you can to cure him or live with the problem. But to take on a horse that is already lame, and pay money for it, is hard to understand.

2. Even if they give you the horse, you should remember that the cheapest part of owning a horse is the purchase price. The maintenance costs on a normal horse mount up very quickly. On a lame horse that could require special shoeing for the rest of his life the maintenance costs could become astronomical.

3. Why are you considering buying a stallion for a hunter? Unless he is of incredible lineage and you just want to prove him in the show ring and then breed him, a gelding or even a mare is by far the better choice.

4. What do the present owners of this "hunter prospect" say about his lameness and his shoeing? You might not believe everything they have to say but you would certainly be foolish not to ask them.

If one of my clients asked me the same questions you did, I would tell them to cut their losses before they become attached to the horse and send him back to his owners immediately. If the owners can get him going sound, then they can call you again and you can consider the horse for purchase.

If you are determined to try to keep this horse, you need to have your farrier look the horse over thoroughly and give you his assessment. Without having the horse right here where I can see him and feel him, I would be guessing since my crystal ball is out of order. If your regular farrier is not a Certified Journeyman Farrier of much experience and good reputation, you should seek out a farrier that is. Unless the farrier tells you right off that he would not want to see you take a gamble on the horse, he will have to pull the front shoes off to give you an educated opinion.

If you still haven't turned thumbs down on the horse by then, you will have to get the opinion of a good equine veterinarian. If you explain the situation he can do the more inexpensive part of the check before he does radiographs. That way you will avoid some of the expense if the problem is visible or can be palpated.

If you decide against the horse at this point you will want to have the farrier replace the shoes as closely as possible to how they were when the horse arrived. This should stop the owners from complaining that you lamed up their horse by changing his shoeing.

If you keep the horse, your vet, farrier and you will all have to work together to try and solve whatever the problem turns out to be.

As far as which came first-the shoe or the problem? No one would put a shoe like that on a horse that didn't have a problem of some sort already. This would hold true especially if they were trying to sell the horse. Buyers shy away from even seemingly sound horses that have anything other than plain normal shoes on. It is possible that the shoe was put on to remedy one problem and now is causing another... Who knows?

It is not my intent to discourage you on this horse but merely to point out realities to you. It is so often that we fall in love with a face, a personality, or a color or breed. That is why it is imperative that you have professionals check out this horse.

One last comment. Horses are like street cars: there are some that will take where you want to go and there are others that will dump you in a poor neighborhood.

Good luck!

Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

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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.