Overreaching

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Q: I have a 15 y/o Quarter Horse mare that is 14.3 that I bought a few months ago. At the time of purchase, her previous owners were trimming her (without prior experience). I noticed that she has a terrible over reach at the walk. Is there anything that can be done to correct this? She is merely a trail horse at this time. Thank you.

A: First we have to be sure we are using terminology the same. Technically speaking "overreach" refers to the horse's hind foot striking or stepping on the heel of the front foot. Obviously this is a big problem because the horse will continually cut his front heel, pull shoes and/or stumble.
 
In many people's casual horse discussions, however, "overreach" is used to describe what would more correctly be called "over step" or "over track". This means that the horse's hind foot sets down forward of where the front was set down but the feet do not hit each other.  The track of the hind foot is just more forward than that of the front. Generally speaking this is a desirable thing, although there are a few problems that can occur along with it.
 
If you will tell me which meaning of overreach are you intending to use I will attempt to answer your question for you.

Q: She is actually doing what you describe as overreaching, but not all the time. Really the only time I notice it is when she is being led from the pasture to the barn at dinner time. I know she is anxious to eat, but her stride seems to remain calm and smooth. It is also only at the walk. Any ideas????

A: If you are riding the horse you can help prevent overreaching by keeping the horse properly balanced and a bit collected. Since it happens mostly when you are leading your horse you can try to make her balance herself. Make sure that she doesn't pull forward while being led. Lead her forward a short distance, halt and make her back up a few steps. She needs to obey instantly and without you having to pull on her. The best way to insure this is to carry a dressage whip or equivalent. When you halt and want the horse to back, you tap or even hit hard enough to sting a bit across the front of the horse's cannons ("shins"). Every time the horse wants to throw her weight on the forehand (which is when she will overreach) you cause her to balance back on her haunches by stopping and backing. She will begin to anticipate this and should start to balance herself during the entire walk so as to be ready and able to begin backing quickly enough to avoid being struck across the front legs.
 
Your farrier can also discourage overreaching by speeding the breakover of the front feet and slowing it for the hinds. There are many things that can be done along these lines including
  • back up the toe, back up the breakover and support the heels of the front feet
  • rock the toes of the front feet, use slightly weighted shoes in front
  • lower the heels of back feet, shoe back feet with extended heels
  • increase elevation and decrease forward extension of back feet with heel calks & rocker-toe
It is actually fairly unusual for a horse to overreach at the walk.
 
Good luck with solving this problem. I'd be interested in how your horse progresses.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Mary Bayard
 
Dodge Creek Stables
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon 

www.americanblacksmith.com
mary@americanblacksmith.com
 

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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.