Horses, they seem to leave us with more puzzling questions than answers most of the time. When faced with a sick or lame horse, Energy Equine always advises to pick up the phone and give us a call. As a general rule of thumb – it is always better safe than sorry. However, we know that sometimes owners have those weird and random questions they don’t always think, (or want!) to ask when they see us. We went to our followers on Facebook and Instagram and told them they could… #AskYourVet… anything! Here’s two of those questions answered by our very own, Dr. Chad Hewlett.
1. Why does my horse step on herself when walking… it feels like she’s “stepped in a hole” while on flat ground? ~ Audrey G
I’ll break this down in vet terms, and in layman’s terms, the best I can. Commonly a horse “stepping on herself” when walking is referred to as clipping or overreaching. This means that the posterior (behind) phase of their front foot is slower than the anterior (forward) phase of their hind foot.
What ends up happening is that your horse’s hind foot reaches in before their front foot is moving forward and out of the way of the hind. So the hind ends up clipping or catching the shoe. When we observe this happening to horses what we are then looking for is “how do I get the posterior phase to finish and how do I get the anterior phase to start so that I can get them balanced again?
It is worth noting that usually they don’t catch the same front and back, but opposite. So generally we see the back right catch the front left, and the back left catch the front right.
The things we talk about all the time with clients is, is my horse’s front end moving the same as their hind end? So, as a rider, are you inhibiting any proper movement. Are you sitting on your horse properly? Do you have the correct balance with your body so that your horse is properly engaging it’s hind end? If you are riding your horse very much over the front end, allowing them to not engage their hind end, you are just adding to the 60% of frontal weight distribution that is already there.
While riding, if you are not engaging and getting your horse’s core up and just allowing them to load their weight and not engaging through their hind end, pelvis and stifles, those horses will overreach, they will do it all the time.
If you watch really athletic horses, when their front foot comes up their back foot will land in the same footfall, some will even go up and past it. This is actually a sign of good mobility in the pelvis, so we don’t necessarily want to change and alter the gait to restrict mobility.
So, aside from motion and biomechanics when it comes to overreaching, we ask all the time, “is the shoeing in balance?” In cases of overreaching, a lot of times people will end up moving the shoe forward on a horse’s hoof so that they don’t clip it, I think that’s the opposite of what we need to do. My recommendation for a client would be that we need to move the shoe back even more so that their horse has even more support behind. It goes back to the restriction of mobility, if they are supported they will be more comfortable to quickly come through vs restricting their movement which is where we see short, choppy step. When it comes to the shoeing being balanced, the back shoes angles need to be set up properly as well. It all has to come together between your veterinarian, your farrier, and often yourself as a rider, and your trainer, to determine the cause and how we should treat it from there.
But, to summarize, the main thing we first look at when a horse is clipping is engagement from a biomechanics standpoint. On the human side it would be the old adage of “shoulders back, core engaged.” From the horses standpoint it is are we engaging their core and shifting their weight onto their back legs. If we aren’t doing that, if we aren’t helping our horses travel correctly, then horses will overreach really easily.
2. Curious about causes of colic… I’ve heard don’t let a horse drink cold water or too much water right after exercise and to not feed a horse right after a workout because it will cause colic. Is this true, and if it is, how long do you wait to allow water and feed post-exercise? ~ Amy B.
Really good question and a common one! Yes, I do feel like cold water can cause a horse to colic, I also feel providing them food can cause colic if given too close to exercise either before or after. However I do believe that just like human athletes you can condition your horse. For me, when I started working out and was trying to go to the gym and go to work I would struggle. If I ate within 15 minutes of working out I would feel sick and pukey, horses are no different. Now that I’ve conditioned myself, I can eat within ten minutes post workout and feel good. I can drink water throughout my workout and feel good.
Similarly, I try to drink tepid water before, during and after my workout. Cold water can be shocking to my system. The same goes for your horse.
I think that horses need between 15-20 minutes post exercise before offering them food or water. Their heart rate should come down, their breathing should be normalized, once you are seeing those signs, give them food and water, but it should be a limited amount. I don’t think a horse should be allowed to over do it, give them a little bit of feed, a little bit of water and let them normalize and work their way into it. That would be my suggestion.
Have a great question for next month’s #AskYourVet? Send us a DM on Facebook or Instagram or comment on this blog with your question for one of Energy Equine’s great veterinarians!
Energy Equine is a Veterinary practice in Alberta founded by Chad E. Hewlett, BSc, DVM.
Following graduation from Iowa’s Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Science with Honors, Chad was accepted into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at Iowa State University. His post-graduate internship was spent at the Ontario Veterinary College where he specialized in Equine Surgery Medicine, and was encouraged to concentrate on large animals, particularly horses. His next move was to Calgary, Alberta, where he worked in the ambulatory practice for Moore Equine Veterinary Centre. Here he gained an incredible knowledge of the equine athlete, and began to focus on lameness. Chad’s interest brought him to famous lameness veterinarian, David McCarrol, at Interstate Equine in Goldsby, Oklahoma.
Once again returning to Calgary in 2006, and after the successful completion of a post-doctorate IVAS certification in Veterinary Acupuncture, Chad started his own ambulatory practice, Energy Equine. With a special interest in performance horse soundness and locomotion, Energy Equine has grown from a one-man show to a group of approximately four regular practitioners, utilizing prolotherapy, stem cells, IRAP, acupuncture, sports therapy and traditional western medicine to treat and maintain his performance horse clients.
For more information on any of the services offered by the clinic, or to book an appointment with any of our fantastic veterinarians, contact us at the Energy Equine office, 403-700-0818.