Over-reaching

Also Known As

Mistimed gait

Description

Similar to forging, over-reaching is a timing problem between the movement of the hind limbs and the front limbs of the horse. Over-reaching results when the hind feet strike the back of the fore feet while they are still on the ground. Injury to the lower limbs, especially the heel bulb, and pulling of the shoe is often the result.

As with forging, over-reaching may relate to conformation, degree of fitness, fatigue, age, or improper riding. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when determining the best course of action to address the problems of timing and movement of the horse's limbs.

Symptoms

  • Faulty gait with hind limbs striking front limbs when walking, trotting, or galloping
  • Lacerations to back of front limbs
  • Pulled shoes
  • Lameness

Causes

Over-reaching may be caused by the conformation of the horse, discomfort in front limbs, fatigue, age, or poor or improper riding. Horses that over-reach often have short backs and long legs. With the back legs being closer to the front limbs, it is easy for the longer legs to collide with the back of the front limbs.

If a horse has discomfort in the front limbs, the pain or discomfort may lead to poor coordination since the horse is reluctant to move the front legs in a steady, coordinated pattern. The same circumstances prevail with fatigue and age.

If muscles are sore or tight, or if the energy level is low, the horse may not move in a smooth, coordinated way, causing the rear legs to over-reach and strike the front limbs as they stay on the ground too long. A poor rider who gives the horse mixed signals either with the reins or leg pressure may confuse the horse and cause delayed reactions resulting in over-reaching.

Prevention

The first steps in prevention relate to awareness of the characteristics of each horse and a quick response anytime a faulty gait begins. A knowledgeable, competent farrier can assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

Treatment

To rectify this problem, the horse's movements need to be analyzed by a farrier who can work with trimming of hooves and specialized shoe requirements to change the flight pattern of front and rear limbs, correct any instability, and provide adequate support for the moving horse.

The first stage of treatment is attending to any lacerations or wounds created because of over-reaching. Most likely, any wounds will be contaminated with dirt and bacteria. Proper care and handling will reduce the risk of tetanus and prevent infections.

If the horse has been immunized against tetanus, a booster shot should be given. If not immunized, a tetanus shot followed by a booster in 4 weeks should be given.

A veterinarian should be consulted regarding treatment, which would probably include lavage of the wound with copious amounts of water until thoroughly cleansed, and use of an antiseptic. Chlorhexidine or Betadine are two antiseptics that, when properly diluted, provide antibacterial protection. The veterinarian can decide if any lacerations are serious enough to need sutures.

The second stage of treatment involves assessing the cause of the over-reaching. If the over-reaching is the result of the conformation of the horse, a change in trimming of the hooves or in the fitting and/or materials of shoes may be enough to correct the problem.

If fatigue, discomfort in the front limbs, or age cause over-reaching, it may be time to reevaluate the exercise and work programs of the horse.

If a rider is creating timing problems and sending mixed signals to the horse, riding lessons may be necessary, stressing proper riding techniques and horsemanship.

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