Q: My horse is a chronic over-reacher, and he quite often injures himself. I turn him out in bell boots, but these tend to rub. What can you suggest?
A: Hi Barbara. Over-reaching can be a problem and if he’s doing it in the paddock then that’s frustrating too.
Hopefully, there’s a solution to the problem. Firstly, I’d question if there’s anything in the paddock itself that’s contributing to him overreaching. For example, a paddock that’s muddy or undulating might cause his feet to get slowed down and then interfere with his legs. Think about yourself trying to run in heavy mud or very unlevel surfaces. Chances are, you’re going to knock yourself or maybe even go completely splat! If you think this might be the case for your horse then moving him to a flatter or drier paddock should help prove you right or wrong pretty soon.
Under saddle, we’d usually associate over-reaching with things like fitness (or lack of), a horse carrying too much weight, or a green/young horse amongst other things. Most of these things become less of an issue in the paddock as we’d expect a horse to sort his legs out himself when not under saddle. But it’s still worth considering these factors as there is obviously still a problem for him that isn’t exclusive to being ridden.
It’s better to aim for prevention rather than treatment. But there’s a few things to try if you’re still at a loss. You could talk to the farrier about leaving more over-hang of hoof at the toe of the shoe on the hind feet (if he is indeed shod). This might not necessarily prevent the over-reaching but reduce the damage and act as a buffer when he does. Hoof wall is softer than horseshoe and should cause less damage if it’s rounded off smoothly.
Trying different types of over-reach boot might be worth a try too. There’s some options – a regular over-reach boot and also a sausage boot which fits over the pastern and can prevent the horse knocking himself.
If and when you exhaust all options, it may be that the rubbing of a boot is the lesser of the two evils when compared to the injury from over-reaching.
David Hankin Dip.WCF
This question and answer first appeared in NZ Horse & Pony magazine, January 2012