"I have a 3-year-old that tends to drag
his back feet, usually while he is out in the pasture," writes Linda
from Minnesota. "Earlier this summer he wore his toes almost down to
the white line. The farrier thinks something must be wrong, maybe a back
problem, but the vets can find nothing wrong. They think he may be lazy.
He is a little cowhocked in back. Any clue as to what might help this horse?
"Our farrier believes that if you put shoes only on the front,
you will throw the horse totally out of balance. Other people tell me this
is just not so, and they shoe only the front feet. Obviously my horse that
drags in back needs shoes in back, but what about our other horse? Is it
better to shoe all four or only the fronts?"
Horses that drag
their hind feet as you described are, as your vets have said, lazy. Sometimes
a horse doesn't pay attention to what his hind feet are doing. If he
drags his feet only at a walk when you're leading him, try checking
his head up. Do this by walking close to his head. Put the lead rope in
your right hand and hold it close, about 8" from the halter. Ask him
to raise his nose by pulling up on the lead rope, above his nose.
Checking the head up does three things:
You have his attention
he's thinking. It opens up his underside, making the muscles work.
Since he can't see his hind feet, he will pick them up higher to
avoid tripping on things he can't see. If he drags his feet all the
time I would look into a stifle or bone spavin problem. It may not hurt
to look into these areas, anyway. I doubt the cowhocks are the problem.
Dr. Beth Valentine, this site's Virtual Vet, suggests further, "If
stifle or bone spavin problems do not seem to be the cause, I would wonder
about stiffness or weakness of the muscles in the hind limbs. I have great
videos of EPSM draft horses either dragging their hind feet or wearing the
toes down tremendously. They also tend to have a not-quite-normal action
in the hock/stifle joints (which are linked), which can range from subtle 'stabbing'
actions to something that looks like the stifle is locking terribly. Usually
lazy horses drag or stumble on the front, where they carry most of their
As for shoeing just the fronts, I have many horses
that I shoe only in front and they go just fine. Horses carry something
like 60% of their weight on the front, so the fronts sometimes show the
need for shoes before the rears do.
Barring reasons of lameness,
conformation, or usage, the main reason we shoe a horse is to protect the
hoof. If the hoof wears off faster then it grows, if the sole bruises or
the walls chip or crack, then shoes are needed to protect the feet.