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uneven shoulders and club feet (long)

When I first got my good endurance horse he had a club foot with high heel,
rundown heel on the other foot and shoulders that were 2 inches different.
He actually had started to bow on his clubfoot leg and has a permanently
thickened tendon there. We tried about a million different things the first
year - chiropractic, wide range of shoeing techniques, proper riding in balance,
etc and nothing worked. Finally we found out what did work and it worked like 
a charm - only a very skilled eye can see a difference in this horse's feet and
his shoulders are even. I think this will work on the majority of horses.
  First it helps to understand what the clubfoot stems from as we heard some
real whacky explainations. The foal is born with a contracted deep digital
flexor tendon which pulls on the coffin bone for the rest of his its life.
In one big arab barn where a certain well-known stallion has sired hundreds
of foals they cut the foals check ligament at birth which releases the foot
into a normal position. (I do not know of any successful surgery like that
for adults.) 
This was related to me by the vet that worked for that ranch. We had shoers
tell us it was from eating off the ground with one foot back, or being
improperly shod, or even having one leg longer than the other. All untrue,
altho those things may make the foot worse. A horse is born with a club foot
and how it is managed determines how well the horse goes on it.
  So here's what worked for us (and also for my trainer's Grand Prix horse)
First of all you must have a shoer that understands what you want to achieve in
the end (2 feet that look pretty much the same) and how to get there. You want
to end up with 2 feet that are shaped well, wide at the heel and with
adequate length of heel on both. For a horse that was as messed up as mine
(one rundown
heel and one super long heel on the club foot) it took about a year. One year
of gradually lengthening the rundown heel and trimming the long heel. All the
while widening the back of the heel to prevent contraction. IF you rush this
by making radical changes and you are working your horse in any way you are
very liable to cause tendon and ligament damage. The same thing applies to
wedge pads which can be the scourge of your horse's life. How do you expect a 
horse's ligaments and tendons to react to a sudden change in angle? Put on one
running shoe and one high heel and go for a walk. Walk up and down a hill.
At least you can take off the shoe unlike your horse who will be in pain.
    The other way to help this foot and shoulder normalize involves training
your horse in a balanced, even way. The entire musculature of a "lopsided"
horse must be changed to even it up. This is why a chiropractor or quick fix
can never make a big difference at this point. This retraining process also
takes close to a year. Various people have their own opinions on how to achieve
this. We did it by training horse and rider in dressage making sure that all
work was done evenly and balanced. At first my horse could not trot 5 steps on
his bad diagonal without bumping me off onto the other one. He also was not
capable of taking that lead at a canter under saddle, he was too imbalanced.
We worked him on longe lines for a month to help build his muscles, then rode
him the same way. Gradually over the year his body changed.
  Like I said, 4 years later you would not notice from a casual glance that this
horse has a club foot. His topline is very nice and shoulders are even when
viewed from the rear. It is imperative to keep these horses shod correctly and
often. During the off season he gets shoes every 5 1/2 weeks. While racing he
gets shoes every 4-5 weeks. He NEVER does a hundred mile race on shoes that
are older than 2 1/2 weeks, 2 being preferable. This is to minimize the effect
of the steep heel on the clubfoot being a problem as it grows out.  The rundown
heel on the other foot has never been a problem again once we grew it out and
widened it. I do pad about 7 months out of the year to keep his feet from
bruising during the competitive season. (very rocky here)
Hope this is a help to people with these horses.

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