Increased lower leg injuries: Are we breeding them that way?

by Articles, Equine Hoof Care, Perspective

Have you ever noticed all the problems and issues that today’s horses seem to have with lower leg injuries? I’ve seen a growing number of horses experience these types of injuries. I’ll admit that we do ask a lot of our horses, and that accidents and bad shoeing incidents do happen. But it might be worth considering the possibility that we’re breeding them that way.Have you ever seen a wild mustang’s feet before? They’re typically not just good, they are great! Why is that? They haven’t received any hoof care other than wearing their own feet off. My theory is that’s because every single mustang that had bad feet died. There’s likely not a single one left in the gene pool with bad feet or lameness tendencies.Seems to be pretty much the opposite now. What’s the first thing someone does when they have a nice mare that can’t compete anymore? Of course, they’re going to breed her. I don’t blame anyone at all; I would, too, as that’s a big perk of owning a mare. Taking a chance that whatever crippled your mare won’t happen to baby, versus getting a replica of your pride and joy seems worth the risk. With that said, I believe it affects the entire industry as whole.What about if it was an injury that took your mare out of competition. Could it be that her conformation had something to do with it? Ruptured deep flexor tendon maybe? Did she have long pasterns? Long toes and under run feet often go with long pasterns, which put more stress on the deep flexor tendon. What about a hock problem? Did she have straight hind legs, or was she sickle hocked or cow hocked? Those will put more stress on the hocks.

Veterinarians and farriers have both made lots of advances that allow us to keep horses competing at high levels, while earlier in history they may have been side lined or retired. I can’t help but think about all the horses that came along 20-30 years ago that could have been world class athletes, but just never got their shot due to unsustainable injuries.

Here’s another thought. I know several people that talk about great horses from back then; NFR type horses that never once had a joint injection, specialty shoeing, dental work, etc. I wonder if back then we knowingly or unknowingly bred for great conformation and soundness. Or did we breed for toughness?

Food for thought.

God Bless America

This article was first published in the Dally Times- The Magazine for Team Ropers