The flaws in the moving apparatus of the horse or the disturbance of the same can often result in the leg interference. In basics the word interference refers to the legs hitting each other while the horse is moving, in other words the horse is interfering. Some flaws of the moving apparatus are contributed to the inborn faults in conformation of the body or the legs (also in some rare cases of ailments like wobbles etc.), while most of the disturbances are gained and usually caused by people, like injuries, shoeing, riding etc.
A wound that is not healing, the result of constant interference (brushing)
Pic. 8 Injury to the coronet.
Forging (fig 1, 2 and 3) is a common fault in horses working in
fast tempo in any of the three gaits. It usually refers to a hind leg
hitting (catching) the front leg of the same side. At the walk
it is commonly referred to as over reaching, which in most cases involves
the hind toe of the shoe striking the front toe of the shoe (fig. 3),
hence you can hear it; rarely the horse grabs the heel part of the front
shoe (fig. 1) at the walk.
During forging, the
wounds, which some call the "treads",
are caused mainly to the lower part of the front leg by the over
reaching hind leg.
During forging, the wounds, which some call the "treads", are caused mainly to the lower part of the front leg by the over reaching hind leg.
"Speedicuts" are generally called wounds caused to the hind legs by the front legs (fig 4, 5 and 6).
Cross-firing refers to the diagonal interference of the legs e.g. right hind with the left front, usually up high with the knee or hock, not uncommon by the trotters and sometimes seen in runners, usually due to unsoundness.
To help to understand various causes I have separated the types of
interference into two categories, the constant or frequent and the
sporadic (isolated overstepping etc.).
constant or frequent interference in a sound horse can be the result of
faulty conformation (body, legs), or the tiring of the horse and improper
shoeing. In the case of conformation faults a specialized shoeing must be
implemented in dealing with the problem, as well as the use of various leg
protective devices or bandages to protect the legs from further damage. Of
course if the cause is in improper shoeing, then corrective shoeing is the
only answer. However, the improper shoeing is often not the cause, though
most cases of forging and interference are blamed on the farrier, while
actually the leading cause of frequent forging and interference is an unsound
Much of the constant (frequent)
forging and interference is caused by unsoundness of the horse. The most
common injury that causes forging, as well as the
brushing of the hind legs, are sore (strained) stifles, which is also usually the
initial strain-injury in riding horses. Since both stifles are usually
afflicted in the same way, and horses thus do not display any obvious
irregularity or lameness in the gait, this lameness usually goes unnoticed
for a long time until secondary and more obvious lameness will appear.
Often, the sporadic interference, forging, or better-said accidental overstepping, is
caused either by abusive, poor riding or by improper handling of the horse
on the ground by the handler. The other common cause is genuinely
accidental, which usually happens during turnout on the field (pasture).
The so-called off balance running is very common cause. This usually
happens during turnout, when the particular horse has not been turned out
on regular basis (hence we take the shoes off before doing so). For
example a racehorse that has spent most of his time either under rider or
in the stall, and not accustomed to run without the weight on his back
because he literally forgot how to move free, will usually run
very excited, which leads to an extreme over-reaching that results in just
about all of the forms of forging depicted on this page. This also very
often results in serious
injuries to the lower leg (hoof, coronet pic. 8), often
losing the shoe and sometime resulting even in the fall of the horse (fig
This cause of sporadic, infrequent forging and interference can be eliminated by a proper management and handling of the horse, and the farrier’s work need not to be altered. However, since many folks in the country are ignorant to most of the facts mentioned above, and many farriers are tired coming back and putting the front shoe back on the horse, the farriers will often shoe such horses short, which has its own consequences that will be discussed separately. One should keep in mind, that any decent and wise trainer will not turn out his valuable performance horse (racehorse, dressage horse, jumper etc.), but that is another issue that will be also discussed separately.
that are abused and jerked around while ridden will often catch themselves in
the fashion of figure 1, 2 and even higher on the heels. Some horses will interfere often in the front,
most commonly hitting their shins in the splint area, which is very common
among the young reining horses today, usually during the spinning, mainly due to
the incompetence of the rider.
Typical examples of various types of forging, brushing (speedicutting) or even diagonal “cross-firing” can be seen in the trotting industry, which is very demanding on the horse and on the precise positioning of the legs in such extremely high speed in trot. Only a slight unsoundness can result in major interference, as well as any small deviation in shoeing. The speedicutting in thoroughbred racing is exclusively a result of unsoundness.
course a fault in shoeing can cause interference, but this cause is not as
frequent as it’s usually perceived to be. Hence, before we start to make any
adjustment to shoeing, it is best that we first reexamine the work that we do
with the horse (riding, training etc.) as well as the soundness of the horse.
The latter should be our primary concern in the prevention of further injuring
the horse past the point of repair.
Often the fault in shoeing is not caused by the farrier alone but by the unsuitable shoeing style demands of the owner (rider, trainer) e.g. various traction additions to the shoes (barium, toe grips, lugs etc.), commonly and often unnecessarily used on jumpers and other performance horses.
Tiring is also one of the common causes of forging, especially when galloping in a deeper surface. This can also be eliminated by simple compassion for the horse and by proper training. In other words, we should not ask the horse for more than we’ve prepared him for, hence training should be more demanding than the performance. Well-trained healthy horses do not tire to the point of forging, however, if they are tying up, they could (another thing to keep in mind).
Another common type of forging is by the young horse that has not adjusted his movement to the weight of the rider. It is therefore customary not to shoe the young horse during the initial part of training (breaking). Once when the horse learns to adjust his movement to the weight of the rider (does not mean that he is balanced) we can start to shoe him, if the conditions require it. When shoeing the young horse for the first time it is customary to shoe him only in the front since most of them have tendency to interfere and catch the front with their hind legs. The hind should be shod (if needed) in the next shoeing. Whether the young horse will interfere or not is also very much up to the rider. Unfortunately most competent riders do not ride green horses and leave it to the younger generation, though it should be the other way around. One should remember however, that much of the frequent interference in young horses is primarily due to overstrained stifles, something to keep in mind.
Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek