Paso Fino 4yr old. Contracted heels, and colection.

North Dakota,  4 year old Paso Fino Gelding, ridden by an intermediate rider in a dressage saddle and rubber trainer bit, english, on trails and in enclosed arena and on dirt roads

Question: My four yr old gelding is rounding his toes off on his front hooves.  Is this because he is recovering from contracted heels, or because he isn't collecting and driving from the rear end?

Does using collection training gear help? How hard should I push him to collect and drive from the rear end at this time? 

 The vet says he is healing nicely and to ride him to toughen up his hooves.
 
 



From Panelists Laura

It is normal for barefoot horses to have some rounding or wear at the toes.  It really only becomes a problem if the wear is so bad that the hoof wall is so short that the sole is being bruised by contact with the ground.  
 
If your horse isn't bruising you can leave him barefoot and work on some light collection.  I wouldn't invest in a bunch of training devices to aid in collection.  You could simply raise your hands a little higher than you normally carry them, ask your horse to tuck his nose a little more (flex at the poll), and use your legs a little more to drive your horse forward 
(create impulsion).  If your horse pushes on his bit and refuses to allow you to collect him, you can tie his head back to the saddle for a few minutes each day before you ride him.  
 
To tie his head back, you need to put his head perpendicular to the ground by pushing his nose in with one hand while you tie the reins around the saddle horn of a western saddle or a string tied to dees on the front of an english saddle.  Do this in an enclosed area and let him walk around and push on his bit.  Again, only tie his head back for a few minutes.  You don't want to tire out his neck muscles, just show him where you want him to carry his head.  You can also do this with side reins, but for a lot of gaited horses, I think side reins are too low and encourage them to get their head down too much.  Try this for a week and see if it makes a difference the amount of hoof wear at the toe.  If it doesn't help, you might need to put shoes on the horse's front feet.  
 
Check with your vet to see if a properly fit keg shoe could be used with your horse's contracted heel problem.
 
The contracted heels shouldn't make the hoof wear more at the toe, it may be due to the angle the feet are trimmed, the horse being a little lazy and dragging his toes or a conformational defect.  If you have your farrier put on front shoes, here's a few hints to help the contracted heels:
 
Be sure the heels of the shoes not only cover the horse's heels, but also  extend somewhat behind the heels to provide additional support.  Be sure the shoe heels provide plenty of hoof expansion room through the quarters and heels.  Be sure there are no nails placed in the expansion area of the hoof (for a keg shoe, only put nails in the first 2 or 3 holes toward the toe on each side of the shoe's branches).  The farrier could also either round or rocker the toe of the shoe to ease the horse's breakover.
 
Laura
 

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