Monday, March 2, 2009

Wobbly Legs

Today's post is on a topic I have been in denial about for several years now. Every time that I work with my filly Gabbrielle, I sense that something isn't quite right about her physically. For instance, in order to graze, she practically has to do the splits.

I'm concerned about Gabbrielle's conformation. When I walk behind her while ground driving, I notice that her hind legs wobble when she walks. She looks like a little old lady trying to keep herself balanced on high heels.

Her hind legs have always wobbled. When she was younger, I just thought it was because she was an uncoordinated baby with spastic, spindly legs. However, she's nearly 4-years-old now and still wobbling. I don't think there is any problem with the way my farrier trims her hooves, though I admit that her hooves are very small and upright. Her toes aren't nearly as long as my other horses' toes.

I talked to my farrier about it, and he didn't see any problems with her. He said she's still growing, she wears down the inside of her right hind hoof more, and she has a slight flare in her hooves, but he didn't think any of it was anything to worry about. Looking at the pictures below, I can see that she points the toe out on the right hind hoof when she steps, which would explain her not wearing down that hoof evenly.

When my vet comes out for his next visit, I'm going to have him take a look at her legs while I walk her around, and see what he says. In this picture she's standing under herself with her hind legs looking a bit sickle-hocked, but this isn't the way she stands all the time. I looked at other pictures of her, and have seen her legs straighter, but when she does stand with her hind legs straighter, her hocks stick out beyond her rear end.

I compared pictures of her legs to pictures of Bombay and Lostine's legs, and I now realize that Bombay and Lostine have really good conformation. The only criticism I have heard so far about Gabbrielle's conformation is that she has a small hip. No one has ever mentioned her legs, but now that she's older, I have to wonder.

When she was a yearling, I entered her in a couple of halter classes. The same judge watched her walk and trot from all angles and never mentioned to me that she had any conformation flaws. She awarded her with two blue ribbons, but then again, Gabbrielle was the only horse in both classes.

Sometimes when I look at her, she reminds me of a dragster. Her rear end is up on big mag wheels while the front of her has little bicycle tires. Of course, my concern is how this will affect her as she gets older. If I ride her too much, will her hocks cause her pain? Will she get arthritis once she is older?

The irony in all of this is that her dam was an endurance horse that was retired due to arthritis in the shoulder. When I lunge Gabbrielle at a trot, she throws her head up high and makes these choppy movements that cause her head to bob up and down. At first I thought it was just because she hasn't learned how to carry herself, but now I'm thinking it is because of a conformation flaw.

Ultimately, flaw or no flaw, Gabbrielle is by far the sweetest, friendliest horse I've ever known, and I wouldn't trade her for the world.


ranchette said...

I'm sure there are lots of possible reasons and you probably are already aware, but spinal problems can cause wobbling (Wobbler's Syndrome).

Good idea to have your vet check it out if it is noticeable wobbling - especially as you look towards having her trained to ride. Hopefully it turns out to be just a conformation issue that can be compensated for with conditioning or a gangly growth stage, but definitely good to know what you're dealing with in advance.

Good luck with your sweet girl!

Jenn said...

The only conformation flaw in her rear legs that would have been a tad concerned are those upright pasterns. She also looks to toe out a bit behind, but nothing that would be worrisome to me. Other than that, she looks normal without any devastating conformation flaws. Yes, she is still butt-high..but she's also only four. She should have a bit more growing to do to even out.

The throwing her head in the air thing when she trots could be a number of things. I would number one guess it's because she's still unbalanced on a circle. Number two I would have a chiropractor look at her...she might need some work, you never know.

Give her time and condition her slowly. Wobbly behind could be weak stifles, it could be neurological. Don't start worrying excessively unless and until a vet says to worry.

ranchette said...

Sorry - forgot to add, the other thing that struck me on your description is the fact that she bobs her head up and down when lunging at the trot. Does she do that in time to the same front hoof hitting the ground each time? If so it could be a sign of pain in that leg.

There's probably a simple explanation that explains both symptoms (wobbling hind end and head bobbing on the lunge) and likely something that can get fixed.

Good for you for noticing something subtle is a little off with your girl; that's half the battle!

Shirley said...

Its a little hard to judge her conformation based on these photos; if you stood her on hard ground or a cement pad we'd be able to see more. Do you lunge her bridled up? If you do, have you had her wolf teeth removed and a float done? I agree that an assessment by an equine chiropractor would go a long way to determining if there are any real problems. Also, if you could get someone who is very knowledgeable about the Arabian breed to come and assess her conformation it might help you put your mind at ease.

Katharine Swan said...

NM, I think having the vet take a look during his next visit is a good idea. You know, rather than conformation issues, it could always be something you CAN'T see on the outside. I'd think the vet will know whether X-rays or a chiropractor visit are necessary.

The only question I would have is if you can encourage her to slow down at the trot, and if so, whether it makes a difference? Also, if you see her trotting in the pasture, does she do it then? She might be trying overly hard when you are lunging her.

In any case, though, good for you for remembering that being able to ride her isn't the important part. The relationship you have with her is what's most important. If suddenly, for whatever reason, I could no longer ride Panama, then he would simply be the sweetest, happiest, most spoiled yard ornament ever to walk this earth. :o)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

To answer some questions, the bobbing of the head appears to only happen in the round pen, and I don't think it's related to the front feet, because I was watching the rhythm, suspecting a problem with a front hoof at first. She never acts like she's in pain. My farrier and I are always picking up her feet, and she's fine with it.

This is a behavior she's had for as long as I've known her (3 years). She's not wearing a bit when I lunge her. In fact, I actually put her in a bit and tied the reins to her surcingle the other day to see if that would help, and it did. That was the only way I could get her to slow her gaits.

I saw a TV show that talked about horses building up the wrong muscle groups if they aren't taught to carry themselves correctly, and she definitely has a bad habit of carrying herself too high in the head. It doesn't matter whether I lunge her with or without a long line. She always pops her head right up and starts bobbing at the trot. However, when it's just her and her buddies cavorting around the paddock, all of her gaits seem coordinated and natural. She does hop like a bunny sometimes. My round pen is only 40-feet, but I expanded it to 50-feet with a 10-foot section of wood railing.

Katharine Swan said...

Well, I'd still have the vet check her out because of the wobbly legs; but it sounds like the head bobbing has something to do with the way you lunge her, not because of any flaw.

Maybe after the vet checks her out you should have your trainer work with you on slowing down her gaits (without the bit). Panama responds to a drawn-out command of, "Eeeeeeasy," and a slight tug on the line if he doesn't get it via voice commands. Maybe you could teach Gabbrielle something similar?

Andrea said...

I have a four year old too, that has been a late bloomer. For the longest time he would trip all the time. I think sometimes horse just take time to grow up. She might be week in the hind end if she is carring herself on the front end. She looks good in the the pictures to me. She might just be a bit lazy too, not care where her feet are. And it also could be something nurilogical.

I would just tell your vet your consernes and they will know what to do!! I hope she checks out alright. Let us know what the vet says!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm still learning about conformation, but I don't see anything that truly stands out. Maybe her pasterns a bit. And she does have small hips, but she's an Arabian so that's pretty normal, too.
I don't think she looks taller in the back then the front either. She actually looks pretty well balanced. Her shoulder looks great, too.

I will admit when I first saw photos of her and wasn't all that familar with the Arabian breed I thought her head looked so strange.
Since then I became familar with the Jibbah and realize now that Gabbrielle has a beautiful head that will just become prettier with age.

I'm thinking you're just worrying too much, but if you really do have concerns (because you truly are there 24/7 and are familiar with growth and changes in your horses) just talk with your Vet or/and an experiences Arabian breeder/organization and get some opinions that way.