When purchasing a horse whether from an auction house, individual or even over the internet, check those feet! Yes, along with the color, beauty and bloodline papers, the absolutely most important evaluation should be actually picking up the horse’s feet and evaluate them yourself ! This is where horse owners will lose a lot of money.
So many times we receive calls, letters and visitors with questions about hoof problems that were not noticed until after the purchase of their new horse. Here is a letter and photo we just received.
I have seen several of your ads in different books and papers about club-footed horses. I have a two year old that I bought at an auction and could not see the foot because of the deep saw dust. I picked the horse up the next day and when I pulled her out of the stall I was shocked to see her foot. The auction people said to take it up with the seller. Well, he was from Tennessee and I live in Florida. I tried several times to find out how her foot got that way and all I ever got was an answering machine. So what I want to know is, do you think she can be fixed or is her foot to severe. She is such a sweet horse. If I cans fix the foot, I’ll have to give her away. I can’t afford to keep her and not get any use out of her. As you suggested, I am sending photos. Can you help me?
photo 1: (severe clubbed foot)
Sadly enough in this case, the owner did not look “down” when this black and white paint horse came into the auction barn. Unfortunately, this happens often. Many owners are intimidated by picking up an unknown horses feet and if they did, are not quite sure what they are looking for. In this case, the seller simply did not offer any more information about the horse than was asked.
In photo 2:
This horse was brought to us for an evaluation after the owners had purchased it from an auction. They said there was so much mud and manure on the feet, that they did not notice the hoof deformity. The horse did not show signs of limping and when the seller was asked if the horse was sound, his answer was yes. The new owner went for a ride the next day and the horse came up lame. By looking at the rings and deformity on the outside hoof wall, there are clear signs of founder and an old abscess that busted out in the middle. The hoof had been maintained and shod but, the seller was not totally honest with the buyer.
Now, back to that pre-purchase evaluation. Picking up the feet can be very intimidating at first and safety measures should always be taken each time. A horse at any age, young or old, that willingly allows you to pick up his feet for handling and cleaning is well worth taking a second look at. Here we are going to go through a few safety steps:
Never tie the horse securely so that he cannot get away while working on the front limbs. Have someone hold the horse or if you are alone, drop the lead line on the ground. Choose an area away from other horses like a round pen, a stall, a washing area or just anywhere you can be alone with the horse. If the horse accidentally spooks, he should be able to get away without hurting you or itself. A tight restraint will frighten him even more and you are asking for a blow up! Even a child can learn while helping if the horse is handled daily as in these photos. Ideally, if you feed on a regular basis, then clean the feet on a regular basis.
In photos three and four, in picking up the front limb, you should always practice safety. By laying your arm across the horse and bending your legs, not only will you save your back, but you will keep you head higher and away. In case the horse swats a fly with the hind foot, he will not strike your head or face.
In photos five, six & seven, by laying your arm across the back of the horse you will also save your back, by bending your legs and keeping your head higher and laying for face on the animal. This keeps your face also out of range. With your arm across the horse, you can get a better feel of the animal’s movement. It also helps support some of the weight. By putting the hoof in your crotch and twisting your buttocks in a direction under the horse you will have control. If the horse does try to kick, remember he must cock his leg before he kicks. If you are locked in securely when he cocks the hind foot, he will pull back to your original position saving you from being kicked. This technique is one that must be practiced over and over, the more the better for both of you.
We go over and over these procedures here at the research center with students, owners and visitors who are willing and eager to learn. Even when you do learn to pick up and clean out the hooves, most hoof problems are not obvious to the untrained eye, and only a few may be noticed by a novice horseman. By handling the feet and legs daily, you will begin to notice any other injuries, swelling, embedded rocks, thrush, bruises, abscesses and loose nails or shoes, just to name a few.
Here at the Research Center we offer a “How to Purchase and Evaluate a Horse from Head to Toe,” clinic once a month. We encourage all ages of beginners, novice AND professional riders, breeders and horse traders to take advantage of this opportunity. This is the same class that we offer beginner farrier students, veterinarians and college vet students who are interested in specializing in equine care. We cover everything that affects the feet which are conformation, nutrition, handling, horsemanship, aging, founder, abnormalities, trimming, shoeing, our Grammar School of Trimming and Shoeing Horses DVD. Even professionals are usually shocked to learn at what we can demonstrate in just a few minutes that can save them thousands of dollars or even a horses’ life.
P.S. Just as we were finishing this article, we received a call from a man wanting to know what to look for when purchasing a horse, what the farrier fees will be and how often is shoeing required.