Article written and published in the NZ Harness Racing Weekly

Interfering in a horses’ gait is always a frustrating problem.

When we train a horse that we think is above average or is showing some promise but suddenly appears with the ‘not for sale’ sign on, is it the dreaded spreaders?

I have touched on this topic in a previous article but as a result of my new column in this ‘Weekly’ I have been inundated with requests and the need for advice on these types of problems.

Generally, knee-knocking I have found in young horses is something they mature out of with a bit of time but each case is different.

I have shod many great and above average horses that have hit there knees.

One of the fastest horses in NZ that I shod hit her knees but we all agree it is the single biggest thing to pull your horse up.

We have this idea the spreaders slow them down and the horse gets tired quicker, which maybe true, but smashing knees in a race situation lessens your chances of victory no end.

Your horse won’t be competitive with a horse against a horse with perfect gait and similar ability.

When shoeing horses that hit their knees we need to observe how the horse stands – whether he stands toed in or toed out, whether he has a narrow chest or whether he stands base narrow.

Horses that stand toed in (or pigeon toed) very rarely hit their knees.

Although I have shod many horses that brush their knee boots, with these particular horses I dress their feet level and shoe them with a square toe shoe.

When a horse stands toed out (Charlie Chaplin) you will find that these particular horses are the worst type to try and correct.

Sometimes there will only be one leg turned out, and this will be the one that hits the opposite knee.

I have had the most success with these types of problems by letting the horse mature.

As he develops more muscle and matures he generally handles the problem much better.

When shoeing the horse with this problem I generally lower the hoof on the inside toe whilst keeping the heels level then fitting a square toed shoe protruding over the outside toe area .

I have also had a bit of success using heavier shoes shod the same way; the main reason for the extra weight is to give the horse more knee action and will bring his hoof above the knee where there is a lot less to hit.

Horses that stand straight and hit their knees are generally not much problem to correct, as they generally only need to be lowered a little on the outside and shod with a light steel or aluminium shoe. Sometime you may need a square toed shoe as well.

I am shoeing a horse in a big stable now that has this knee-knock bug real bad.

I shod her last time in with an alloy outer rim shoe and lowered the whole outside of the hoof with little or no real success.

We now have her in a world racing plate fitted well back off the toe about 1 inch from the tip of the frog.

I have found this has worked amazingly and the filly is trialing well and ready to race shortly.

I think what has happened is by bringing the break over well back it is now clearing the knee and gaining confidence as a result.

I hope this helps in some way to correcting this problem.

Sorry if I haven’t answered all the e-mails I was sent about this topic but this will go a long way to answering them.

Adam White