Horse Health

What’s Wrong With These Legs?

October 21, 2010

These mares have the same blemish, but for very different reasons.

Compare the buckskin's splints to the sorrel's.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The buckskin and chestnut mares in these photos both have splints on the insides of their left front cannon bones, just below the knee. They are easy to see.

But a genuine judge of conformation sees those splints within the context of each mare’s bone structure.

Here is AQHA Judge Jim Heird’s evaluation.

Not All Splints Are Equal
Don’t immediately eliminate a horse when you see a splint; instead, look for a structural reason for the horse to have a splint. When you look at a horse’s front limb structure from the front, you look for how straight the column of bone is from the point of the shoulder down through the knee, cannon bone and hoof.

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Although we can’t see the buckskin mare’s chest in No. 1, we can see a very straight column of bone with the cannon bones coming directly out of the center of the knee and the foot sitting right under the knee and cannon bone.
There is a splint on her left front leg, but there’s no apparent structural deviation in her bone structure.

The same thing is true when we look at her hind legs. It looks like she has some puffiness in her ankles behind but nothing to be concerned about from this view. She stands very square.

On the other hand, when you look at the front end on the chestnut mare in No. 2, you immediately see that she is base narrow – the feet are closer together at the base than the forearms are at the chest.

We see tremendous openness and blemishes on both knees and the cannon bones come out of the sides of each knee. There’s an enlargement on the outside of the knee and a huge splint right under the left knee. The horse toes in considerably on the right, and toes in some on the left.

Instead of coming down with a straight column of bone, everything from the knee through the cannon into the fetlock is offset.

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It’s the same with her hind legs. She is extremely base narrow: If you draw a line straight up from the foot it would not remotely go through the thigh.

We know from research done back in the ’60s and ’70s that approximately 80 percent of splints are caused by a blow from the opposite leg. That can happen in normal use, but it can also happen because a horse doesn’t move straight. Splints also occur when bones are stressed because of poor conformation.

From what we can see in No. 1, there’s no apparent structural reason for the buckskin mare to have this splint, so there could be all kinds of reasons why it’s there. If she’s a mare that’s being used, she could have hit herself coming out of a roping box or cutting a cow. But there’s no structural reason for that mare not to move straight.

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On the other hand, when you look at the chestnut mare in No. 2, there are all kinds of reasons for her to have a splint. She probably interferes as she travels, and the puffiness in her knees indicates the tremendous stress her bones are under due to the offset column of bone in her entire front leg. Not only does she have the blemish, which is the splint, but she is severely structurally incorrect.

If we truly believe that balance, structural correctness and movement are the things we prioritize (according to the AQHA Handbook of Rules and Regulations), then we have to be extremely critical of the chestnut mare.

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