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What is Over-Reaching?

Over-reaching in horses is when the horse’s hind foot hits the heel bulb of the front foot. It’s essentially a timing problem between the movement of the hind limbs and the front limbs of the horse. However, any time a horse is working at speed and changing direction, this creates the perfect storm for tendon and overreach injuries. The continual strikes to the front hoof result in bruising and lacerations or abrasions to the heel bulb.  These lacerations can become infected, and untreated lacerations can also lead to tissue damage.

Even a barrel horse with the best conformation can incur these injuries due to additional stress factors such as inappropriate arena footing, lack of fitness, fatigue, sore muscles, age, a shoeing abnormality or simply bad luck.

Horses with less than perfect conformation are more prone to injury by nature, such as horses that have shorter backs and long legs. Bruising and lacerations are very painful since they are inflicted in an area of the horse’s leg that requires great mobility at all times.

Because of the injury location, any open lacerations on the heel bulb are constantly subjected to the unclean environment of a stall floor and dusty or muddy paddock. Stitches or suturing are generally ineffective since they do not hold in that region. This is a challenge for the wound repair process. Your veterinarian may want to have a complete blood count drawn on the horse to rule out infection and may also recommend taking X-rays of the front and back legs to rule out any damage to cartilage or tendons. 

Prevention

The first steps in prevention relate to knowing your own horse and its confirmation weaknesses and quick reaction as an owner if you observe any tendency to overreach during training. A knowledgeable, competent farrier or vet can assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

Bell boots are essential in barrel racing. Bell boots help prevent bruising and lacerations to the bulb area of the foot. Your veterinarian may recommend a professional farrier with experience shoeing barrel horses. You also need to do your own homework—seek out help from other barrel racers who always seem to have sound horses.

Kristin Yde who treats her horse for over-reach injuries riding around the barrel
Photo by Birtz Photographie

If your horse has a hoof or conformation issue, you need to work with the problem, not against it. Your horse’s movements need to be analyzed by a farrier and vet who can assist in creating an injury-free flight pattern of front and rear limbs, work with instability and provide adequate support for your horse.

As competitive demands on performance horses increase, the farrier industry is experimenting with new ways of dealing with specific types of hoof wear. Farriers work hard to stay one step ahead in developing new shoeing techniques to keep the barrel horse sound and competitive.

“Soundness and stability start from the ground up,” said horse trainer Kristin Yde, International Finals Rodeo qualifier and multiple Southern Rodeo Circuit champion. “A great farrier helps make a great horse by keeping them stood up and giving them the ability to work to their greatest potential.”

Treatment

Treating overreach injuries involves cleaning the area and applying an anti-microbial solution or cream, such as Banixx Horse and Pet Care spray or Banixx Wound Care Cream, accompanied by wrapping to keep the area clean. Giving an oral antibiotic such as triple sulfa is a good idea to ward off bacterial infection. Yde says she will never be without Banixx on-hand for wounds. She cleans the area with Banixx spray, then applies Banixx Medicated Cream along with gauze, wraps with Vetwrap and completes the picture with a protective bell boot until recovery is complete. Visit Banixx.com.

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