Off-set knees or bench knee conformation is a common problem encountered by farriers. Horses with this conformation will not stay sound unless their hooves are frequently balanced due to unequal weight distribution over the knee joints.
Since conformation is so highly heritable, and there are so many horsemen who buy a horse based upon “liking” rather than conformation correctness, this undesirable conformation is widespread in our horse populations today. Only by recognizing this problem and applying corrective trimming and shoeing can horses with this problem consistently perform and stay sound.
Various authorities have long stated that there is nothing that will help horses with off-set knees – either by veterinarians surgically or by farriers mechanically.
Recently, an expert farrier from Maryland, Tom Parris CJF, visited Butler Professional Farrier School and demonstrated how to help horses with off-set or bench knees. The results of his research were amazing. We prepared a special video while he was here that summarizes the results of his work. This is a great example of the continuing education we all need to keep our skills sharp and marketable. This is the type of video accessible by QR Codes in our new book Essential Principles of Horseshoeing. The new video can be viewed here.
Off-set knees or bench knee conformation is an axial deformity where the radius and cannon bones do not line up. This places unequal forces on the knee joints. These horses frequently develop splints and knee problems. The hooves of these horses will wear unevenly and the horses will travel with the lateral or outside heel touching the ground first. A bench kneed horse that is fetlock varus (toed-in) will land inside toe first but trimming is the same. These horses must be frequently managed by expert farrier trimming every 6 to 8 weeks to stay sound.
Tom starts by trimming the heel lower on the lateral side. Then he reduces the wall from the opposite toe to the medial heel. Last he removes the medial flare.
The lateral branch of the shoe is fit full from the last nail hole back to the end of the heel. It may be necessary to fuller the shoe to spread the web and provide more heel support in the lateral heel.
The objective is to get the hoof to strike the ground as flat as possible and load evenly. We can do this by 1) maintaining X,Y,Z balance in all trims, 2) protecting the trimmed foot with a shoe that provides lateral support, and 3) scheduling regular intervals to maintain the balance of the horse’s feet.
Each time the horse’s feet are cared for they must be evaluated and corrected by a skilled farrier. Only horses with off-set knees treated in this way will have a chance of remaining sound throughout their career.
If you haven’t yet obtained a copy of our new Essential Principles of Horseshoeing book, you can obtain a copy at www.essentialhorseshoeingbook.com or by calling 1-308-665-1510. The QR Codes in the book take you to video demonstrations of other valuable farrier techniques shown on live horses. New demonstrations are uploaded periodically adding value to the original cost of the book and your continuing education. A companion audio version is also available. These are great Christmas gifts for potential or practicing farriers, veterinarians and horse owners!
Butler Professional Horseshoeing School
495 Table Road
Crawford, NE 69339
If you think you want to become a farrier (or know someone who does), this book can help you make that decision. Horse owners will learn the importance of choosing a qualified farrier and how to select the “right” one.
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