Forging and over-reaching are common complaints during gait analysis. They are often confused and are similar in overview, but closer examination shows a distinct difference. Horses that forge hit the toe of the hind foot against the sole of the fore on the same side. Usually owners of shod horses complain of this most, since the colliding shoes make a sharp clicking noise. Barefoot horses can forge too; it just isn't so obvious to the ear. Over-reaching occurs when the toe of the hind foot extends forward and strikes the heel, coronary band, fetlock or flexor tendon of the forefoot on the same side. Usually the repeated knocking will leave open sores on the back ofthe leg. Forging and over-reaching are indications that the horse is moving out of balance, either in the foot specifically or in the entire body. If the medial/lateral (inside/outside) balance of the hoof is off or that from heel to toe, the footfalls and breakover will be altered. When the hind leg is longer than the fore or the stride is extended behind, the back foot may hit the front. This also may occur with "downhill" horses, which are those that are taller at the hip than at the withers. Laziness, tiredness and inexperience may also result in forging or over-reaching. A conscientious rider will evaluate the horse's movement and responses to determine the most likely cause of the problem and begin finding a solution, if possible.
Interfering, or brushing, is a lateral gait defect. The limb swings sideways and connects with the opposite leg. The speed and energy level of the horse affects the tendency to interfere. For example, one horse may interfere at the jog, but not the extended trot; another may move with clearance at the jog but not an energetic trot. On the front limbs interference may occur from the knee to the hoof, on the hind usually from the fetlock to the hoof. Pain, heat or swelling are normally the first signs. The horse may continue to lose hair on the affected area, as well as develop cuts and perhaps underlying bone damage. Interfering is generally a result of poor conformation, frequently in animals with narrow chests and/or toed-out horses. Care should be taken when using the horse that he is worked in activities that will keep injury at a minimum.
Plaiting or rope-walking is a gait abnormality that may occur with the front or hind limbs. This is a bad fault in which the front or hind feet travel in an inward arc and land more or less directly in front of the opposite front or hind foot. The horse that plaits has a very distinctive movement and has a high possibility for injury. Not only may the horse knock himself, but there is also a good chance of stumbling or tripping, thereby injuring the rider also. This type of movement is often associated with base-narrow, toe-out conformation.
Problems with movement can almost always be related to a defect in conformation. With proper riding and training, these problems can often be overcome. It is also essential to employ a farrier who is experienced in dealing with gait abnormalities and can keep the feet properly balanced. Finally, the owner must realize the limitations that conformation or movement place on the horse's ability to perform certain activities. Find those events that the animal is comfortable with and hold limited risk of injury.