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A: When asked what to do about a severe knee knocker after many previous attempts failed, trainer Harry Pownell famously replied, “Cut his legs off.” Though cutting off the legs is unspeakably severe, it does speak of the frustration that can come from trying to get a knee knocker to stop interfering. Fortunately, there are things we can try.
First, it’s good to understand why horses hit their knees. Sometimes good-gaited horses start hitting their knees for apparently no reason. These horses are changing their gaits to improve their comfort level. Sore feet, ankles and knees can contribute to this. The main culprit here is sore front feet. This will bring a normally good-gaited horse into its knees. These are the first of two categories of knee knockers and these can be helped more easily by farriers.
The second category is where conformation and gait are the factors that cause the interference.
Let’s start with the first kind, since the most improvement is possible with them. Horses like this should be shod for comfort instead of for gait manipulation, which will only compound their soreness. Trying to shoe this type of horse off his knees (aluminum shoes with grabs), laterally extended shoes, or tipping feet (manipulating medial/lateral balance) is a downhill path for this type.
Cigar Dan was a nice, 3-year-old trotter that started hitting…