When One Leg Is Longer

How to identify and shoe for limb length disparity

The late Anthony Gonzales (1986) described limb length disparity as, “when a pair of feet are mismatched. Usually one is flat footed, bull nosed and/or underrun and the other is more upright or clubby looking.”

Doug Butler and Jacob Butler (2004) describe limb length disparity as, “when one leg, most commonly a front leg, is shorter than an opposite or diagonal limb.” Sue Ann Lesser (1998) described limb length disparity as, “a subluxation creating an impingement, as well as a reduction in mobility of the spine.”

Total Body Imbalance

My definition of limb length disparity is that it’s a total body imbalance that causes the limbs and feet to compensate for the disparity. Therefore, a limb length disparity is an observable body imbalance and physical deviation that manifests itself in different limb lengths and more than likely has been created due to congenital, hereditary, injuries, environmental, muscular and/or spinal problems.   LLD can be a structural asymmetry (actual shortening of a bone) or most commonly functional inequality.

Identifying Limb Length Disparities 

First, let’s look at what riders report as to what they are feeling and noticing. Riders will notice that the horse’s withers may be sore (usually due to uneven saddle pressure). They notice that the horse has a good side and a bad side. The horse will turn better and be more relaxed and supple going one way and more rigid and stiff going the other. Riders will also notice that the horse will not pick up its lead on…

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Esco Buff

Esco Buff, CF, APF, of Webster, N.Y., holds a PhD in business administration and is a member of the International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame.

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