Stringhalt is one problem that I rarely come across. This is a nervous reaction of the hind legs – the horse involuntarily snaps them up, almost to the belly, when the leg is lifted. Stringhalt is triggered by a neurological disorder in the brain which acts on the nervous system, seeming to act only on the back legs. It is suggested that Stringhalt is the result of toxicity from eating certain weeds, possibly Capeweed.
To all appearances, when picking up the back leg you get kicked. Unfortunately farriers often admonish the horse and belt the heck out of it because it has kicked them. As it is involuntary, the horse has absolutely no control over Stringhalt. However, once realising that the horse has Stringhalt, it is still a major problem to shoe these horses, as they pull the leg up so high it can’t be worked on.
To get the horse to stretch its leg backwards is very difficult as the minute you ease on it, the leg snaps forward and kicks you again. It can be a very dangerous situation but there is absolutely no point getting upset with the horse. The more nervous the horse is, the more it exacerbates the problem.
It is quite an exciting thing to work with a horse with bad Stringhalt. One in particular was a very good Group One winning racehorse. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how he could ever gallop with a problem like this, but in watching him on the race track there was absolutely nothing wrong with his galloping action, obviously, because he was a winner. There was not a problem with him walking, he trotted a little high behind but the only problem was in shoeing him – it was the farrier’s problem, no one else was interested in it because it never affected anyone except the poor old farrier.