What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Hoof-Limb Contact, Foot Interfering or Overreaching


"Interference" is when a hoof contacts the opposite limb.

"Overreaching" refers to a hind foot that reaches up and contacts a fore heel or lower limb.

"Forging" refers to the toe of the hind hoof contacting the sole of the forefoot.

These conditions are commonly caused by limb conformational defects and are worsened by excessive hoof length. Horses with long hind legs and short backs tend to over-reach and forge.

In some cases, neurologic conditions also cause limb contact. This relates to the inability of the nervous system to "know" where the limbs are being placed (proprioception).

Lameness and mechanical gait abnormalities may also lead to limb contact.

Limb contact is undesirable and can result in lameness and/or wounds, stumbling and reduced performance. In rare cases, life-threatening tendon lacerations and fractures can result from limb contact.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you notice worsening of the sign.
    • If you notice lameness in addition to this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want your vet to assess gait and consider options for management.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

If limb contact has resulted in lameness, wounds or other injuries, those will need to be managed by your vet first.

Talk to your farrier too, especially if it has arisen toward the end of the shoeing cycle, or suddenly arose after a shoeing. When interference is caused by conformational factors, the work your farrier does in balancing the hooves is a critical part of management. Prevention of contact may be possible, depending on the cause.

Keep your horses on regular, short shoeing or trimming intervals. Trimming and shoeing should be aimed at shortening breakover whenever possible. If interference or over-reaching continues regardless of cause, protective bell or splint boots may be required.

your vet's role

Your vet may provide additional help if the problem continues. They may need to see your horse in motion to visualize the precise nature of the gait and the horse's conformation. They should be involved if limb contact has resulted in wounds or lameness.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Have you noticed this happen before?
  • When was the horse shod or trimmed last?
  • Is the same farrier working on the horse?
  • Is your farrier shoeing or trimming in the same way as in the past?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What, specifically, do you observe?
  • Is there a new farrier shoeing or trimming the horse's feet?
  • Is your farrier shoeing or trimming in the same way as in the past?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • Can you see a wound?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP