Like a cowboy in chaps

I love Henry to pieces, but a great mover he is not. His canter is by far his best gait, and indeed his canter is the reason I bought him. His walk and trot, however, definitely leave plenty to be desired. Especially if you watch him from the front.


His legs aren’t super straight… his cannons twist outward a bit just below the knee. This really hasn’t caused him any trouble physically, aside from the one very short-lived farrier who tried to make his feet LOOK straight and caused him to pop a splint. In the realm of crooked legs, his aren’t so bad. I’ve seen and owned worse.

Does not prevent him from rearranging and trying to sit on furniture when I turn my back for 5 minutes

Henry’s crookedness mostly just shows up in his movement. His front legs have a more circular articulation–a bit like the classic over-exaggeration of a bowlegged cowboy walking around in fringed chaps.

front legs are supposed to move in circles, right?

Of course, the very first impression a dressage judge gets of him is trotting up center line, and the front view is where it’s most obvious. We will never get great gait scores. Otherwise, the only issue it has really caused for him is that he interferes up front. A LOT.

I had to go through a few brands of front boots before I found some that didn’t spin on him. And because he does interfere so much, he’s very very hard on his front boots. He also has to wear bell boots 24/7 because I’ve never seen a horse that can pull a shoe like this one can. He steps on his own feet a lot.

It’s really impressive that these Majyk Equipe boots are 2.5 years old and the front bindings are just finally starting to die. 

But I also don’t think I’ve ever had a horse that was so consistently good with his knees over every. single. jump. There’s no such thing as a bad jumping picture of Henry; if you get the timing right, his style will be good. Maybe loose below the knee depending on how unimpressed he is, but the knees are always up and even, crooked legs be damned.

knees to chin 4 life

In the grand scheme of things, his crookedness has not mattered much. He’s not a pretty mover, and his legs aren’t perfect, but he doesn’t know that. I just keep him very well-booted (yes, his “everyday” boots are XC boots) and make sure we have a good farrier.

Legs aren’t perfect, but HE is

Anyone else have a crooked-legged creature, or are crooked legs a dealbreaker for you?

29 thoughts on “Like a cowboy in chaps

  1. Oh god, mine is a windmill up front. We can never win a H/J hack flat or be successful in dressage. He wings out so bad. But, the plus side was on his pre-purchase exam and on any subsequent flexion tests, he has got SO much flexibility in his joints. The vets are amazed. No stiffness here!

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  2. I think crooked legs would only be a deal breaker for me in certain situations. If I were buying a young, unstarted horse, I’d probably avoid them. But if I was buying something already trained/competing at the level I wanted, it wouldn’t matter so much (as long as any special needs were considered, like always booting, etc). Clearly his legs aren’t holding Henry back at all!

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  3. hah that is unfortunate that the very first thing you have to do is trot up center line. the walk video made me snort. he does have sort of a ‘howdy pardner’ look about him.

    runkle walks like he has a dump in his pants.

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  4. Remus paddles like there is no tomorrow (Foundation QH from Nebraska or somewhere LOL) I keep him in bellboots cause he had typical QH shelly feet when i got him and i still treat him like that even though my farrier has done such great work on him! I also use (ahem, thank you Amanda for spending all my money!) Mayyk Equipe boots for flat work and for jumping both. He doesnt interfere but he is so wonky moving that i figure it cant hurt! The funny thing is i do think the crooked might help jumping. Not that Remus jumps as high as Henry but darn if he doesnt always have his knees up and overjumping. So i will take my short, fat, crooked QH over a perfect mover anyday 🙂 PS Henry is truly amazing! Love seeing his jumping pics compared to his ‘swagger walking’ photos (You say cowboy, i say drunken sailor 🙂 )


  5. I don’t have a crooked one, but my old man paddled like a duck on both front legs. It bothered people who looked at him, but he was sound and a very safe jumper, so I just thought it added charm.


  6. Even for me (in hunter land!), a less than stellar mover is not a deal breaker. The hack is one class. You have four over fences classes.
    Rio moves fairly well up front, but he moves like he has a very full dirty diaper behind. A hack winner he never was. I was once walking up a hill at a horse show to get to the ring, and there was another girl riding behind me. All of a sudden she bursts out laughing. She said, “I’m so sorry to laugh, but watching your horse walk up a hill is the funniest thing I have ever seen!” I couldn’t disagree. Poor Rio.


  7. I also have one that looks almost identical to Henny (he is a big bay TB), and moves the same way. When I went to purchase him, the vets comment was that he sure wasn’t straight but considering all the racing and then jumping he had done, and his legs were VERY clean, that he was making it work so not to worry about it. It did hinder dressage scores a bit, but he kept the rails up in stadium and tore around XC, so I never worried about it. And I have to say he is now 25 and he has almost never been unsound. Only injury up front was from a slip in the pasture where he fractured his splint bone. Otherwise it never caused a problem, and even now, other than arthritis, he is still extremely sound. My view is that if they have found a way to work with it and stay sound until now, then it isn’t a problem.


  8. I uh… Didn’t buy my horse for his movement. Lol. He is very earth bound and stuck, tho his issues are less about obvious limb issues and more about musculature higher up. Tho he interferes a ton behind and forges like crazy. That said, this is all very much still a work in progress with the folks responsible for managing his care. (I hope lol)


  9. My horse has some pretty decent front legs. He paddles a hair now and then, but I think that’s more just his sass coming out than actual leg crookedness. Back legs, however, are a completely different story. The horse interferes like there is no tomorrow. His back cannons are kind of twisted out like Henry’s fronts are. It makes finding good boots a nightmare, but I just picked up some Majyk boots, and they seem like they will hold up to a serious beating from those hinds.
    Crooked legs are definitely not a deal breaker to me though. There are a few leg problems that I cannot handle, mostly aesthetically, but crooked legs/interfering do not bother me as much as they probably should. Heart matters more to me than conformation.

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  10. Tristan paddles like he’s in a sinking boat that no one’s bailing. It’s kind of absurd. I should get a video of it someday. It does correct with straightness and throughness, but when he’s just trotting/flailing himself along it’s really obvious.


  11. I have two that toe in. One I imagine you recall how crooked he was as a foal. Proper balance in the foot and the shoes stay on. He doesn’t seem to care a bit that his legs are wonky and you don’t get as much self abuse when they turn in rather than out as Henny does.


  12. My old trainer has a horse with a club foot in front (affectionately called his dinosaur leg), and it doesn’t stop him. He loves to jump and he’s good at it too. God help whoever tries to post his trot, and he’ll never place in the hack, but boy can that horse jump!


  13. There has been some interesting research at a hoof rehab place in England that posits that crooked legs are not always due to actual limb deformity (i.e. from birth), but can be created from hoof imbalance. There’s a good case study here: Not saying that’s why Henry moves the way he does, just that it’s an interesting thing to consider. Taran paddles a bit with his RF (old injury), but the straighter I ride him and the stronger he is, the less he paddles – and the squarer he stands. Movement is so fascinating!

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  14. Lolz. I have a broken-legged creature. My OTTB got retired from racing with sesamoid fractures on both front legs. His front fetlocks are larger than normal (not soft swelling, just large) and he’s not allowed to go out in deep footing, but for my dressage-only life he’s not bad.
    Legs aren’t a deal-breaker for me as long as it’s not so dramatic that they will definitely cause a lameness someday. I am never going to be a perfect rider and will never compete at the highest levels so I don’t need perfection from my horses–just soundness.

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  15. Foster didn’t have the straightest legs. Not really obvious, but a little similar to Henry. He traveled quite straight though, and the uneven color on his legs (besides making you squiggle eyed trying to look for lameness) helped distract from his faults. Legs are a deal breaker for me now though, at least for now- I’m not ready to go through a slew of issues like that again, whether or not they were related to his conformation.


  16. ALMOST. I bought my OTTB mare off of a photoless CANTER add. The first thing I said to the guy when I walked up to her was, “Her knees are crooked!!!”. He said they didn’t bother her… and we were already there so I watched her move & sat on her for a minute in the round pen just to see if I could teach her something simple real quick. When my trainer approved & nothing else nicer in my college student budget materialized, I ended up buying her. The vet that did the ppe even took pictures of her knees for free because he was curious. She also has one foot that’s a little clubby, but it was only a problem when a farrier tried to make her feet the same. Grrrrr. We spent months in shoes with pads after that to keep her from getting sore. She also steps on her feet tons & pulls shoes easily. I used to buy bell boots in bulk. Eventually, she ended up barefoot for several years & now her knees don’t even look crooked to me anymore! Glad I didn’t turn around as soon as I saw those crooked knees!

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  17. You know in Harry Potter when Ron put the roller skates on the spider?

    Yeah. That’s Bacon.

    Don’t forget to add giraffe length cannons and a little over at the knee action. We won’t even talk about the hind end.


  18. Interesting. Legs are one of the most important things to me as well as a nice short back. If my horse is going to trot and canter over literally 1,000s of miles of trails with me, her legs need to be perfect. That being said one of my heros in the endurance world just put her 5,000th mile on a horse with legs that bend every direction but straight. Goes to show you that heart matters a heck of a lot more than conformation does.


  19. My retired jumper has short legs, pigeon toed in the front, and was an ugly ugly jumper. But he had a heart of gold and only touched rails due to piloting errors. He was a careful jumper, but had to jump 6-12 inches higher than a normal horse to make up for his bad form in the front.


  20. My old man is a pretty straight mover… or he used to be. Now the leg with the funky stifle travels out and the other leg is developing hock issues, so it travels around and lands in. When he’s properly picked up and straightened by a rider, he’s very lovely and pretty correct though. HA!


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