Forging is when there is interference between the front hoof and the hind hoof on the same side of the horse. The toe of the hind hits the bottom of the front foot. If shoes are worn, there is a noticeable "click" sound.
The causes of forging can range from poor saddle fit, poor trimming, poor shoeing, poor conformation, teeth / mouth problems, to poor riding, and an unconditioned and / or weak horse. There are many issues that can cause this problem, all of which
share the characteristic that the forehand is delayed in getting
out of the way of the hindquarters.
A shoulder injury or containment / interference from the rider resulting in the shoulders not being as free as necessary may cause forging. A horse that is short backed and very
inverted can also contribute to the problem.
The basic techniques used by farriers is to speed up the front limb and slow down the back by the way they are trimmed.
However, speeding up the front and slowing down the hind doesn’t always work. Another procedure is to decrease the forward extension of the hind feet thru heel caulks and a rocker toe to the hind foot. This can cause additional problems which are best avoided.
Many horses forge due to poor horsemanship. The rider may be out of balance, the saddle too tight or incorrectly positioned, the horse possibly being overworked or fatiqued or from the rider being just a passenger or getting in the horse's way. The answer to these problems is for the rider to become better educated as a rider.
The naturally trimmed and barefoot horse has less problems with things like over-reaching and forging. A good, knowledgeable farrier will look at the horse's whole body, and also evaluate his movement to determine if what is presented is the horse's ideal or natural movement, or what has been created by another farrier. A well-educated farrier, when presented with information from the owner about the forging problem, will become suspicious that the horse
is not balanced back to front, and the discrepancy is showing up when his
hind leg comes more under his body. The correction may lie in his front
feet or in the breakover of his hind foot, or more likely, both.
This problem of hind hooves striking the front hooves or forging is usually
a sign that the horse is on the forehand and needs to slow down and engage
the haunches more. While incorrect trimming and shoeing may play a part in
some horses, it is usually felt that it is more a training issue especially with young or
green horses. If you have a mature horse that still forges, he may need some better training.
Many people find the "cure" in
correct engagement of the haunches and in slightly slowing the horse. Be careful not to
let him get sucked back, as the horse still needs to be forward, but properly contain the
forwardness (from back to front) so he doesn't fall onto the forehand and rush.
Poor conformation with feet that are too long at the toe are contributory factors. It is commonly found in short-backed, long-legged horses, or horses that go wide behind. Sickle-hocked and cow-hocked hind limb conformation also may play a part in forging.
If a farrier doesn't know how to help the horse
achieve his most natural, correct balance; ultimately the
horse will either learn to compensate for how his balance and breakover have
been mismanaged or he will go lame, and that the lameness is unlikely to
present in a lower limb / joint, but in the hip, loin, back, and
shoulder / wither area.
It is the opinion of most knowledgeable farriers that in most cases, forging is a man-made / man-perpetuated problem.
Best treatment for forging is to have a good barefoot farrier, a good conditioning program, and become a better rider.