Help from the Farrier

Heartland Horseshoeing School
Chris Gregory, MS, CJF, FWCF   &   Kelly Gregory, CF
327 SW 1st Lane         Lamar, Missouri 64759
Phone: 417-682-6896   Fax: 417-682-6394

Answers to everyday problems that we all face as horse owners.

Question: I own quarter horses and have a problem with one of my colts. He has one front hoof that is growing faster than the other. My farrier keeps the back trimmed but doesn’t seem to be helping. What causes this and what would you suggest I do? This starting showing up at about 4-5 months of age.

Answer: There are numerous factors that affect the rate of growth on horse's feet. Yearlings tend to grow about twice as fast as older horses. Once they are over a year old, the rates of growth levels out and remains basically the same for the rest of their lives. According to Dr. Butler, scientific experiments have proven that age, season, irritation or injury to sensitive structures, front or hind, neurectomy (nerving operation), and nutrition have a direct affect on hoof growth.

When a horse presents itself that has a unilateral difference, like the one mentioned in your question, we have to look for possible causes. It is possible that the horse has a tendency to paw with the shorter of the front hooves, and this will increase the wear on that particular hoof. Another explanation of the difference occurring on only the one hoof would be an injury. If there is no evidence or history of injury, then I would suspect a possible genetic difference that is causing the growth rate differences. Most likely would be an increased vascular supply in the affected leg. My only suggestion in dealing with this problem is that you have your horse trimmed twice as often with the hope that this problem will eventually go away as the horse matures. You might also try to put aluminum shoes on the front feet since they will wear away rather rapidly. This will tell you if the horse is wearing out the short hoof, or has excess growth on the long hoof.

Question: I ride a lot on blacktop, what kind of shoes are best?

Answer: The basic reason that a horse is shod is to protect and enhance the performance of the horse, and allow it to traverse different terrain. Horses are shod for the type of work that they do, and this can be very detrimental when they end up doing something that they are not shod for. Case in point: If a horse is shod for reining, and a pair of handmade slider plates are put on the rear hooves, then this horse can get in a bad situation very quickly if ridden on pavement. The converse is true. If a horse is shod with rim shoes and borium for a trail ride, and then someone takes him in the arena for some sliding stops; well the horse is going to end up sore in the pelvic limb.

I used to work with a man named Dave Remely. He was the farrier for the Mounted Patrol in Denver, Colorado. These horses obviously spend a lot of time on blacktop. Dave shod most of the horses with a wide webbed shoe, with borium placed across the toe, and both heels. Dave is a really good shoer, and was able to keep the horses sound in an unforgiving environment where concussion from a hard surface can really take a toll.

I think the best shoe for a horse ridden on a lot of blacktop is a wide webbed rim shoe, or handmade concave shoe, with medium boriurn placed across the toe, and both heels. I don't think that the boriurn has to stick up very far past the outer rim of the shoe. This will give enough traction and wear to provide for the safety of both horses and riders.

Question: Why does the farrier trim the frog? I thought that in nature it was used to cushion the hoof and help keep the hoof moist. Is this creating a problem for my horse?

Answer: The frog in a horses foot is supposed to be a highly elastic, wedge shaped horny structure with an approximately 50% moisture content. In nature, the frog is sloughed, or shed several times a year as the sensitive frog creates more and more horny tissue. Domestic horses don't have the same lifestyle as wild horses, and therefore the care of their hooves and frogs falls to us. We need to trim the frog to keep it in the proper proportions and to keep it healthy and free of disease and rot. Untrimmed frogs tend to spread and cover the commisures, making them the perfect bacteria breeding ground. Many horses do not shed their frogs easily because they are shod and live in a different environment than their wild cousins.

Question: Could you explain what pathological shoeing is. I saw this term used in an horseshoeing ad.

Answer: There are several words that we use which could use some explaining. One is "Corrective" shoeing. Some farriers contend that this means shoeing and trimming designed to straighten legs and limbs, as well as change a horses gait for the better. In England, this interpretation is called remedial shoeing. Another interpretation is corrective means correct, and every time a horse is trimmed something is being corrected. In the case of a straight and balanced horse, hooves that are too long are being corrected by trimming them shorter. I tend to hold with the latter definition, and use the term remedial to refer the former definition.

Pathological shoeing, sometimes called surgical or therapeutic shoeing, is referring to shoeing a horse with a specific injury related problem. An example of this would be putting bar shoes on a horse that suffers from navicular syndrome, or heart bars on a foundered horse. Most people who do this type of work will work with veterinarians on many different types of cases where a great deal of knowledge and skill is required to make and apply many different types of shoes.

A friend of mine once joked about farriers that claimed that they were pathological horseshoers. Comparing the term usage when calling someone a pathological liar. A pathological liar is someone who can't keep from lying. A pathological shoer will be driving down the road, spot a horse in a field, come to a screeching halt in the ditch, catch the horse, and put some shoes on the feet. Although this can provide for cheaper shoeing rates, you may get what you're paying for.

Question: When do I need to start trimming a young horse’s hooves and how is the best way to start handling their feet so they are ready for the farrier? Thanks

Answer: There are several factors to consider when determining the trimming interval and starting age for the first trim. First of all, what is the conformation that you are dealing with? If you are raising colts that do not suffer from toed-in, toed-out, crapus varus, carpus va1gus, vertical axis rotation, or any of the other limb deviations that can afflict a horse, then you are doing the right thing now. On the other hand, if you have any conformational defects, you need to begin fixing them very early. There are epiphyseal plates in the long bones of the legs and limbs, and corrections that occur prior to the closure of these plates are certainly the most successful. After the closure of these plates, corrective shoeing and trimming procedures is usually detrimental, and rarely successful.

For my brood farm accounts, we generally set up on a very regular schedule. We trim all babies for the first time between the 3rd and 5th week of life. They are then done every 4 to 5 weeks until sold or at least a year old. There are very few conformational defects that we can not improve or eliminate with a controlled program like this. Young horses grow twice as much hoof wall as older horses, growing up to half a millimeter per day. This is why the frequent schedule.

It is also important that the farrier is very careful when dressing the outside of young horse's hooves. These feet tend to be larger at the coronary region than at the ground in most colts under 6 months of age. Any reduction of the wall at the distal end can be detrimental.

To answer the second part of your question, this handling tends to really help gentle down young horses when it comes to trimming. Just be certain that you have a farrier who can keep calm and non-abusive when these babies are at their worst. Getting mad at young stock never accomplishes anything beneficial. It is like spanking a 2-month-old child for burping. At a very young age, the colt will not understand what it is being punished for, and will only attach a greater dislike to having it's hooves messed with.

Question: I recently purchased a beautiful 10 year old paint gelding that has contractive heel. I have talked with and used several farriers in my area about this problem. You would not believe the answers I have gotten from some of them. I have been told and have read that this can be corrected with time and the proper shoeing. I have been told that egg bar shoes are the only shoes to use and I have been told not to use egg bar shoes. I have had this horse about 6 months, and he is a joy to ride. However every time I ride him (and not very long) he acts like he is stove up the next day. Please help me. I do not want this horse in any pain and I am at my wits end as what is the right and the wrong way to take care of his feet. He is about 16 hands tall and was wearing a O shoe when I bought him.

Answer: Your problem is not unique. There are a lot of horses with caudal heel soreness, however an examination of the horse would be required to render any sort of diagnosis. Unfortunately, this is not something I can do through the Internet, however I can give you some food for thought. First off, the contracted heel may not be the cause of the horses' problem, but the symptom of another problem, Many horses will develop contracted heels from pain in the heel region of the hoof, or navicular related problems. I do not wish to scare you with the use of the word navicular syndrome, however it is something that must be considered from the description. Your horse also seems to have a foot that is much to small for the body size, which is a problem that I see quite a lot of since I shoe mainly Rodeo and Cutting Horses. This is not something that can be fixed, since it is usually a result of genetics. The only hope is that breeders and horse show judges decide to place more value on sound hooves, legs, and minds instead of color and size.

If this were my horse, I would find a competent vet and farrier to evaluate and diagnose this horse. Some possibilities are navicular syndrome, corns, sidebones, or perhaps ringbone. Good luck, and keep me informed.

Question: Do you recommend tying a horse to a rail when fly spraying it, or holding the lead while spraying? Do you fly spray your horses before shoeing them?

Answer: Definately hold a horse for spraying since many horses do not like to be sprayed, and the act can cause a huge wreck. If you must tie one up to spray them, insure that you have a good, safe enviornment in case the horse decides to act up. Better yet, you may want to wipe the fly spray on the animal with a rag. Never tie to a panel or any other type of structure that can become loose and end up being drug at the end of the lead rope. I like to have horses sprayed prior to shoeing unless they are being doused with a greasy solution. Skin-so-soft by avon may work well, but it is terribly slick on the tools and hands, which in turn makes the job more difficult for the farrier. However, horses that are kicking, stomping, and unruly due to being bothered by flies will make the job even harder than slick tools. I would take the spray over the unruly horse.

Question: Should a young horse be kept in shoes to keep his feet small or is a good trimming all that is needed?

Answer: Thanks for the question. Keeping a horses feet small is the opposite of what you should want for a sound using horse later in life. Small feet have many more problems than large healthy feet do. Your best bet is to keep the feet trimmed on a 6 week schedule until the horse is over 2 years old, then shoe so that you can begin the training process. Good luck, and hope for nice, large, healthy feet.

Question: We have an 18 mo old paint gelding. My question is : What is to high of an angle an the front hoof? Our previous farrier must have had him at 66 degree or higher because at 4 weeks when we had him reset he was at a 64 degree. This made him very flat kneed and he seemed to float across the ground. We have a new farrier who has only been in the bussiness for three years and had been taught that the highest angle he should go would be 60 degree. Are there exceptions?

Answer: I hate to put numbers on angles since they are rarely reliable or accurate. The way that I hold a guage will be different than the next guy, and no two guages seem to be exactly the same. Unfortunately, this is not akin to machine work, and we can not dictate an angle to a horse who may not fit into the textbook example. It seems to me, on my guages, that hoof angles over 57 degrees are usually club footed horses. If your horse was definately at 66 degrees, then I would be a little worried about his conformation. That steep an angle is setting a horse up for concussion type injury. Simply trim and shoe to the natural angle, which is when the front of the hoof matches the midline of the pastern bones from the lateral view on level ground.

Question: What is the more effective teatment for hoof wall fracture that starts in the coronary band?

Answer: I believe that you are asking about what we call a sand crack. This is a vertical crack in the hoof wall that is parallel to the tubules. They are classified by location such as a toe crack or quarter crack. If the crack originates from the coronary region it is usually the result of either a hoof inbalance from uneven wear or bad trimming; or possibly injury to the coronary pappilae. If the problem is external, then the first thing that needs done is to properly balance the hoof and try to unload the wall in order to take stress off of the crack. If the wall is thick enough, I like to drive a horizontal nail across the crack. There is an article in the Farriers Journal from about 3 years ago concerning Nail Lacing. If the crack is in the quarter area or on a thin walled hoof, you may have to use acrylic or something similar to stabilize the area while the new hoof wall is generated. If the crack is a result of injury, I will sometimes burn the coronary band. However this must be done by an experienced person, and I don't wish to describe the process due to the risk to the horse. In any event, you should shoe with a well formed shoe with clips that will help to stabilize the entire hoof capsule. Good luck.

Question: What is an effective treatment(s) for Thrush?

Answer: The most important thing that needs to be done when treating a horse with thrush is to improve the horses' enviornment. His feet need trimmed properly so that the frog does not trap bacteria in the commisures, and the feet also need to be on a daily cleaning schedule. If the horse lives in a stall, the bedding needs to be always dry and clean. Horses that live in pastures need to have an area that they can get to that is dry. After these things are seen to, you can start the horse on one of several treatments. The cheapest is Clorox Bleach mixed 50-50 with water. Clean the hooves daily and apply some of this mixture to the bottom of the feet for a week. Continue to treat in the same manner on an every other day schedule for about another 10 days, and then treat only as needed. By the end of this 17 day treatment schedule, you should have the thrush cleared up. Do not overdo by soaking the feet in Clorox or something of that nature. Only treat the bottom of the hoof. If you prefer another solution, Koppertox or the Mustad Thrush Buster are very good commercail treatments, and you can simply use them in the same cycle as described above. In the cases where sensitive structures have been exposed, you may want to soak in warm water and epson salts as well as possible vet assistance in the area of antibiotics to avoid infection.

copyright © 1998-99 Heartland Horseshoeing School
All Rights Reserved and can not be used without written permission.