From the book THE HORSE LOVER'S BIBLE
At present, in the United States and Canada, there is no legal requirement for a farrier to be licensed, which means that anyone can present themself as a farrier. There are programs that offer training and exams, such as the American Farrier's Association (AFA). Check to make sure that your farrier is a member of one of the registered bodies such as the AFA, and that he or she has recognized qualifications. The AFA currently offers five levels of competence.
Before choosing your farrier, do some homework on who is working in your area, and check on his or her reputation. Local veterinary hospitals or horse establishments should be able to offer you an opinion. If you have young, green or nervous horses, it is especially important to find someone who is competent, patient and is a "horseperson."
Be aware of how your horse travels across the ground. Does it stumble or forge? How does it pick up and put down its feet? It is a good idea to study the way your horse moves so that you become aware of any potential problems before they occur. If you are able to turn your horse loose in an arena, this is an ideal opportunity to watch how it moves from the ground. If you are unable to do so, get someone to run your horse for you.
If you are having problems such as forging, let your farrier know so that he or she can make adjustments when shoeing the horse. Don't be afraid to discuss things, but remember that your farrier is not a vet, so limit any questions to shoeing-related concerns.
The Structure of the Foot
The foot is made up of insensitive and sensitive structures. The external components — the homy wall, sole, frog and bars — are tough and insensitive and protect the sensitive structures of the foot.
This is a thin cover of soft horn that helps to restrict the evaporation of moisture from the hoof wall. The periople extends from the coronary band part way down the outside of the hoof wall. Excessive rasping by the farrier, or continual work in an abrasive sand arena will damage the periople and can contribute to dry and brittle feet.
Tough homy tubules that run vertically from the coronary band to the ground surface of the foot make up the hoof wall. The hoof wall grows continually down from the coronary band at a rate of approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) a month, and so it takes between nine months and one year to grow a completely new wall. Normally the wall is smooth, but when the horse has suffered a dietary change or poor health, ridges or rings may develop around the hoof. These rings will gradually move down the hoof as the wall grows, so it is possible to estimate how many months previously the change or trauma occurred by the height of the ring on the hoof.
The hoof wall is divided into three areas, the toe (where the wall is at its thickest), the quarters and the heel. At the heel the wall turns inward and traverses part way along the sides of the frog, forming the bars.
The frog is a wedge-shaped pad of elastic horn that is in contact with the ground. It functions to provide traction, to aid in the reduction of concussion and to help the circulation of blood through the foot and back up the leg. As the frog
It's useful to work with your horse's feet daily so that
it is well mannered and used to having its feet
handled. Your farrier's job is to shoe your horse, not
to train it.
hits the ground it depresses, putting pressure on the sensitive digital cushion that sits above the frog and pumps blood back up the leg.
This forms the ground surface of the foot and protects the sensitive structures above it. The sole should be gently concave and is non-weight-bearing — horses with very flat soles (flat feet) are prone to bruising and concussion-related problems. The thickness of the sole will vary from horse to horse, with Thoroughbreds often being referred to as "thin soled." The thinner the sole, the more prone the horse will be to bruising. The white line (which is actually yellow in color) shows the junction between the wall of the foot and the sole, and it marks out the position of the sensitive structures within the foot. This line is used by farriers to show where they are able to drive their nails, and also indicates the thickness of the horny wall.
The inside of the foot is a very complex structure. While a complete rendering of the parts is outside the scope of this book, the following will acquaint you with the most common elements.
This wedge-shaped structure sits above the frog and is a central component in blood circulation within the foot. As the foot hits the ground the digital cushion expands, forcing the heels apart and driving blood back up the leg.
Bones and Joints
The small navicular bone, the pedal bone and the bottom two-thirds of the short pastern bone lie within the foot, and between these bones is the coffin joint.
These attach to the surface of the pedal bone and interlink with the insensitive laminae that connect with the inside of the hoof wall. The bond between the sensitive and insensitive laminae is incredibly strong and supports the pedal bone in place.
Important in the reduction of concussion, the lateral cartilages attach to either side of the pedal bone. They are normally soft and elastic, and can be palpated above the coronary band. It is not uncommon for the lateral cartilages to harden with age, especially in horses that have been worked hard, and for bony deposits to occur along their length. This syndrome is referred to as "sidebone".
Viewed from the side, there should be an angle of approximately 45 degrees between the wall of the front feet and the ground; in the hind feet this angle should be between 50 and 55 degrees. The angle of the wall of the feet should be the same as the angle of the pastern; in instances where this does not occur it is referred to as a "broken hoof/pastern angle," which is serious and should be rectified by the farrier. The angle of the hoof wall should remain parallel through the foot from the toe to the heel.
Maintenance of the Feet
Sound, healthy feet make the horse, and it is important to maintain their condition through regular care and attention.
The stabled horse should have its feet picked out at least twice a day — when bringing it in from the field, and when leading it out of the stall — and the grass-kept horse at least once a day. Feet should be picked out from the heel down toward the toe, with particular attention being paid to the clefts of the frog. While picking out the feet check the state of the shoes for risen clenches, sprung or slipping shoes, wear and tear, and hoof growth.
Some horses naturally have "poor" feet and will benefit from an oral hoof supplement containing biotin and methionine, which will also improve the quality of the coat. Oral hoof supplements take a long time to work, so be prepared to allow at least three to four months before a noticeable improvement occurs in the quality of the horn.
There are many topical applications available to condition and moisturize the feet but most are fairly ineffectual. Two products I have found to
Excessively upright feet, where the angle is 60
degrees or more (sometimes referred to as a club
foot), will lead to severe concussion within the foot,
and can cause the horse to stumble. It may lead to
the development of ringbone and arthritis.
work with continuous use, however, are Hoof-Alive and Kevin Bacon's Hoof Dressing.
In very dry conditions, the feet will become brittle and excessively hard and often crack so keep the horse on a good supplement and use topical dressings. It also can help to soak the feet several times a day in water for a few days prior to the farrier's visit. An easy way to do this is to stand the horse in a stream or spring if you have access or on a wet, boggy path of land.
In very wet conditions, the feet will become soft and mushy and will have a higher risk of developing seedy toe and thrush. If this happens, ensure that the horse's feet are allowed to dry out daily. A grass-kept horse must be shut in for a few hours a day on a dry surface.
Horizontal rings around the hoof can indicate a previous attack of laminitis (founder), a sudden change in diet, sudden growth, seasonal changes, trauma or illness. Rings caused by laminitss tend to be wavy and widen at the heels, while rings caused by other factors are generally more regular and evenly spaced.
When picking out the feet as part of the daily routine, work from the heel to the toe using the pick in a downward motion toward the toe and be careful to clean out the areas surrounding the frog really well.
A Visit from the Farrier
The rate of foot growth varies from horse to horse and will also be affected by nutrition and, to a certain extent climate. Horses should, however, have their feet reshod or trimmed every six to eight weeks.
THIS TIME FRAME IS THE ONE GENERALLY GIVEN, BUT AS STATED THE GROWTH VARIES FROM HORSE TO HORSE - MY HORSE GOLDIE CAN GO FOR 10 TO 12 WEEKS BEFORE I NEED TO TRIM HER FEET - I AM SKILLED AT TRIMMING A NO PROBLEM HOOF, DONE IT SINCE I WAS 18 - NEVER HAD A HORSE GO LAME ON ME - I DO NOT SHOE, NEVER HAVE…. I LEAVE THAT FOR THE SKILLED SHOERS - Keith Hunt
It is essential that your horse is used to having its feet picked up and handled before the farrier arrives. I can't stress this enough. It is not the farrier's job to train your horse, and he or she can't be expected to do a good job if your horse is being difficult. By the same token, however, some horses can be particularly hard to shoe, often as a result of poor care and management. If you know that your horse is particularly nervous, or does have problems, explain to your farrier so that he or she can behave accordingly and allow extra time in scheduling if necessary.
The Shoeing Area
To do a good job, the farrier needs a safe working area. This must be somewhere flat and hard, preferably either on rubber matting or concrete and under cover. The farrier will need good light and there should be enough room for him or her to be able to work safely around your horse. If you are not able to provide a safe, flat area then it is worth taking your horse somewhere else to be shod.
The Farrier at Work
Each farrier will work in a slightly different way using different techniques, but basically the procedure for shoeing a horse is the same.
The Well-shod Foot
1. The angle of the hoof should follow the angle of the pastern joint.
In front feet this is roughly 45 degrees at the toe, and in the hind it
should be 50-55 degrees. This is referred to as the hoof/pastern angle,
and is extremely important. If the horse has a broken axis, great strain
will be placed on the internal structures of the hoof and leg, and it
will affect the horse's natural way of movement.
2. The feet should be balanced, and should appear to be in pairs,
bearing in mind conformational differences.
3. The bearing surface of the foot should be level and flat to the shoe —
there should be no gaps between the shoe and the foot.
4. The shoe should fit the foot and there should be no excessive overhang of the shoe, unless in specific therapeutic cases.
5. The clenches should be even and smooth, with
no sharp points, and the same height all the way
around. They should sit roughly one-third of the
way up the hoof from the ground.
6. There should be no evidence of excessive use of the hoof knife on the frog or sole, or the rasp on the outside of the hoof.
7. The shoe should be the right weight and type for
the horse and its job.
8. The nails should be the right size for the shoe. If
they are too large they will wear away, and more
importantly they will displace the hoof wall and
cause cracks and if they are too small they will come loose.
9. They should fit snugly into the fullering (groove in the shoe).
10. The clips should fit the notch made for them,
and should be tight fitting against the hoof.
Special shoes fall into two categories, the remedial or therapeutic shoe that is used to address a specific problem, and shoes designed for the show or competition horse and gaited horse to increase their movements.
Remedied Special Shoes
The bar shoe is one of the most commonly used of the remedial shoes and comes in several different forms.
So-named because these shoes are shaped something like a heart, they apply pressure to the frog. They are generally used on horses suffering from laminitis (see page 232) and can help to prevent rotation of the pedal bone. They can also be used on horses with navicular disease.
These are egg-shaped shoes that provide extra support at the heels to help horses with low, sloping heels. They also can be used on horses with flexor tendon problems (see page 226-28) or with navicular disease or laminitis.
These shoes have both heels connected through a straight bar of metal and are useful for providing heel support.
These shoes have a raised bar at the heels and are only used for horses in stall rest. The angle of the heel bar reduces tension on the deep digital flexor tendon and so is used on horses following a severe tendon injury.
These shoes have a broader ground surface than normal and so reduce concussion. They are commonly used on thin-soled horses.
These shoes can be built up at the heels to increase the angle of the foot, which is most often seen in horses with spavins or stifle problems. As an alternative, a wedged pad can be used under the shoe to achieve the same effect.
The ground surface of these shoes is not flat but built up in the quarters. This eases the break over of the foot and is most commonly used on horses with arthritic joint conditions such as ringbone.
Used on horses that brush during movement, the inside branch of these shoes is
narrower than the outside, which reduces the likelihood of injury to the opposite limb.
These shoes have an excessively squared toe, which is designed to increase the point of break over.
Constructed from dense synthetic materials, these shoes are attached to the foot without using nails. They are useful for horses that suffer from thin and shelly hoof walls, chronic seedy toe, laminitis and other foot-related problems, and also provide good shock-absorbing qualities, which can help concussion-related problems.
Non-remedial Special Shoes
These lightweight aluminum shoes are for race horses. They are put on before a race and removed afterward.
These are specifically for the reining horse and are only used on the hind feet. They have a very wide web and extended heels and are designed to reduce traction during the sliding phase of the stop.
Heavier at the toe than at the heels, these shoes are designed to increase the animation of the gait. They are most commonly seen on extravagant show horses such as the Arab, Morgan, Hackney and the gaited breeds like the Tennessee Walker and Missouri Fox Trotter.
TO SHOE OR NOT TO SHOE?
Not everyone believes it is necessary to shoe a horse; some believe it is detrimental and unnatural to do so. Undoubtedly, many horses in work manage just fine without shoes, although this depends on the terrain they are working on, the level of work they are required to do and, most importantly, the toughness of their feet. (A thin-soled, flat-footed Thoroughbred might struggle with barefoot trail riding over rocky, uneven terrain!)
YOU BET IT IS ALL THE ABOVE AS TO SHOE OR NOT TO SHOE. MY HORSE GOLDIE HAS GOOD STRONG FEET, BUT DOES NOT DO WELL ON ROCKY TRAILS. I SHOD HER FOR THAT REASON AS THE GRIFFIN VALLEY RANCH [WHERE WE WERE FOR 8 YEARS] HAD ROCKY TRAILS. WHERE SHE IS NOW DOES NOT HAVE ROCKY TRAILS…..I NO LONGER SHOE HER. IT IS HARD FOR ME TO BELIEVE ROY ROGERS' HORSE TRIGGER, COULD HAVE DONE ALL THAT RUNNING ON HARD GROUND WITHOUT SHOES. ROY SAID TRIGGER WAS AS TOUGH AS OLD BOOTS, NEVER PULLED EVEN A MUSCLE IN ALL THOSE YEARS OF MAKING MOVIES; BUT ROY MADE SURE TRIGGER HAD SHOES ON - Keith Hunt
There are horses who actively go better without shoes; their natural foot provides them with traction, and is able to expand during movement. There is, however, an increased chance of bruised soles when riding barefoot, and the hoof wall can be worn down excessively quickly leading to sore feet.
If keeping shoes on your horse, be aware of the damage that driving nails causes to the hoof wall, and look after the feet with dressings and nutritional aids. If a horse is off work for a period of time, pull the shoes and allow the feet the opportunity to grow and recover. If opting to keep your horse barefoot, be wary of the type of terrain over which you ride - and if in doubt, picture yourself running barefoot along similar ground! Above all, whether keeping your horse barefoot or shod, make sure that its feet are seen regularly by a farrier.