Hoof Trimming Questions

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Hoof Injuries


Horse Shoeing

Hoof Angles


Q: My TB has one front hoof that grows slightly concave.  Just started doing this 2 trims ago. What does this indicate?  He has had some minor laminitis in past but never show lameness.

A: Any change, especially a sudden one, in the appearance of a hoof is cause for concern even if the horse shows no sign of lameness. It is an indication of some serious changes occurring and the cause needs to be determined and corrected as soon as possible.

 My first suggestion would be to check your shoeing records to be sure that your horse’s feet are being trimmed to the correct specifications. If his feet have been fine up until two trims ago, then my first thought is to be sure that nothing has changed the way his feet are being trimmed. It only takes a small deviation from a balanced state to cause serious problems. Failing to correctly trim a hoof in a timely manner is perhaps the most common reason for a hoof to get out of shape. This is why maintaining a shoeing record is so important. 

Next, I would suggest you discuss this with your farrier. He or she is most likely the one who is going to have to make the proper corrections in order to bring this hoof back into a balanced state. Their findings may indicate that the problem can be corrected simply by trimming or depending on their findings, they may suggest you consult a vet, for x-rays perhaps, especially if it appears that laminitis may be involved. 

The important thing here is to find out just what has caused a normal looking hoof to change shape. In the absence of any external reasons for the change, then one has to look inward to see if there has been a change affecting the internal structures of the hoof. 

However, without being able to actually examine the hoof, my very first suggestion would be to find an experienced farrier who, after examining your horse, should be able walk you through all the possibilities and help you develop a plan to correct the problem. 

I’m sorry I cannot be more specific. I think that an onsite examination is going to be critical to solving your problem. There are just too many variables to make an assumption without examining your horse. 

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Q: How long does bruising take to heal?  The bruising is at toe because of poor trimming.  My TB eventer wears 4 shoes.  We've had difficulty finding a good farrier in our area.  He has 2 odd front feet - one underrun heal which never grows and one heal that grows well.  Last trim his toes were too long and heals too low, so the farrier tells me the toes were bruised by the breakover.  The white line was pink at toe when trimmed - does color indicate how fresh the bruise is?  We now have a 3/8 wedge on the underrun heal which brings him up to the correct angle.  Is this too much to start with on the first change?  Other farriers have only extended shoe behind hoof slightly, saying that would help grow more heal, which it doesn't.  Right now the horse is also lame from a strain on the front leg (when he threw a shoe) so it's hard to tell when the bruising is better.  Any advice on proper angles and wedges would be welcomed or I could send pictures of his feet at present time.  Thanks.

A: Because the time it takes for a bruise to heal depends on a number of factors, it is not really possible to be very specific. The cause, location, severity and treatment of the bruise can all affect the recovery time needed. The first thing is to determine the cause of the bruise, so that it may be eliminated, thereby preventing the situation from continuing/worsening as well as interfering with the healing process.

It sounds like you have identified the cause as being directly related to the quality of hoof care provided by the last farrier to work on your horse. You may wish to consider using the American Farrier’s Association “Find a Farrier” resource to locate a farrier in your area: http://www.americanfarriers.org/find_a_farrier/index.php

There may be a state farrier association that could provide a recommendation as well as your vet may be able to suggest someone whose work they recommend. You may wish to explore the possibility of using the Internet to locate a Thoroughbred Association near you that you could query for the name of a qualified farrier. I used the search term Thoroughbred Association and found numerous links to chapters in both Canada and the United States.

A description of, “one underrun heal which never grows and one heal that grows well” may indicate either a really poor trimming job by a farrier and/or a horse with particular hoof problems that prevent the feet from ever looking identical. A farrier should be able to tell you if the feet are just not being trimmed correctly or if there is another problem that needs to be addressed.

Last trim his toes were too long and heals too low, so the farrier tells me the toes were bruised by the breakover.  The white line was pink at toe when trimmed - does color indicate how fresh the bruise is?

Color is not always the best way to determine the “freshness” of a bruise, especially one in the white line. An examination that may include the use of hoof testers may be a better indication as to the severity and degree to which the bruise has healed. Treatment should always begin at the first sign of soreness and continue long enough for the bruise to completely heal. The color will not be absorbed back into the hoof wall or white line and will remain until it is trimmed out as the hoof grows out.

We now have a 3/8 wedge on the underrun heal which brings him up to the correct angle.  Is this too much to start with on the first change? Not in my opinion. I would return him to his correct angles as fast as possible.

It sounds like you have identified the main problem, which is the need for quality hoof care. The long toe/low heel situation when caused by improper trimming should be avoided at all costs. If the cause of the mismatched front feet is due to human error, then the problem should go away once the horse’s feet are brought back into balance. If the problem is related to a physical or conformation problem, then a farrier should be able to trim/shoe the horse accordingly.

I would suggest if you have not already done so, that you keep a shoeing record of some type so that you will know exactly hoof lengths and angles will keep your horse sound. Once your horse has been trimmed/shod correctly, this information will allow you to tell any farrier exactly how you want your horse’s feet trimmed and/or shod as well as help you identify if he is not being trimmed to your specifications. There is some information on this webpage that you may find helpful. http://www.antelopepress.com/hs_record.htm

Other farriers have only extended shoe behind hoof slightly, saying that would help grow more heal, which it doesn't.  It is much easier to remove too much heel from a hoof than it is to bring the heel back to its correct angle. There are a number of different techniques used to help bring a horse’s heels back into their proper state. Each case has to be evaluated according to the individual situation. This is something that requires an examination of the horse and consulting with the owner in order to develop a workable plan to return the horse to a sound condition.

Right now the horse is also lame from a strain on the front leg (when he threw a shoe) so it's hard to tell when the bruising is better. I would think that it would be prudent to treat the bruise until it no longer bothers the horse. As I mentioned earlier, the color will not be absorbed back into the hoof wall or white line and will remain until it is trimmed out as the hoof grows out.

Proper angles and wedges. These will have to be determined by a farrier after an examination of the horse. They are dependant on the horse’s conformation and will vary from horse to horse.

I could send pictures of his feet at present time. I'll be happy to look at pictures of your horse’s feet: My email address is: farrier@antelopepress.com

I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions satisfactorily. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: What are the various causes of hoof overgrowth in the carthorse?

A: The simplest answer to this question, if I understand it correctly, is that hoof overgrowth refers to a portion of the hoof structure that has been allowed to grow too long between trimmings and/or it may be the result of improper hoof care to include trimming a hoof out of balance or the incorrect application of a horseshoe.

 Regularly scheduled quality hoof care is the easiest way to avoid hoof overgrowth.

 Please let me know if this is not what you were referring to with your question and I'll try to address your concerns.

Q: My mare has a quarter crack on her back right hoof. I knew she had it when I bought her, the previous owners told me she had had it for a long time and it was healing. I asked my coach to look at it and she said it looked like it was growing out. Yesterday when I went to see her, the crack looked like it had split. I'm very worried about what this will do. I've been doing some research on it but can't seem to find a site that will explain everything clearly. Is this crack going to cause my mare to go lame and will she always have some pain?

A: Cracks are relatively common and not all cracks result in either short-term lameness or long-term disability. The vast majority are treated with no long-term adverse effects to the horse. It is good to see that you are not only aware of the problem but you are also monitoring the situation closely.

Not all cracks cause pain and your awareness of the possible consequences of ignoring the situation should help you prevent the crack from reaching that point. The best advice I can offer at this point is to locate a farrier familiar with, and experience in treating hoof cracks. There are too many variables involved in treating hoof cracks for you not to seek out someone with the knowledge and understanding of the nuances involved in dealing with this particular problem.

Hoof cracks may be shallow, and cause no harm, or deep, penetrating to the sensitive tissues of the hoof structure where they can cause a great deal of harm to the point of threatening the long-term soundness of the horse.

If a crack is growing out and suddenly goes active, then I think you are correct in being concerned and should have a farrier check it out.

The two most common causes of hoof cracks are from an injury to the coronary band or a hoof care program that is lacking in some way.

An injury to the coronary band will often lead to the production of a weak and/or deformed hoof wall, and that in turn may lead to cracks originating at the coronary band.

Improperly maintained or imbalanced trimming of a hoof is probably the most common cause of hoof cracks. An unbalanced hoof will not be able to handle the stresses placed upon it. Cracks are a frequent result.

The very first thing in dealing with any crack is to determine the reason it is there in the first place. Only then can the farrier decide on a course of action that offers the best solution. This leads to me repeating my earlier suggestion that you find a farrier who has experience in dealing with hoof cracks and one that is willing to spend the time and effort necessary to offer your horse its best chance to remain sound.

There are numerous ways to deal with the crack itself, but they all begin with a balanced hoof. The trim is the most important part of dealing with hoof cracks. The hoof has to be trimmed to the proper hoof length and hoof angle dictated by the conformation of the individual horse if there is to be any chance for the crack to heal.

In order to be more specific, one has to examine the horse. This is where finding a farrier who has dealt with hoof cracks becomes so important. Each situation presents its own special challenges and there is often more than one way to approach a particular situation.

The farrier has to take into account the type of crack, the root cause of the crack, the conformation of the horse, the environmental conditions as well as the physical condition of the horse, among other considerations before he or she can offer you, the owner, their suggestions for dealing with the crack. As you can see, there is no simple answer to how to treat a crack, which brings us back to finding a farrier willing and able to help you and your horse through this situation.

A hoof crack that begins to split and work is a definite indication that this hoof needs special attention.

If you think the crack is starting to split, the easiest way to monitor this is to either measure and record the length of the crack and compare measurements on a regular basis or you could use a magic marker to mark the end of the crack and see if it progresses beyond the mark. This may at least offer you the peace of mind as you work to correct this situation.

I wish you the best of luck in finding a farrier who will help you through this difficult situation. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: My horse every once in a while will extend his hind leg "either one" out to the side. Almost like a side kick.  My friend told me she thinks he has stringhalt.  It is my understanding that a stringhalt horse raises the hoof in the direction of the belly, correct?  He does not do this. He does have arthritic hocks and I think he may just be stretching. He only does it while standing still, not when moving. He's also navicular which contributes to the bad hocks.  Is there anything else I should look for to rule out stringhalt?  Thanks.

 A: My understanding of Stringhalt is that it involves the lateral digital extensor. Stringhalt being an involuntary flexion of the hock during movement and may affect one or both hind limbs.

The particular signs to look for are quite variable and while some horses exhibit a mild flexion of the hock at a walk, others may show a marked jerking of the foot toward the abdomen. This action may occur at every step with some horses while being more spasmodic with others. Most often these signs are exaggerated when the horse is turning.

Stringhalt is usually most noticeable after the horse has rested for a time, however, the signs may be intermittent and disappear for variable lengths of time.

You may be interested in these articles: 

One thing that I think you’ll find comforting is that your horse is exhibiting her “stretching” while she is standing still, while stringhalt manifests itself during the movement phase of the legs. Nothing I have read coincides with the sideways extension of the leg motion that you are seeing indicating it would relate to stringhalt.

One thing to bear in mind is that in any case where you are concerned for the safety and comfort of your horse, if you are unable to discern otherwise, it is always a safe bet to consult with your vet on matters such as this.

I hope I’ve been able to answer your question satisfactorily. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: How do you correct a horse that toes out and wings in so that they hit themselves in the opposite fetlock?

A: Altering the flight path of a horses legs and feet is a very serious matter. You really need to have an individual experienced in this type of trimming and shoeing examine the horse before deciding on a plan of action. Every horse and each situation is different and therefore, there is no one definitive rule that works for every horse, every time.

First, you have to be sure that the horse is being trimmed properly and that its feet are balanced according to its conformation. Quite often all it takes is to get the horse’s feet back into a balanced state for the problem to be fixed.

The reason the horse toes out needs to be identified before any correction can be applied.

Among other considerations will be the horse’s age, conformation, the condition of its hooves, its use and the environmental conditions it is expected to encounter.

Whether or not to make a correction using a combination of trimming and shoeing techniques or just one or the other will depend on the particular situation. And this means an onsite evaluation and examination by someone trained in the care and treatment of horse’s feet.

Any correction should be the least severe that will accomplish the task.

One of the most common methods used to address situations such as you describe … a hoof that wings in due to a hoof that toes out … is to lower the outside of the hoof by a very small amount. Small fractions of an inch are the norm as it is very easy to cause serious injury if this is overdone as well as it only takes a small deviation from flat and level to greatly alter how the leg and hoof are going to react.

It is for this reason that I suggest corrections of this nature only be attempted by individuals with the proper training and experience. It is altogether too easy to make the situation worse and/or to permanently injure the horse.

The American Farriers Association maintains a web page where you can search for a farrier in your area. : http://www.americanfarriers.org/find_a_farrier/index.php

I wish you the best of luck in fixing this problem.

Q: Have a 5 yr old gelding who had an injury to his heel pastern area 2 yrs ago. Last year he got a quarter crack and was off on the leg.  We used a bar shoe and biotin to fix it. The crack has returned again this year and is cracking with the bar shoe, his heels are contracting now too. Is there anything else or something different to do. He is continuing to take 50mg of biotin a day.

 A: A quarter crack that is the result of an injury to the coronary band where the coronary band itself sustains permanent damage is one that most likely will have to be addressed for the lifetime of the horse. In other words, once you find the correct measures needed to heal the crack, then in order to prevent the crack from reoccurring, you may have to maintain these corrective measures.

If you have a shoeing record, you should be able to refer back to the time last year that the crack appeared and confirm that his feet are being trimmed and shod exactly as they were then. It only takes a small deviation to make a large difference in how the concussive forces affect a hoof and sometimes the result is enough of an imbalance to produce a crack or prevent one from healing.

Proper trimming of the hoof to its required balanced state, especially with a hoof carrying other problems, is a must when trying to heal a crack.

The basic principle behind fixing a hoof crack is to first identify, and correct if possible, the reason for, and then immobilize the crack, thereby permitting sound hoof to grow down from the coronary band.

Something you and your farrier may wish to consider is lowering the bearing surface of the hoof wall posteriorly to the crack (from the crack to the heel) so there is a space between the shoe and that part of the hoof wall. This technique and its ramifications are something that your farrier needs to be familiar with before attempting on your horse.

Here is an article on contracted heels that you may find useful. http://www.anvilmag.com/farrier/prmcnthl.htm

Contracted heels require special attention on the part of whoever is trimming and shoeing the horse. The best advice I can offer is probably not the easiest to be able to accomplish … that is to find a farrier with the knowledge and experience in the treatment of hoof cracks and corrective shoeing for the contracted heels. It is much easier to prevent contracted heels than to correct them. Contraction may be caused by a number of conditions, such as a lack of moisture in the hoof and the lack of pressure or weight bearing on the heels and especially the frog. Throw in the earlier injury to the hoof and the reoccurring hoof crack and the situation is serious enough to require the attention of a farrier familiar with and working with these conditions.

As with any supplement, if the use of Biotin is resulting in good solid hoof growth, then that should be helpful in helping the crack grow out as new healthy hoof growth appears.

The measures that allow the crack to heal, now have to take into consideration the matter of the contracted heels in order that fixing one doesn't interfere with the correction for the other.

I’m sorry I cannot offer a simple fix for either the quarter crack or the contracted heels, but individually, the methods used to correct them vary so much by individual case that it is impossible to simply say do this or that and all will be well. Combine the two and the situation truly does require a farrier experienced in these matters.

Here are a few sites that may prove helpful in locating a farrier near you:


This website provides a list of farrier schools where you may be able to locate a referral.

I hope I’ve been able to provide some information that will helpt you in getting your horse back on its feet. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: Is it bad for a horses hooves to overgrow a little bit when they have their metal horse shoes on?

 A: When the hoof wall overgrows the shoe it allows for the possibility for the horse to chip off a portion of the hoof wall if it steps on the edge of a rock, curb or trailer.

Overgrowth that is the result of too long between trimmings, should be taken care (eliminated) of immediately by having the feet trimmed.

If the overgrowth is due to the shoe being fit tight to the foot, for whatever reasons, then it may be possible to rasp off the extra growth without causing harm until it is time for regularly scheduled hoof care. Your farrier should be able to let you know if this is an option in your case.

To answer your question, the overgrowth, regardless of the reason, is not good for the horse and may lead to serious consequences. It should be brought to the attention of your farrier at the earliest opportunity.

While this is not a very common problem, it does happen often enough that I appreciate having the opportunity to address this particular event. Thank you.

Q: I’ve just started training for endurance racing and my Arabian threw a shoe, when I looked at the shoe I noticed it was uneven.  it was the back left shoe and the left side of the shoe was thinner than the right side. I ride ten miles 4 days a week at a fast pace on dirt roads.  was wondering what could be causing the uneven wear on the shoes? 

A: Congratulations on your taking up endurance riding. It is a great sport and a wonderful way to spend time on a horse.

Uneven wear on a horseshoe may be caused by there being an unequal amount of concussive forces being applied to the shoe as it makes contact with the ground during each step.

Contributing factors may include the conformation of the horse, how the hoof is trimmed/shod, the flight path of the leg and hoof and whether or not the hoof twists or drags during the ground contact phase of a step.

It is good that you noticed this. Asking your farrier for a further explanation will allow him/her the opportunity to help you understand how they are trimming your horse to achieve its maximum performance. This will also let your farrier know that you are paying attention to your horse’s feet. By alerting him/her to this particular situation, you may actually be telling them something they did not know was happening thereby giving them the opportunity to address any problem. Most farriers are more than happy when an owner expresses an ongoing interest in being involved with their horse’s hoof care.

 Good luck with your endurance training. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions.


Q: My 5 year old has a bad quarter crack that was healed last year with bar shoes. it recracked this year and he went lame. even stalled he seems to still be cracking. he is on a biotin supplement and hoof ointment. is there a better way to manage this or special way to trim and shoe. the reason for this cracking is from a leg injury two years. he has seen a vet without any new advice.

A: Managing a quarter crack that is the result of an injury presents a unique set of challenges for the horse owner and the farrier as well. In some cases where the injury has resulted in a permanent weakness to the hoof and/or altered the way in which the normal everyday stresses are applied to the hoof structure, that hoof may develop special trimming/shoeing needs in order to remain sound and to prevent the crack from reoccurring.

The key here is that once you have identified the reason for the crack (as you have), your farrier (in conjunction with your vet, if such a consultation is warranted) should develop a hoof care program that will keep the foot stabilized. This not only allows the crack to heal, but should prevent it from reoccurring.

I think that Biotin supplements and hoof treatments are fine as long as they are producing results.

The actual particulars as to how to trim and shoe the foot will vary with the individual situation. It will depend on the location and severity of the injury as well as how the injury affects the hoof’s ability to handle the stress loads placed upon the hoof and how those changes affect the other hooves as well.

It takes an onsite examination and evaluation to figure out the nuances of each case and therefore, the best advice I can offer is to find a farrier with experience in dealing with these types of injuries. I realize that this may be easier said than done, but this type of hoof care problem needs to be addressed by someone who understands all that it takes to keep a horse with this type injury from cycling back and forth from sound to lame due to the same old problem.

If the farrier and vet are not able to offer anything that helps you move forward with the problem, then I would suggest it may be time to find a farrier and vet who will. Just fixing the crack without offering a plan to deal with the long-term effects brought about by the injury is only half a solution at best. The American Farrier’s Association has a “find a Farrier page: http://www.americanfarriers.org/find_a_farrier/state_results.php?state=10 You may wish to contact the state farrier’s associations for your location to see if they can offer a referral.

It is encouraging that you were able to fix the crack once, which would lead one to believe that it can be done again, only this time with provisions for the long-term care to be included.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  My 8 yr old Arab Gelding is shoed regularly. He has developed long toes, trips a lot, and has a sore back.  How to solve?

A:  Horses with long toes (low heels, too?) often trip a lot. The simplest cure is to have the horse’s feet trimmed more often if they get overly long between farrier appointments.

A properly trimmed/shod horse should not trip over its own feet. A line drawing of what most properly trimmed hooves should look like can be seen at the following link: http://www.antelopepress.com/balanced%20hooves.htm.

I would suggest you bring this matter to the attention of your farrier and if he or she is unable or unwilling to fix the problem, then you need to find another farrier. It is neither healthy nor safe for a horse to be left with long toes and low heels. The tripping is also reason for serious concern as you and/or the horse may be injured if the horse goes down.

This situation needs to be corrected at the earliest possible time. It is good that you are concerned and that you recognize the need for it to be corrected. A farrier is the person who needs to examine the horse and see to it that it is trimmed correctly and the shoes properly applied.

As for the sore back, I would not be surprised if that problem disappeared once the horse’s feet have been trimmed correctly. However, because there may be another reason for this particular problem and I would be sure to bring this to the attention of the farrier as well as your vet, as it is entirely possible that the back problem is not at all connected to the hoof problem.

Therefore, the simple answer to your question of, “How to solve?” is to have a farrier examine and trim/shoe your horse correctly (adjusting the time between appointments if necessary) and to have a vet examine the horse in order to discover the reason for the sore back.

I wish you the best of luck in getting your horse back on its feet. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Q:  have recently acquired a 6 yr old quarter horse mare that every time she starts to trot, starts out ok, but with a few feet drops her head to the ground, and then goes about 10 - 20 ft and dead stops. She does the same thing in a canter. Her previous owner, a 12 yr old girl used to fall off alot because of this. I do not think the horse is doing it intentionally though, it may be off balance. She currently has front shoes only. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

 A: Since this problem precedes your becoming the new owner, my first suggestion would be to discuss this with the people who sold you the horse. It would be nice to know when the problem first occurred and what steps, if any, were taken in attempting to correct the situation. If the horse already behaved this way when they got her, then you should try to get as much history on the horse as possible.

You may also want to experiment with a different type of bridle and bit (other tack also). Maybe she has been trained using one particular type and if you are using something she is not used to, this could be confusing her and causing her to react this way.

Next I would suggest having the horse examined by your farrier to be sure the horse’s feet are trimmed correctly and that she is not overly long between trimmings. Horses wearing shoes on their front feet only is a very common thing and I would find it hard to believe that this is causing the problem.

If the farrier determines that her feet are fine, then I would call the vet and have the horse examined to see if there is any physical ailment causing her to behave this way. However, I would think that this would have shown up in a pre-purchase examination during an observance of how she moved in her various gaits.

You say that, “I do not think the horse is doing it intentionally though, it may be off balance.” If by this you mean that her feet are not trimmed correctly, then the farrier should take care of this. If, on the other hand, what you are dealing with is a conformation problem, then again, the farrier may be able to help alleviate the situation.

I would also suggest trying to find and speaking with the people who are responsible for her earlier training. Perhaps the mare is responding to a “cue” that you are not aware of giving. An examination of her early training may provide the clues needed to unravel this mystery.

If the horse exhibits no obvious signs of injury or lameness, and is pleasant to be around otherwise, then I would think that with the help of your farrier and vet you should be able to determine what is causing her to behave this way.

I hope I’ve been able to gives you some points to consider. Please feel free to contact me again if I can be of further assistance. Best of luck and if you get the chance, I'll be interested in hearing what you find out.


Q: How do you trim hoofs of horses?

A: Trimming a horse’s hooves requires training, knowledge, skill, patience and the right tools. It also requires the cooperation of the horse, which means that someone has to train the horse to pick up its feet and stand quietly while the farrier performs the work.

A horse’s feet must be trimmed correctly if the horse is to remain sound. It is that simple and that important. There are many factors involved in trimming a horse’s feet. A farrier takes into account everything from the horse’s conformation, to the type of work it will be doing as well as the quality of the hoof wall and the ground surface the horse will be on. All this and more go into deciding how to balance the hooves to the natural shape that are required for a particular horse to remain safe and sound.

If you are interested in learning how to trim a horse’s feet, I would suggest taking a professional horseshoeing course or you may be able to find a farrier willing to teach you.

You will find a good deal of information about farriers (and horses) at the website for the American Farrier’s Association: http://www.americanfarriers.org/.

The search terms, “horseshoeing schools” used with Google turns up a number of schools offering to teach interested individuals how to take care of horse’s feet. Additionally, there are a number of books available (you may wish to check out your local library) that are specifically written for the horse owner interested in learning more about their horse’s feet. (http://www.antelopepress.com/Blacksmith's%20Page.htm#Suggested%20Reading)

I hope I’ve been able to answer your question satisfactorily. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: My horse has been shod twice with what appears to small shoes, can this be causing stiffness and favoring front left foot? 

A: Fitting a horse with the improper size shoe can cause long-term permanent damage to the horse. Stiffness and favoring can certainly be signs of a foot shod with a too small shoe.

However, as I’m sure you are aware, there are numerous other possibilities that may cause similar symptoms, including, but not limited to, the trim itself.

That being said, there is no excuse for a horse to be fitted with shoes that do not fit its feet. Fitting a horse with shoes that are too small for its feet is unacceptable … period.

If you feel that your horse’s shoes are too small for its feet, then you need to bring this to the immediate attention of your farrier and if he/she is not able to adequately address your concerns, then you need to find another farrier who will.

This is a good example of why every horse should have a record of how its feet are being trimmed/shod. If you know the toe lengths, heel lengths and hoof angles that your horse needs its feet to be trimmed to, along with its shoe type and size, then if you suspect that something has changed, you have a very simple way to verify your suspicions. Plus, it makes it simple to show a new farrier exactly how your horse’s feet need to be trimmed and shod (if necessary) in order to keep it sound.

If your horse exhibits signs of stiffness and/or favoring or any of its feet, this is reason enough to have a farrier re-examine the horse. If the fault lies in an improperly fitted shoe, it needs to be removed at once and the hoof fitted with the proper size shoe.

The best way to determine this is to have a qualified farrier examine the horse.

It is good to see that you are paying close attention to your horse’s feet and how they are being trimmed and shod. There are a number of books on the market (they may also be available in or through your local library) that have been written for the horse owner wishing to learn more about the whole business of trimming and shoeing their horses. You can see some titles here: (http://www.antelopepress.com/Blacksmith's%20Page.htm#Suggested%20Reading)

If you’d like to see a sample record book, either to use or as a model for developing one of your own, please follow this link: http://www.antelopepress.com/horseshoe_record_book.htm

I hope I’ve been able to answer question to your satisfaction. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance. Best of luck to your and your horse.


Q: I have three geldings, 4,5, and 18 years of age. They haven't been ridden since last summer and are on native pasture with grain and hay twice daily.  There is adequate grass and the ground is a sandy loam with good elevation.  I am approaching the six week trims for the third session with my current farrier who was recommended by a local veterinarian.  I am concerned about the quality of his work. 
Having the hoof in hand and looking down the foot from heel to toe, I notice that the heels seem longer, the quarters seem lower, and the toes are elongated, almost almond shaped in both front and rear feet.  Standing in front of the horses and looking down at the front feet, the toes look very long while the quarters look chipped out.  From a side view while watching the horses walk they almost appear to land on the front of their feet rather that the rear.  Their feet seem to be taking on an elongated appearance.  What is going on? 
One of my horses has a 4 inch toe - his feet are the most elongated. Another horse has one three inch front hoof and the other front is three and one-quarter inches. The third horse has been a little tender for two weeks. Three days ago a crack appeared in the toe area on the outside of the hoof. The crack started at the bottom of the hoof and extended up about an inch toward the coronary band. After two days a piece of the hoof tore off leaving a chunk out of the hoof.  I am looking for answers.

A: Hello,

Thank you for the clarification. I think it is great that you are taking the time to confirm your concerns about your horse’s hooves by taking a simple measurement. This is the easiest way to ensure that your horse is being trimmed the same way at every trimming. It does not matter what method a farrier uses to trim a hoof, that is their preference and as long as the hoof is balanced, that is all that counts.

Hoof measurements (toe lengths and hoof angles [or lengths]) are not used to determine how a horse should initially be trimmed; but rather once a horse is trimmed to a balanced state, these measurements can be used to ensure that the hooves are trimmed the same way every time. It is so simple to tell a farrier that in order to remain sound, your horse needs to have its front feet trimmed to this length, this angle and the hind feet trimmed to these specifications.

People get all caught up in the various methods used by farriers to trim hooves and debate whether this method is better than that, when it really doesn't matter how you get there, but that the hoof is balanced and the horse is sound.

If you keep track of the hoof settings taken at the time of the trimming, you can tell if the horse is being trimmed differently as well as this information lets you know if the settings used are working for the horse or if the farrier needs to make an adjustment in order to get the horse’s feet balanced.

It just makes sense that the horse owner should have a way to know if their horse’s feet are being trimmed the way they should be and be able to tell a different farrier exactly how you want the horse trimmed.

Rather than keep writing the hoof lengths and angles on a receipt, I created a simple little record book that gives the owner a place to keep this information. You can read about it here: http://www.antelopepress.com/horseshoe_record_book.htm

It does not matter whether you use it or one of your own making, the important thing is that you have this information on hand for each of your horses. This is not secret information that only your farrier should know about, but information that is vital to the health of the horse and that belongs with you.

The importance of a properly trimmed and maintained hoof cannot be overstated. Once a hoof is allow to get out of shape it no longer is able to carry the load it is designed for in such a manner that it reacts correctly with the other structures of the horse.

Additionally, a hoof that is not trimmed properly is more likely to suffer from cracks, chipping and a general deterioration of the entire hoof capsule.

Changes in environmental conditions may cause changes to the hoof’s shape. In this part of the country, horses that are pastured in wetter pastures have feet that tend to spread out with a more pronounced platter shape than those on drier ground .

Something you may wish to include in your record book is the distance between the heels themselves, especially if you are concerned that the feet are becoming narrower and where contracted heels may be a concern. This measurement will let you know if the foot is contracting so you can bring it to the attention of the farrier. If this is happening, it must be corrected.

“Having the hoof in hand and looking down the foot from heel to toe”, the foot should be trimmed (in the vast majority of cases) flat and level with no dishes cut into the quarters. When the hoof is placed on a flat hard surface, the entire hoof wall should be flat on the ground … no gaps at the quarters.

If your horse’s feet are changing shape then your farrier should be able to explain to your satisfaction why this is happening. Without being able to examine the feet in person, it is not really possible for me to say exactly what is happening, other than to say I would be concerned that this is happening now to all of your horses.

Additionally, pairs of feet (with a few notable exceptions) usually are trimmed to the same toe length and hoof angle (a club foot being one exception). If you find the farrier trimming one front foot shorter than the other, you need to ask why and be satisfied with the answer. And “Just because” … is not acceptable. You might wish to check out some books that are written for the horse owner concerning the trimming process. It may help you in discussing your questions with a farrier. http://www.antelopepress.com/Blacksmith's%20Page.htm#Suggested%20Reading

Hoof cracks range from superficial cracks that rarely cause a serious problem to those vertical cracks which left untreated can threaten the very livelihood of the horse. Hoof cracks, other than those caused by trauma to the hoof wall, can usually be associated with problems relating to the trimming/shoeing and/or general health and maintenance of the horse.

In your case, since there seems to be a major change in the overall appearance of the hooves that is affecting all of your horses, then it would seem natural to see if you can find something that is common to all the horses and begin your search for answers there.

If it is a new farrier, then you should bring this matter up with him and if you are not satisfied with the answer, then I would by all means suggest that you get  second opinion from another farrier. The fact that the feet are getting narrower, are drastically changing shape and the fact that the quarters are either breaking away or being cut out would be major concerns to me. To say nothing of the fact that it is so much easier to prevent contracted heels than to correct them.

From your description of the hooves and your concerns over the quality of care your horses are receiving, I would suggest that when the farrier arrives, you have a discussion with him where you can voice your concerns and give the farrier a chance to explain how he plans to address them. One of the most important parts of any hoof care program is the ability of the horse owner and farrier to be able to discuss whatever is on their minds regarding the care of the horse. That being said, if for any reason, you are not satisfied with his answers, then rather than continue on this course, I would think that you might wish to find another farrier.

I’m sorry I cannot be more specific, but based on the description and your concerns, I would suggest that before anything else is done, your farrier be advised of your observations as they do express real concerns on your part for the well-being of your horses. He should be able to explain how and why he is trimming your horses feet the way he is and do so gladly. After all, you are the customer and deserve to be heard since your main interest is in the well-being and safety of your horse. The same goes for the way the feet appear to be changing to a more narrower shape. There has to be a reason for this and you are asking him because it is his business to know.

I’ve posted a couple of line drawings that illustrate how a trimmed hoof for the average horse should look. Click here, please.

Best of luck and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: We recently lost our farrier. He was a very good friend and an outstanding farrier! He taught us to trim our own horses because we have so many and often commended us on the good job we were doing. Just before he died he joked with us about “losing business” because our horses feet looked so good! His wife has given us lots of his tools because she felt he'd want us to have them. She also gave us lots of books and videos on shoeing. What I'm not completely clear on, however, is how to properly measure a hoof to determine the size shoe to start with. Can you give us some guidance?

 A: Hello,

Choosing the correct horseshoe for a horse can be a bit trying at times. One has to consider everything from the condition of the hoof to how it is going to be used as well as how each leg travels in relation to the others.

An ideal fit takes all of this into consideration and then allows room for expansion and growth which may leave you with a shoe that extends beyond the hoof wall to a certain degree as well as beyond the heel for additional support.

Unfortunately, if the horse is going to be traveling in muddy conditions, this extra exposed shoe may result in the shoes coming of prematurely. If the horse overreaches a shoe fitted “full” may result in an injury to the horse and rider.

However, I’m going to assume that you are familiar with these little nuances that go into choosing how to fit the shoe. I found a couple “sizing” charts that you may find useful in determining the proper size shoes for your horse.

You will want to take your measurements after the hoof has been trimmed, of course. If you have some old shoes you might still be able to read the shoe size on them and this should give you a place to start.

http://www.stcroixforge.com/products/specifications/fhspec.html This page allows you to see how to take the measurements of the different kinds of shoes they make in order to determine the correct size.

http://www.slypner.com/aboutshoe/sizing.html This chart allows you to print out the actual size for comparison and as a matter of fact, I believe they say that it is necessary to print the examples in order to be viewed correctly.

I hope this will help you out. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: I’m doing my nvq2 and need to know how to recognize when a horse needs re-shoeing.  Have you any information or pictures or do you know of any sights I could use.

A: When to trim/re-shoe a horse depends primarily on how fast the horse grows hoof. The average domesticated horse gets neither the exercise nor experiences the lifestyle necessary for their feet to maintain the proper conditions without regular hoof care. When you put a horseshoe on a foot you further reduce the wearing off of the hoof that would occur if allowed to be barefoot; however, even barefoot horses need regular trimming to keep them in balance.

A horse owner should always keep a written record of their horse’s ideal hoof lengths and hoof angles so that they can tell with a few simple measurements if their horse’s feet are getting too long in the toe and if the hoof angle is not within the horse’s tolerable range. A record will also establish a time frame that allows the horse owner to schedule farrier appointments that keep the horse trimmed/shod on a regular basis.

Additional signs that a call to the farrier is warranted include the hoof wall beginning to overgrow the outside edge of the shoe, the nail clinches appear loose as well as the shoe itself being loose on the foot. Horseshoes do not last forever, so when they show signs of developing a heavy wear pattern, it is another sign that it may be time to re-shoe the horse.

This website has  a good bit of information relating to hoof care and most everything equine related. http://www.equisearch.com/searchresults/?terms=hoof+care You may wish to check it out.

Good luck.

Q: I just purchased a 9 yr. old Arabian gelding - He is stumbling and the previous owner swears he never stumbled - Help!!!!!!!

A:  Stumbling is not only a nuisance, but it can be downright life-threatening to both horse and rider.

The first thing I would check is to be sure that your horse’s feet are properly trimmed. A horse with feet that are not balanced is more likely to experience changes to its gaits. The importance of a proper trim/shoeing cannot be overstated. A lot of the time a stumbling  problem is eliminated simply by having the horse trimmed/shod correctly. Your farrier will also most likely want to conduct a thorough examination of your horse to determine any obvious causes for your horse’s condition.

If it is practical, you might ask the previous owner for the name of his/her farrier so you can find out how the horse was being set up. If that farrier knows the hoof lengths and angles used on your horse, then it should be a simple matter of your farrier trimming the horse to those specifications. This is the main advantage of keeping a written record hoof settings.

Once trimming/shoeing problems have been ruled out, then there are any number of possible causes for a horse to stumble. I’ll list a few here:

I think it is worth mentioning again that you will want to be sure that your horse is properly trimmed. Even a ¼ inch difference in hoof length and/or a couple of degrees difference in the hoof angle can cause dramatic changes to the way a horse travels.

If a horse just begins to stumble out of the blue, then you really need to have a knowledgeable farrier examine your horse. Once you have been able to determine the reason for the stumbling, then you and your farrier should be able to develop a hoof care plan to get your horse back on its feet.

I wish you the best in resolving your horse’s problem.

Q: Breaking out.

A: I would like to congratulate you on taking the ultimate step (doing the work yourself) in providing your horse with quality hoof care. I really think that your horse will benefit from your efforts.

I’m going to assume that since you are doing your own trimming that you are keeping records of the toe and heel (angle) lengths. (For an example of the booklet I use, please click here). This is very important as you want to know if the changes you are making are producing the desired effects as well as making it simple to maintain consistency with your trimming program.

Just to be sure that we’re all on the same page regarding the terminology, I’m going to use the term “Medial” to describe the inside, “Lateral” to describe the outside and “she wings in her front right” to mean that she either is or has the potential to strike (interfere with) the inside of her left front leg with the inside of her right front hoof when she travels.

This is not to be confused with paddling, where the flight path of the affected hoof is in a circular motion to the outside.

First I’d look to the wear pattern of the hoof. If she is barefoot (most likely at 12 months) you should be able to determine if the hoof is wearing flat and level or low to one side or the other. On a shod horse, the same wear pattern will be evident on the ground surface of the shoe.

Feet that wing in, where the hoof deviates from a straight flight path and travels inside with the potential to strike the inside of the opposite limb usually stand in a toed-out position. A toed-in conformation usually results in a “paddling” motion.

An easy way to remember what side of the hoof to lower is that if the foot toes- in–lower the inside. If the hoof toes-out–lower the outside of the hoof. Whichever way the toe “points” is the side you want to lower, if in fact you determine that deviating from flat and level is what you need to do..

Also, please take note that you always want to use the least amount of correction necessary to do the job. This is especially important when working with young horses as their bones are still growing and as such are very susceptible to outside influences.

Additionally, one quarter inch should be the absolute maximum you want to deviate from flat and level.

I like to round the edges of the hoof/shoe on all horses as it helps minimize the severity of any contact should it occur. This is sometimes called, “safing”, “rounding off” or simply “cleaning up” the hoof/shoe. This simple act will sometimes make all the difference between it “just misses” and a debilitating injury.

In addition to lowering the Lateral (outside) portion of the hoof, squaring the toe is another tool commonly used to “straighten” a wayward hoof. Unless there are some very unique and special circumstances surrounding your horse’s condition, I would simply use the natural center of her hoof as a starting point and “square” an equal amount to either side of that point. The square toe is basically just a guide to help the foot breakover in a straightforward fashion.

The trimming of the hoof should assist is getting the hoof to “point” straight ahead when it is placed on the ground and the square toe effect will make it easier for the hoof to breakover at the toe and begin its flight path in a straight line. With a young horse, this is usually enough to allow the bones to finish growing and to do so in a manner that results in greatly reducing, if not entirely eliminating the “winging out” problem.

I hope I’ve been able to answer your question satisfactorily. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Q: I am looking to buy a 1 1/2 year old stud colt. I had a pre-purchase vet check on this horse and the vet said the only thing he found wrong was that the soles on one of the rear feet had been trimmed too short. He did not think this would be a reason not to purchase the horse as he said it would grow back especially since I would not be riding the horse for at least another 6 months. Do you agree with this opinion? Is it possible that his hoof is permanently damaged?

A: Hi,

I congratulate you on having a pre-purchase vet check.

Regarding the sole that may be trimmed too short; I would suggest that you have your farrier take a look just to be on the safe side. After all, he or she is the one who is going to be responsible for dealing with any potential problems created by this situation.

It is unfortunate for a horse to be trimmed too short and if this happens, the farrier should make every effort to alleviate the discomfort caused by this action.

Usually, if the sole has been pared more than it should or needs to be, the horse may be lame for a few days before coming sound again as the hoof wall and the sole grow out, thereby providing the necessary protection for the sensitive structures of the hoof.

If you are keeping a written record of the hoof lengths and hoof angles, you will be able to provide the farrier with the proper set up for your horse. I make a simple shoeing record book available for horse owners for just this purpose. You can see it at the following Web page: http://www.antelopepress.com/horseshoe_record_book.htm

If the horse is not sore on this foot, which is one of things a farrier can check by using hoof testers, then most likely the sole will grow out without causing any problems.

However, this is not something that can be determined with any real degree of certainty without actually examining the horse. Only then can it be determined if there is any permanent damage to hoof.

Again, I think it is great that you are approaching your possible purchase in such a professional manner. I think my best recommendation is to suggest that you follow up the vet check with one by your farrier.

Best of luck and I hope that you have found your horse. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Q: Please I want e.m for horse shoe nails making machine.

A: I am not sure if I understand exactly what information you are looking for, but here are a couple of Web sites that discuss machines for making horseshoe nails:

Q: What is the name of a blacksmith's block?

A: A Blacksmith's Swage Block is a metal block with holes or grooves in it to facilitate the shaping of metal objects.

More information on swage blocks can be found at the following website. http://www.fholder.com/Blacksmithing/swage.htm

Q: How are horseshoe nails sized for length?

A: Horseshoe nails come in a variety of sizes and shapes, all with the purpose of meeting the needs of a particular shoeing situation.

Here are a few Web sites that discuss the horseshoe nail and how it is sized. I think they should help answer your question.




Thanks for asking.

Q: What type of things did blacksmith's make?

A: Depending on the time period involved, I think it would be safe to say that blacksmith’s played a very crucial part in mankind’s advancement throughout the ages.

Here are a couple of Web sites that may prove helpful in answering your question.




http://www.abana.org/ The Artist Blacksmith’s Association of North America.

http://www.abana-chapter.com/ A list of chapters of the ABANA

Thank you for your question.

Q: Please I want e.m for horse shoe nails making machine.

A: I am not sure if I understand exactly what information you are looking for, but here are a couple of Web sites that discuss machines for making horseshoe nails:

Q: What is the name of a blacksmith's block?

A: A Blacksmith's Swage Block is a metal block with holes or grooves in it to facilitate the shaping of metal objects.

More information on swage blocks can be found at the following website. http://www.fholder.com/Blacksmithing/swage.htm

Q: How are horseshoe nails sized for length?

A: Horseshoe nails come in a variety of sizes and shapes, all with the purpose of meeting the needs of a particular shoeing situation.

Here are a few Web sites that discuss the horseshoe nail and how it is sized. I think they should help answer your question.




Thanks for asking.

Q: What type of things did blacksmith's make?

A: Depending on the time period involved, I think it would be safe to say that blacksmith’s played a very crucial part in mankind’s advancement throughout the ages.

Here are a couple of Web sites that may prove helpful in answering your question.




http://www.abana.org/ The Artist Blacksmith’s Association of North America.

http://www.abana-chapter.com/ A list of chapters of the ABANA

Thank you for your question.

Q: My blacksmith has cut a section of toe off. It looks square now. My little 27 inch high horse has had laminitis. Will it grow back normally? Thank you, Liz

A: Hello Liz,

It sounds like your little fellow has had a bit of a rough go of it. When dealing with hooves affected by laminitis, it is quite common to remove as much of the distorted hoof as possible while allowing the hoof and associated structures to regain their footing, so to speak. This may leave the horse with a squared off looking hoof.

It has been my experience that the hoof, given the proper care, will return to a more normal shape … how much so depends on the severity of the laminitis and any possible damage cause by it. If you are wondering if the hoof will continue to grow out, then yes it should and with careful attention to frequent trimmings and following through with a course of action you and your farrier have agreed upon it most likely will once again take on a more normal look.

Good luck to you and your horse. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Q: When the farrier was trimming my horse I noticed that there was a dark pink line about 1/8” wide running parallel with the white line.  It looked like he had a pink horseshoe on.  He also had a few spots of pink splotches on the sole of the foot.  The horse hasn't been on grass.  Only gets about 3 cups of trotter twice of day and hay.  Also he hasn't shown any sign of lameness but he has been treated for Lyme in the past.  This horse has been so good versatile and willing to try anything so I want to be sure I nip any problems in the bud.  Thanks for your time.

A: Hi,

I received your question, twice, but since there was no email attached to either one, I’ll post it here.

Anytime you have any red color on the bottom of the hoof, it is possible that it is blood in some form or another. It could be dried blood, suggesting a bruise (old or new), the result of a poorly fitted horseshoe, or an injury to the hoof wall itself caused by any number of things ranging from strenuous use, the horse striking itself, to overwork on a hard surface. In the case you describe, with the horse not being lame and with it having had an earlier problem, I would hazard a guess that what you are seeing are the residual effects of an earlier event that affected the laminae of the hoof. This dried blood, if in fact that is what it is, will most likely grow out with the hoof and cause no further problems. The splotches on the sole will bear watching to be sure they do not develop into anything harmful.

If you have any doubts as to the cause or effect this may have on your horse, I would suggest asking your farrier for clarification and if he or she is unable to satisfactorily address your concerns, then perhaps your vet would be able to help.

It really does require examining the horse in order to make a definitive diagnosis and I always tell people to error on the side of caution whenever they have a situation with their horse’s feet.

As with any abnormality to the hoof, you may wish to keep an eye on the splotches just to be sure they are not part of an active event. It is good you noticed this and it is something that should be investigated if for no other reason than your own peace of mind.

Good luck and please feel free to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.


Q: I have a miniature that toes out in back or in other words is a little close at the hock.  I have heard that you take off on the outside of the hoof to bring the hoof around and the hock will straighten out.  I have also been told just the opposite and you trim the inside of the hoof.  Which is correct?

A: Hello,

The action of lowering one side of a horse’s hoof in order to alter the direction of the stance and/or flight pattern of the limb is one that should only be undertaken by a knowledgeable individual with a full understanding of the consequences. It is far too easy to lame a horse by trimming in this manner, especially if too much hoof is removed from one side or the other ... or if the resulting imbalance between the sides of the hoof is too great for the horse to tolerate.

If a farrier is unsure of which side to lower, then you really don’t want them just taking a guess and hoping for the best, and then figuring, if this way does not work, well, then next time we’ll try the opposite. And, for six weeks the horse walks around in worse shape than before.

I applaud your interest as a horse owner in wanting to know the proper action to take to turn a hoof one way or the other. However, if the farrier has to ask you, which way does what, then you really ought to consider locating a different farrier … one who has experience with this type of trimming.

How much you take off is of equal importance. It is always best to make the slightest change to the hoof that will produce the desired results. You can always take off a little bit more, but go too far, and you are now faced with fixing a much larger problem plus you have the potential for harmful long-term effects. There is a lot more to this than just grabbing a rasp and having at it.

As a general rule, if the hoof toes-out … you lower the outside. If the hoof toes-in .. you lower the inside.

Which side, how much and exactly what part of the hoof are all very important factors in this type of trimming. This is not a undertaking that should be attempted without first having the training and experience to perform the action correctly.

You might find some of the books located here to be helpful. (They may be available at your local library) http://www.antelopepress.com/Blacksmith's%20Page.htm#Suggested%20Reading

I wish you and your horse the best of luck in getting things straightened out.


Q: My horse has always worn shoes on his front feet but because his front hooves were badly cracked, my blacksmith trimmed his feet back too far to reset his shoes.  Since then he has been very lame.  His heels are badly bruised and one of his front feet is growing out much flatter than the other.  I also noticed a small horizontal crack towards the back of one of his hooves that appears to have bled.  It has a dark red tint.  I have him on supplements to speed the growth of his hooves but he has been lame now for about three weeks and it seems to be getting worse instead of better.  I’m very concerned about this.  is there anything I or my blacksmith can do to aid in his healing or to make him more comfortable in the mean time.

A: Hi,

It would appear you have a number of things happening with your horse’s feet. The issue of correcting the “badly cracked front feet” is one I’m assuming you are addressing so I will move right on to the trimming of the feet.

If a horse is not lame before its feet are trimmed, then it shouldn’t be lame after a trim, and if it is, then most likely the culprit is in the trim itself.

Too short is not good on a number of levels. The first being that a horse trimmed too short is going to be lame and that is not acceptable under any circumstances. In your case you have a lame horse plus, you are unable to reset the shoes which is what it sounds like was your first choice, although maybe the feet were cracked so badly as to make that impossible.

Additionally, your lame horse has not recovered from its trim which would lead one to assume there is something more going on here than just being trimmed too short. In most cases, a horse will recover from being trimmed a little too short in a matter of days.

In your case, the horse came up lame immediately after the trim, it’s been three weeks and its condition is worsening and the overall condition of the hooves has been affected.

The bruised heels and one foot growing out “much flatter” than the other leads me to wonder if your horse’s feet are seriously out of balance.

I would think your first consideration is to relieve the horse’s pain caused by the lameness. If this were my horse, I would determine the proper hoof lengths and hoof angles necessary to bring his feet back into a balanced state and then use whatever is necessary to bring its feet back to where they belong. Your farrier may use another method other than lengths and angles, but the important thing here is to get the horse back standing on its feet in the proper manner.

Your situation may require pads for protection, wedge pads for compensating for the loss of heel, a slip-on boot to provide protection for the sole, heels and bulbs or any combination that will get your horse back on its feet.

Most of all, it would appear that you need to determine what went wrong and correct the situation. Three weeks is way too long for a horse to be lame as the result of a short trim. Anytime is too long, but three weeks and the effects you are seeing would lead me to think that your horse is suffering from more than being trimmed just a little too short. If there were no other factors involved, then all signs point to the need to get the horse back to a balanced state.

I think you have good reason to be concerned. My suggestion would be to locate a farrier with experience in the treatment of lame horses because what you are seeing in just three weeks is only an indicator of worse things to come if the situation is not corrected.

The horizontal crack may or may not be part of the ongoing scenario. Most likely it is the result of an event that has passed and unless it begins to bleed or change dramatically, will grow out without causing any problems. However, it is good you noticed it and as with anything out of the ordinary on a hoof, is worth keeping an eye on.

I have posted a set of line drawings that show what the average horse’s feet should look like after being trimmed. Please click here to view that webpage.

Please feel free to contact me if there is anything else I can do to help you with your situation.

Best of luck to you and your horse.



Q: Is there a way to shoe a horse to reduce knee action?

A: Hello,

First, you will want to be sure the horse is receiving a well-balanced trim. In order to achieve as smooth a gait as possible, it all starts with the trim. I would not advocate trimming a horse off-balance to lessen its knee action.

Then it has to be acknowledged that not every two horses will react in the same manner when attempting to alter its way of going.

Two things come to mind when considering how to change a horse’s knee action; Hoof length and shoe weight.

Generally speaking a shorter hoof breaks over quickly and is raised slowly while a longer hoof breaks over slowly but is raised quickly and as a result, folds higher (more knee action) than a shorter hoof.

Consequently, you may wish to keep a shoeing record that will allow you to determine the ideal length that your horse’s hooves need to be at in order to produce the least amount of knee action. An example of such a shoeing record that I designed can be found at: http://www.antelopepress.com/horseshoe_record_book.htm. If you take the measurement at the time of the trimming, you can take subsequent measurements as you notice a change in the flight pattern of the leg and hoof.

Once you have established the ideal length, you can adjust your farrier schedule to keep the horse’s hoof within the optimum range.

Another consideration is the weight and to a certain degree, the type of the shoe being used.

Weight increases momentum, thereby resulting in a faster, higher reaching and longer flight path (arc) than a lesser-weighted hoof.

Steel shoes come in various weights; standard, light (Lite) and extra-light (Ultra-Lite) and these weights may vary considerably between manufacturers. Your farrier should be able to help you locate and decide upon the shoe best suited to your purpose.

An Internet search for the term “Horseshoes” will bring up a number of horseshoe manufacturers, most which should have a weight chart available for comparison between the types of shoes.

Aluminum shoes are available that weigh considerably less than steel, however, they will most likely wear faster than a steel shoe.

One thing to keep in mind is that while you may be able to find the right combination of hoof length and shoe weight to achieve the desired results, it may take a bit of trial and error on your part and that of your farrier in order to reach your goal. Patience and sound judgment is paramount in finding the right balance for the job without sacrificing the safety, soundness or balanced condition of the horse.

Additionally, one must be aware of the rules governing lengths and/or shoe weights as they pertain to a particular show classification.

It should also be noted, that while trimming and shoeing can have a profound effect on a horse’s way of going, it is equally important to realize that training plays a very important part in the equation and one without the other will most likely result in an incomplete or unsatisfactory condition all around.

I hope this helps you in the development of a program to reduce the knee action of your horse. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance. Thank you.

Q: Last week my ferrier trimmed and reset the shoes on my horse.  Because the gelding had been overreaching, he increased the amount of heal on all four feet.  Now the gelding is not moving nearly as pretty-he is shorter strided and more knee action.  How soon before he can be trimmed again and take down the heals a little bit.  He is shown in hunter under saddle classes were movement is important.

A: Hello,

It is my opinion that anytime a horse is found to be trimmed not to the best advantage of the horse, the situation should be remedied at the earliest opportunity.

In other words, your horse needs to have his feet fixed as soon as your farrier can get there. Your case differs from the norm in that you have too much heel instead of the more common problem of not having enough heel. A few passes of the rasp are usually enough to remove a lot of heel. If it was a case of too much heel having been removed, a wedge pad might be in order.

Unless there are other considerations, it sounds like a simple case of removing the shoes, trimming the horse to a balanced state and nailing the shoes back on.

There is no need or good reason I can think of to delay in trimming the horse. You do not have to wait a set amount of time between trimmings.

Anytime a horse is shod, there is the possibility of it losing a shoe before the regularly scheduled appointment, whether it be the day after it was shod or later. More than likely, your farrier will have placed his nails in such a manner as to be able remove, fix the trim, and replace the shoes without causing any problems.

The important thing is to get the horse’s feet back to a balanced condition as soon as possible, because as much as his gait has changed, you have to figure it cannot be comfortable or healthy for his long-term good health.

I would suggest keeping a shoeing record of how he is being set up so that once he is trimmed and shod to your expectations, you will be able to have him trimmed the same way each time. It costs very little and only requires the time it takes to write down his hoof lengths and angles. So simple, yet keeping a written record lets you show any farrier exactly how you want your horse set up and when you do make a change, if it does not work out like you expected, then a record will help prevent trying those settings again sometime in the future.

Here is one example of a simple shoeing record: http://www.antelopepress.com/horseshoe_record_book.htm

Thank you for your question and I hope I’ve been able to help you with your problem.

Good luck in your show season.

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