Answers to everyday problems that we all face as horse
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.
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?
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
Question: Could you
explain what pathological shoeing is. I saw this term
used in an horseshoeing ad.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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 64degree.
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?
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
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
is an effective treatment(s) for Thrush?
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.