I would like to like to direct the attention of all competitive horse owners to the importance of correct hoof balance and alignment. Having recently attended a major country show and camp draft event, I was somewhat dismayed to see so many horses (about 90%) standing cow-hocked and splay-footed, patiently waiting to go into the led-in ring or hack ring, with no chance of success before a judge who has to look not only at conformation, but also movement and correct stance.
Then onto the highly competitive arena of the camp draft where I saw gifted horsemen and women riding stockhorses with more natural cow sense than any good kelpie, but again the horses were standing cow hocked, with long toes, low heels, splay footed and worst of all, wearing flat shoes which have no grip for executing fast turns etc.
The expense of time and money to bring these horses up to this high level of competition is enormous, but completely futile unless their feet are correct.
Time and again watching the camp draft I saw disappointed riders leave the arena, disqualified because the horse could not keep up with the beast and turn it before the fence. Sure some of it is just bad luck; the rest of it is lack of the correct preparation of the horse’s hoof. I casually viewed the feet of fifty horses before they competed and of those I only saw two which were shod correctly.
Consider this basic principle: the flight of a hoof will travel in the direction of its longest point. Long toes and low heels slow down the break-over or forward speed of the hoof and subsequently the horse. (To understand this put on a pair of long toed boots yourself and try running!) If you then add to those long toes and low heels a hoof which is longer on the outside wall, you then have a splay footed hoof, which causes the horse to paddle and slows down his movement sideways, and this is only the front half of the problem.
Viewing the horse from behind, if he is standing cow-hocked, his toes are pointing out, and the hoof will move forward on an inside arc, often hitting the opposite hind pastern causing pain and injury, and it will land with its toe pointing out, slowing down his movement sideways, as well as forward.
More importantly is what all this is doing to the mental attitude and confidence of these potentially brilliant horses, and their riders. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that all these competitions are run on heavy loose surfaces, again slowing the horse down.
The basic principles of correct hoof preparation are as simple and unchangeable as the ABC, and when applied will allow the horse to move in any direction freely and with ease. (See diag.) Then follows the selection of horseshoes, for which the guideline is that a shoe should be as light as possible to allow the horse to perform his task. Flat section heavy shoes do not help camp draft horses; it would be like asking a ballerina to perform in hob nail boots.
If we are going to compete on soft heavy surfaces, a good light concave shoe is vitally important. These concave shoes are designed to drop any soil as it is picked up, thus maintaining a good free grip for going forward and turning. If shoeing is not a problem why not fit a set of concave aluminium shoes, just for the competition days, and if you think it won’t make any difference, try running one hundred metres in your work boots, then change into your joggers and do it again.
Competitions now are very fine tuned and hotly contested, and it is my belief that you can be at least fifty percent more competitive and have stronger healthier horses if you are prepared to work on your horses from the feet up. Information and practical help on shoeing is always available, no matter where you live; just don’t hesitate in your quest for knowledge, you owe it to that beautiful horse I saw you riding.