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.
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Watching the tennis in January illustrated to me how crucial it is for the players to be structurally sound as well as in peak physical form. It is exactly the same for horses – it is hard enough to win at competition level at any time without any physical disadvantages getting in the way.
If you know what to look for, then when looking at a new horse, your eyes should start at ground level and work up. This will save you a lot of time and heartbreak, and ultimately save you a lot of money. Horses are an expensive luxury item, and to own a high maintenance horse is even more expensive.
Eliminate any horse from your consideration if it has any conformation problems.
A conformation problem is one that is bred into the horse and cannot be altered.
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Horses’ hooves are a natural barometer in tune with nature, and if we as hoof carers can also tune into nature and be vigilant and observant, it will be noticed that the sole and the hoof wall have reacted differently in this current climate to protect itself from the prolonged dry conditions.
Let us consider the sole first, as this is the first part we should address when preparing any hoof. In a normal year the sole will grow thicker as the hoof wall grows down, then it begins to get crumbly and (with a bit of help from the ground surfaces and encouragement from a sole knife) it will exfoliate to give the sole a concave appearance. The hoof wall is then left longer above the sole to bear weight as it is intended to do, and only needs to be trimmed into shape to control any external flaring.
However because of the long dry period we are experiencing now, Mother Nature … Continue Reading ››
There are three main problems in hoof care today
Long toes and low heels
High heels and short toes
The presence of flares
It is this last problem of FLARES that causes most lameness problems associated with the hoof. The guideline is that a flare anywhere in the hoof is your greatest enemy.
For example, the pigeon toed horse develops a flare on the inside toe quarter, resulting in the diagonally opposite heel (or the outside heel) becoming crushed and rolled forward. This can result in a stress crack above that heel and a flare to the inside heel. (Pic 1 and 2) To correct this, we often tend to build up that low outside heel, but in fact we should reduce the flare diagonally opposite which has caused the problem. The resolution … Continue Reading ››
The failure to understand and address this area in hoof maintenance programmes for many decades has led to a multitude of ongoing lameness problems, and has been the catalyst for so many bad trimming and shoeing outcomes for too many farriers and hoof carers.
Just for the exercise, go and have a look in that pile of old horse shoes behind the shed, you will find some of the most amazing shapes and creations, all man made alterations to cater to the distorted hoof shapes.
Less than one percent of horses’ hooves have genuine hoof deformities and these are the result of accidents causing damage to the coronary band which results in permanent distortion to the new growth area and hoof wall shape.
Lack of understanding of what is the normal hoof shape is the biggest problem. If we can just look at the hair line shape of the coronary … Continue Reading ››
There are six bad habits creeping into hoof preparation and the fitting of shoes.
1. Quarter clipped shoes, rolled toe and square toed shoes.
2. Deliberate spooning of the heels on work shoes and race plates.
3. Leaving bar pressure under the heels.
4. Not achieving a T-square at the heels.
5. Not eliminating flares everywhere in the hoof.
6. Using shoes that are too heavy and with nail holes set too coarse for the white line.
Now let me explain in more detail the detrimental effects of these six main problems for the horse.
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Far too often the hoof does NOT suit the event and the end result is a very mediocre level of performance for the horse and a bewildered rider.
This is as much an owner/rider judgment problem as well as a farrier’s lack of attention in advising the client, but first the farrier needs to know how the client expects the horse to perform in order that he can set up the correct hoof care procedures.
The pleasure horse is about 80% of today’s horse population but probably less than 20% of their owners have grown up with horses and know how important correct hoof care can be. So many others who own and ride their horses haven’t yet seen the need to understand what is below the girth, so this puts a lot of responsibility on the farrier to educate his clients about hoof care which in turn allows them to fulfill their duty of care to the horse and also be a … Continue Reading ››
After pussy footing around and skirting sensitive issues with delicate statements, there finally comes a time when the only thing to do is to be brutally honest, and this certainly applies to the club footed horse. I have written several articles on how to maintain the club footed horse, and I have always stated categorically that the owner has to realise that a club footed horse is a high maintenance horse for life.
However, I still receive more queries about club footed horses than about any other hoof problem. The queries are generally raised because the owner is about to buy the horse, or has bought the horse, or wants to breed from the horse or the foal has just arrived. The hoof is always ‘a little boxy’ and the query is always ‘but it can be fixed cant it?
The brutal truth is NO a club foot can’t be fixed, and YES it … Continue Reading ››