Category Archives: Hoof Problems

hoof problems


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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This is a study of the movement that I have observed which occurs during preparation of the hoof for either shod or unshod purposes. Many farriers or hoof carers get the blame for having got the levels wrong when trimming the hoof, which then caused the horse to either paddle or dish. The possibility could be that he trimmed the hoof correctly but just put the shoes on too soon. Now if that sounds like a fairytale, then let me explain. The desired aim in any preparation is to achieve a balanced symmetrical hoof and even heels. Viewed from the rear of the pastern there must be a T-square across the heels and a level plane to the toe. After trimming, and especially in cases where the hoof wall has been greatly distorted, the horse must be allowed a few minutes to weight bear on the hoof to allow it to settle into its new plane. Assuming you have already achieved the T-square in the back of the hoof, when it is re-examined you may see it is no longer level or the ground bearing surface has moved. This is not … Continue Reading ››


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

  1. Long toes and low heels

  2. High heels and short toes

  3. 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 is no such thing as a ‘Normal Flare’ or a ‘Natural Flare’ in any horse’s hoof. Making a statement like that in public in this 21st century will provoke a predictable reaction, which it is meant to do because only then can we begin to examine that statement. The first step is to understand what a flare is: a flare exists when any part of the ground-contacting edge of the hoof wall becomes long and bends out of shape compared to the normal shape of the correct coronary band shape. The pedal bone shape imitates the white line shape and they both imitate the coronary band shape to give the horse its normal natural hoof shape. The second thing to understand is what causes a hoof to bend out of shape and become flared: It is directly related to leg alignment and is common to most horses (Pic 1). There are very few horses without some degree of error from the knee down; as a working farrier I might see only one horse with perfect conformation in the space of a whole … 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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STAGE 1: Nature really is a fierce adversary. The after effects of horses’ hooves standing in water for long periods is causing much anxiety among horse owners, so we need to know how to deal with it. To understand try this, go get the dry sponge on your sink and wet it and of course it expands. The hoof wall is made of hair fibres, and while the density of the hoof wall is its strength under normal conditions, when it is subjected to excessive water without relief it swells then becomes soft and warps in all directions, just like the sponge. It begins to bend about a third of the way up from the bottom; this is flaring outwards. Separation occurs from the laminae (hoof wall separation) and then to add to the problem, the sole also expands in the wet conditions and bulges downwards. The horse becomes lame from walking on the sole, then abscesses develop under the sole or at the hoof wall separation area and it is not a happy situation. The first move, if circumstances permit, is to get the horses hooves … Continue Reading ››


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 ››


With the club footed horse, the first thing to understand is that the horse has a deformity and as such it is always going to need a high degree of hoof maintenance, for the term of its natural life. To identify the club foot we must know what is considered ‘normal’ and then compare the difference. When a normal hoof is in balance, the front of the hoof wall will be in line with the front of the pastern, whereas in the club foot this straight line is broken from the coronet down to the toe, and the heel appears much higher. There are many reasons why horses are afflicted with one or two club feet; some are born that way through genetics, and most owners will vigorously deny that this trait was ever present in their bloodline, however when historical photos of previous generations are studied it will show up three or four generations back. Another group of these club footed horses is simply the result of hoof or leg injuries, and then there is … Continue Reading ››