Category Archives: Hoof Problems

hoof problems


Creeping Toes sounds like it might be a fungal growth or an alien invasion, however it is my terminology for a problem that is creeping into the world of hoof care.

Creeping Toes answers a lot of questions when related to the long toe/low heel problems, and it would seem that the majority of us just don’t recognise where the actual sole line should be at the front of the hoof.

If you look at the cleaned out sole of the hoof that is due to be trimmed, and if you view it as a saucer held up and nearly full of water, the level there is an even water level line all around the edge. This describes where that junction of the cleaned out sole should meet the laminae/white line at the inside edge of the hoof wall, known as the true road map in the bottom of the hoof.

Continue Reading ››


Over-reaching is when the toe of the back foot hits the heel bulbs of the front foot.

Forging is when the toe of the back foot hits the bottom of the front foot.

Both cause an interruption to the horse’s cadence and cause shoes to be pulled during work, and also causes injury and pain to the horse.

Both are caused by imbalance in the bottom of the hoof.

OK that is all pretty easy to determine, but why is it so common?

The answer lies in one or more of a variety of reasons. Often we don’t pare out enough sole in front of the hoof to find the true junction of the clean sole and the hoof wall at the toe, so we don’t trim the toe down short enough … Continue Reading ››


To quote Dr Doug Butler in his book The Principles of Horseshoeing, ‘The hardest thing a farrier has to deal with is making his hands do exactly what his mind and eyes are telling them to do.’ And indeed it seems that as soon as some farriers pick up the sole knife or the nippers or the rasp, from there on the hoof takes on a completely different shape from that which was first intended.

IF we use the rasp too heavily when dressing the front of the hoof and IF, instead of just correcting the thickness at the toe, we allow the rasp to continue the stroke to go past the toe section and along the side walls, the hoof will have a correct toe but narrow sides and the wrong shape hoof.

When rasping the toe it is important to do just that, and not allow the rasp to travel around the side of the hoof. It may help to mark the outer limits of the toe with a … Continue Reading ››


It is often difficult to see what is ‘normal’ in the bottom of the hoof. There are three main problems to consider when we address hoof care issues; they are:
  • The presence of long toes/low heels
  • The presence of high heels/short toes
  • The presence of uncontrolled flares anywhere in the hoof wall.
To begin to understand all this we must first know what is normal when we lift the leg and look at the bottom of the hoof. There should be a symmetrical balance in it- the fronts should be round or slightly oval shape, the hinds should be an even and slightly v- shaped and the hoof wall should be an even thickness outside the white line all around. (Pic 1) The centre of the hoof is a point exactly 19mm behind the clean tip of the frog and after achieving the correct balance there should be an equal measurement from that point to the toe and from that point to a straight line across the buttress of the heels, plus correct height must be 6mm above the widest part of the frog. (Pic 2) Also from that same centre point there should be an equal measurement sideways (laterally) to … Continue Reading ››


Pedal Osteitis is deterioration of the pedal bone (or coffin bone). Interestingly, I have found the condition is most prevalent in geldings; it seems that after they are gelded their system generates more calcium in the bones of the lower leg, in particular the pedal bone or P3. Lack of frog pressure resulting in reduced blood circulation allows the porous P3 to become calcified, restricting the nerves and causing the horse to become concussion sensitive, particularly when nailing. I have noticed that geldings with Pedal Osteitis gain an erection during the nailing process of shoeing. When the hammering stops the erection disappears. This is a good guide to early detection of Pedal Osteitis. Of special interest are the horses which show intermittent lameness, have good healthy hoof walls, show no reaction to hoof testers, work OK on soft ground but appear to jar up on solid surfaces, are unsound at the trot but canter and gallop freely. These horses fit into a category of ‘Predictable Hoof Related Lameness’ – the age does not seem consistent as I have noted the condition in horses from two year olds upwards. They are identified … Continue Reading ››


Bruising in the hoof wall is often unwittingly excused as self-inflicted injury. ‘Oh he must have stepped on a rock or something’ and ‘He was probably kicking the fence’. Yes these things do happen, but too often bruising is an indicator of hoof related problems leading to lameness. We are all aware of the pain when we bend a fingernail back, plus it creates a visible blood line in the nail bed. If it hasn’t happened to you, try pressing your fingernail hard against the edge of the table (Pic 1). The same results happen when the toe of the hoof is too long, or if the heels are allowed to flare. Bruising is not just in white hooved horses – the bruising is not visible in a black hoof (Pic 2) however you can rest assured it is there. Bruising is almost always associated with the presence of flares, which cause the hoof wall to bend outwards and become distorted; this in turn stretches the laminae/white line area and results in a bend in the wall about half way up, so now the blood vessels feeding the sensitive laminae begin to rupture … Continue Reading ››


The discovery that your horse has developed corns, or indeed has corns that will not go away, must be recognised as a warning sign that something is not right somewhere in the hoof. This information will help rectify the problem and should enable you to start on a programme of preventative maintenance.

Corns occur back in the heel area at the junction where the bars meet the hoof wall – this is called the buttress of the heel. That v-shaped pocket is called the seat of the corn area and if the horse has corns there will be a reddening of the sole tissue that looks like bruising.

Often there will be no reaction to the hoof testers when they are applied to this area, often there will be no increase in the digital pulse to indicate hoof trauma but the horse just looks uncomfortable when working.

Continue Reading ››


Stringhalt is one problem that I rarely come across. This is a nervous reaction of the hind legs – the horse involuntarily snaps them up, almost to the belly, when the leg is lifted. Stringhalt is triggered by a neurological disorder in the brain which acts on the nervous system, seeming to act only on the back legs. It is suggested that Stringhalt is the result of toxicity from eating certain weeds, possibly Capeweed. To all appearances, when picking up the back leg you get kicked. Unfortunately farriers often admonish the horse and belt the heck out of it because it has kicked them. As it is involuntary, the horse has absolutely no control over Stringhalt. However, once realising that the horse has Stringhalt, it is still a major problem to shoe these horses, as they pull the leg up so high it can’t be worked on. To get the horse to stretch its leg backwards is very difficult as the minute you ease on it, the leg snaps forward and kicks you again. It can be a very dangerous situation but there is absolutely no point getting upset with the horse. The … Continue Reading ››


In considering attitude, we must consider both man and beast because in so many ways our feelings and reactions are similar.

If we have a sore foot we immediately begin to walk crookedly and in no time we feel pain in our lower back, shoulders or neck, and we become distressed and grumpy.

So by understanding the human reaction we can assume that the horse’s bad attitude and distress could also be the result of trauma in the hoof.

The first course of action should be to check for an accelerated digital pulse in the lower leg. To do this place thumb and fore finger either side of the area just above and behind the fetlock joint, note the pulse, then compare it with the opposite leg. Also feel for heat in the hoof wall area, any increase in temperature or pulse usually indicates impending trauma in the hoof well before … Continue Reading ››


Hoof-related back strain is a syndrome that is affecting both horses and riders in all forms of equine pursuits. It has always existed to a lesser degree; however it now seems to be showing up more frequently and is a problem that must be eliminated. One cause of this hoof-related back strain in horses is incorrect hoof/pastern angle in the front feet, resulting from either long toes/low heels, or from high heels/short toes. This drastically alters the natural normal gait of the horse, so many riders then accept the fact that their horse is rough to ride and assume that the saddle must be the problem, or that perhaps they should have tuition with a riding instructor because the horse seems to be erratic in his movements or disunited. Often this course of action leads to the discovery that the horse has muscle soreness in his upper body, anywhere in the neck and shoulders or along his back or over the hindquarters, and then the owner enlists the aid of a vet or the chiropractor. This is really only a bandaid cure because the real cause of the problem is quite simply in … Continue Reading ››


Many horse owners and riders are unable to recognise the symptoms that indicate the beginnings of an abscess.

If detected early, most abscesses can be treated in a simple fashion and the horse can be returned to work within hours. However, if an abscess is missed for a day, it will build up pressure within the hoof and can cause more serious associated problems and take weeks to fix.

There are four types of abscesses that can occur in the hoof and long before they become visible, you will have noticed a change in your horse’s attitude or a slight change in the regular gait, or unevenness; often they will rest one leg and point the hoof. You must be aware enough to notice these changes - it is your duty of care.

If you suspect an abscess, look for a digital pulse in the suspect leg (this is an … Continue Reading ››


Under-run heels are identified by their appearance as being extremely low and acutely sloping forward, to the point where they have no weight bearing ability. (Pic 1). The low-heeled hoof is usually accompanied by a long and concaved hoof capsule at the toe due to the tubules bending under the pressure of their excessive length. A percentage of under-run heels is caused by bad conformation i.e. long sloping pasterns which encourage pressure at the heels, causing them to collapse and roll under. Others are related to the lack of proper hoof maintenance, such as not trimming these hooves before they grow too long or then not trimming them to the required correct hoof/pastern angle, which reduces the pressure at the heels. The long-toe low-heeled horse becomes unsteady in its gait or stumbles and will tend to over-reach with the hinds coming through and hitting the heels of the front hooves, because the long toes slow down the movement of the front hooves. The initial treatment should be to shorten the toes as much as possible and re-trim every three weeks for about three successive periods after which time the heels may … Continue Reading ››