Category Archives: Shoeing, Shoes & Nails

shoeing, shoes & nails


The horse with a deviated pastern or cannon bone is a crooked legged horse. As part of the initial assessment, always assess if the horse is right or left handed in order to start on the biggest hoof. Next, always get the hoof in balance. It requires a correct equal balanced measurement between toe and heel and another balanced measurement between inside and outside (medial/lateral measurement). It is also necessary to achieve a T-square along the back of the pastern and the back of the heels.

In the straight legged horse, balancing the hoof will then allow the hoof to travel in a straight line from leaving the ground to where it next lands on the ground. However, on the crooked legged horse, it is interesting to note that it is still important to achieve the balanced hoof with the hoof landing square on the ground to the point where the hoof would actually travel in a straight line.

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The question is often asked - When should my horse be reshod?

A simple enough request, and the standard answer is around six weeks, on the average. But the real problem is that the average timeframe for reshoeing a horse is extremely variable, for a whole lot of reasons, and we need to consider them all.

Firstly, the basic aim in shoeing a horse is to improve its performance. So we can assume that immediately after shoeing, the horse’s hooves are as close to correct as possible. A normal hoof grows at the rate of half an inch every six weeks, by which time the horse’s action has changed considerably, and his performance has deteriorated.

The fact is that in a very large number of cases six weeks is far too long, because hoof growth is dictated not only by the horse’s health, but also by conformation, age, workload, and seasonal … Continue Reading ››


for the want of a clinch the nail was lost,

for the want of a nail the shoe was lost,

for the want of a shoe the race was lost’

(With apologies to Benjamin Franklin)

I’m sure those thoughts run through the mind of many a competitor in all disciplines of equine sports. As a previous competitor myself in the areas of dressage, show jumping, eventing, polo, polocrosse and stock work, together with being a practicing farrier, I guess the one thing that has always been Priority Number One with clients’ horses is the need to improve the horse’s performance at ground level.

First and foremost, the hoof must be trimmed and dressed to be correctly balanced. The old-timers would say ‘Let the horse work for a … Continue Reading ››


The recent Equitana Asia Pacific 2003 Expo in Melbourne was certainly an experience for me as an educator. The obvious benefit of this four day trade expo for horse enthusiasts is to observe all manner of people demonstrating everything to do with horses under one roof and to be able to collate and compare information, and to dream and fantasize.

The spectators, including me, watched the wonderful working stockhorse demonstrations, while the tireless repertoires from Steve Brady and Guy McLean really did strengthen the resolve to try and improve.

My own mission at Equitana was to demonstrate ‘Shoeing for Performance’ and to promote a greater understanding of the importance of correct hoof care. The day before my first session I went to the stables and the competition areas to look at the horses who were here for this top class expo of excellence; they were all scrubbed and polished within an inch of their lives in anticipation, but sadly at least sixty percent were having trouble just standing on their badly prepared (or unprepared) feet, … Continue Reading ››


BREAKOVER refers to that moment when the coronary band at the front of the hoof is perpendicular to the ground and the point at which the hoof is then able to leave the ground in its flight upwards and forwards. Long toes delay the breakover, while short toes speed up the breakover; the correct breakover is as nature will dictate for each correctly prepared and balanced hoof. At the moment it would seem that ‘Breakover Management’ is the latest buzzword to hit the world of farriery in Australia and probably everywhere else on the planet, and one would think that to be aware of the need to understand the importance of it, we should be able to avoid any chance of it becoming a problem. Surely if, as hoof care professionals, we truly know and practise correct hoof preparation and balance, there would be no need to ever consider it to be a problem because it could not exist. There are so many differing opinions on what the correct breakover should be, and this is evident by the number of machine made shoes that all claim … Continue Reading ››


Recently I was asked to assess a group of about 30 large, ridden horses who were all displaying ‘inexplicable’ lameness issues; the thick veterinary record folder presented to me was just about an encyclopedia of ongoing hoof problems and lameness. The common factor in every horse was that no matter what weight the horse was or how heavy or light his bone structure was, they all wore the same type of shoe - as heavy as possible with big E6 nails. There was no frog/ground contact, no sole or bar had been removed and the shoes had been shaped to fit the flare anywhere in the hoof.

The effects were predictably disastrous for these beautiful horses which were forging, over-reaching, dishing, paddling, standing splay footed and cow hocked, plus all had back soreness and about half of them had a bad attitude as well. I am sure that with that summary you will have a pretty good picture of what was going on - well nothing was going on but big heavy shoes, along … Continue Reading ››


QUESTION: What is wrong with these photos? And why is this nail pattern wrong?

ANSWER: The nails are in the wrong holes in a nail pattern that is too close.

From a practical point of view for the horse, this close nail pattern totally restricts the movement in the front quarters of the hoof. Not only is this uncomfortable for the horse, but the danger is that with the back half of the shoe unsupported, it often allows the shoe to move sideways causing a great danger of the opposing foot stepping on the shoe and pulling it off. When this happens, this close nail pattern will totally destroy that area of the hoof wall, making it very difficult to refit a shoe correctly without major repair to that hoof wall.

Studies have shown that a more spaced out nail pattern centering around the widest part of the hoof stabilises the shoe much … Continue Reading ››


Some farriers often find that horses become a bit haunted around the feet when it comes to nailing the shoe on. Invariably it is nothing to do with the horse having a bad attitude to shoeing, in actual fact it is simply the result of a bad selection of nails to fit the shoe.

If you study a normal factory made shoe, you can see that the nail hole is cambered to fit the profile of the hoof capsule (ie slanted in). If the hoof is correctly balanced and shaped, and the correct size shoe is then correctly fitted to that correctly balanced and shaped hoof, you will see that on a concave or a flat shoe the nail holes actually line up dead in line with the white line where the nails have to go. There is never a question whether your nails are inside or outside the white line. If the hoof is prepared properly and if the shoe is prepared properly, then … Continue Reading ››


It seems to happen all too often that an owner asks me for help with a problem that the horse is floundering during work or competition. That comment should alert us and lead us straight to the hooves, as ‘no hoof no horse’ is the obvious starting point. For the moment let’s discount the barefoot philosophy, as it cannot be compared with the performance of a correctly shod horse with the right running gear. Then let’s assume that the horses hooves have already been prepared correctly, and that the horse is not standing splayed out in front or cow hocked (toed out) behind, so that all we need to do now is to choose the appropriate normal shoes to help the performance. This word ‘normal’ now needs to be clarified - the correctly prepared front hoof should be round or slightly oval shaped, as nature has evolved it this way in order to support the heavier front of the horse; the correctly prepared hind hoof should be more pointed at the toe and flatter along the sides, which allows for easier turning sideways and speedy … Continue Reading ››


A very common phrase which is also very appropriate is ‘Keep it Simple Stupid’ – this is known as the KISS principle. The temptation when shoeing is to over-engineer the problem and then to keep the treatment going for too long. Results must be monitored regularly to avoid the possibility of the remedial process ultimately causing a different problem. To even begin to diagnose a hoof related lameness issue we must first establish that the hoof is correctly balanced and is normal in shape. The major principle of a hoof in flight is that as the hoof leaves the ground, it will travel in the direction of its longest point, and when it lands it will point in the direction of its longest point. We must also understand that Mother Nature requires the frog to have some contact with the planet, to cause the hoof to expand at the heels under load and enhance blood flow within the hoof. Another major principle is that anything we do which alters the shape of the ground bearing edges of the hoof contrary to the normal shape of the hoof, which is … Continue Reading ››


In performance horseshoeing, with racehorses in particular, I have noticed lately that there seems to be an ongoing problem of horses going down on their bumpers, supposedly because of bad galloping surfaces. The bandaid used in Western Australia to overcome this problem is to use a graduated aluminium race plate on the hinds. The plate is graduated around three to five degrees higher in the heel than in the toe, supposedly to lift the horse’s heels up to stop them going down on their bumpers. This is a very misguided bandaid, because the reason that the horse is going down on its bumpers in the first place is because the hoof pastern angle is wrong. The toes are far too long in relationship to the height to the heels so instead of looking at the toe, where the problem lies, they are putting on a three to five degree graduated shoe to lift the heel up and this is attacking the problem in totally the wrong way. What needs to be done is for the horse’s hoof to be looked at in a different way, because in all cases … Continue Reading ››


As a young jackeroo working on a station in very rugged country, I learned that if my horse lost a shoe during the muster, I had to walk and lead my horse till we got back to camp; the result was that my part in the muster was not real good, the boss was not real happy, the horse was lame plus I hated walking. At 14 years of age I had a dream to be a real cowboy and believed that they always rode the horse, not led it, so reality about how this might happen came very early in my education. Hoof preparation and balance must be correct to begin with, followed by the selection of the shoes that are the best suited for the horse to perform its task. The selection of suitable size nails to shoes to hoof wall is vital. One size nail does not suit all types of shoes or hooves. As a guide, select a nail head that fits down into the shoe snugly so that when it is clenched the nail head is nearly level with the top of the shoe; this means that the nail head can … Continue Reading ››