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 day without shoes and you will see how Mother Nature prepares his hooves, and then fit the shoes to suit.’

It has been my observation over many years that the horses’ hooves DO change size with the seasons, even on permanently stabled horses; once again Mother Nature doing her work to provide the horse with the appropriate travel wear! So if we, as farriers and horse owners are not in tune with these facts, it is very easy to end up with a hoof which is the wrong size and at the wrong angle for the horse to successfully perform its function.

Communication is vital between owner or rider and the farrier, as the farrier needs to know what the horse is being used for; it is also a big help to know what ground surfaces he will encounter. The age and the bone structure of the horse should then be taken into account, as this should help determine the weight of the shoes and the style or profile of the shoes (flat or concave and so on).

Thirdly, how best to fit the shoes – most factory made shoes can be fitted quite well cold to a good, sound hoof wall. However, if the hoof wall is not in good condition, hot fitting the shoes is the only way to go – it helps reduce stress on weaker parts of the hoof-wall capsule.

Fourthly, now it’s not a bit of good going to all this care and consideration if we select the wrong nails for the task, yet so many people do just that. Too often the nails are too heavy for the shoes, in the belief that the stronger nails will hold the shoe on better. WRONG! Heavy nails on a light hoof displace too much laminae under the hoof wall, causing much damage and often cracking the hoof wall.

There are as many different types and sizes of nails as there are shoes, and I strongly believe that with our modern technology, combined with good old ‘horse sense’ we should be able to enhance the horse’s ability from the ground up.

So, in summary we must have the correct type and weight of shoe, fitted by the best method to an evenly balanced hoof using the correct size nails – a guarantee for success!