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 with a complete lack of understanding of hoof anatomy and balance, and a lack of plain common sense by the farrier.
My solution to the situation was to offer to work with the farrier (who was not accredited) to see if collectively we could resolve a few things. The offer was not accepted and he walked away from another valuable learning experience and walked away from the job.
In his defence, I raise the point that we are led to believe that a big horse needs plenty of support under the hoof. (Pic 1) Yes, it does need support, but support does not equate with weight, and the horseshoe manufacturers need to be mindful of that fact; they are filling their shelves with shoes which are far too heavy and promoting their use with little regard for the end user – the horse. However, the bottom line is that correctly trained farriers will not make the mistake of using a shoe which is unsuitable.
For all of these 30 horses, it was apparent that the lack of hoof preparation and the use of excessively heavy shoes was causing all the interference. Then to correct that problem, the toes of most shoes were heavily rolled (Pic 2) and then a wedge was welded onto the hoof bearing surface of the shoe at the heels (Pic 3), totally crushing the heels. Not only that, but because the wedge had been welded to the inside of the shoe, it gave the hoof an un-level surface to stand on, somewhat like having a large rock inside your own shoe.
The age old rule is that a shoe should be as light as possible to allow the horse to complete the task. The old shoes were twice the weight of the new shoes I applied (Pic 4)
Now to get back to the group of lame horses, the answer was simply to discard the heavy shoes, remove all the excess sole and bars (which were cracked), dress off any flares especially in the toe area because the long toes had caused the heels to run forwards and collapse, then to fit lighter shoes (such as concave performers and eventers) with toe clips and size five slim nails.
Every horse after re-shoeing was standing even in front and straight behind. Five weeks later, there had been no recurring lameness, no interfering, no lost shoes and no uneven wear in the shoes, and there has been a marked change in attitude.
The horses are now all standing more relaxed while being shod as well as performing as they should so it becomes a win win situation for horse, rider and farrier.
Correct preparation of the sole to find nature’s road map or white line, along with a correctly balanced hoof capsule allows a simple standard shoe to be fitted. Nothing changes – The KISS principle still works.