Step Two - Shoeing To Achieve A Symmetrical Hoof . . .Six Steps To Balancing The Hoof And Horse For Sound Shoeing
"Placing the shoe where the hoof is supposed to be" is our primary goal. We are trying to get the horses' foot back to the way it was when he was born. The hoof will never grow correctly unless you give it a little assistance. A colt is not born with a rolled under heel, one leg longer than the other or one toe longer than the other. It was symmetrical, meaning that both sides are of equal value.
The first thing we do here at the FNRC before we begin shoeing is to evaluate the horse. I watch the horse walk towards me and away. I am not looking at his shoes in particular, but checking for any lameness that the owner has not previously noticed. Then I go to the top of the horse first, at the withers, and with my fingers, I lightly squeeze down the spine to see if he flinches. Some may think that soreness in the back is due to an ill-fitting saddle, improper riding, etc. Usually, nine times out of ten, unbalanced hooves create it whether barefoot or shod. Generally a horse who is maintained on a regular basis will show little signs of soreness, but those who receive only two or three trimmings and/or shoeings a year are the ones who are suffering. By the hoof and whole body being out of balance it normally causes soreness up the legs, in the back and rump areas.
When we talk about the 6 steps, the shoe is actually the 7th step because it is an extension of the hoof. The hoof must first be balanced by taking into consideration the leg length, symmetrically, medial and lateral balance, toe length, natural angle and bone in the center of the shoe before the shoe ever touches the foot.
From birth, the conformation dictates how the hoof will grow. How the hoof strikes the ground can cause it to flare out on one side or wear off more on the inside. Long toes will cause cracks and splits and uneven wear. Activities will also play a large role, whether the youngster receives any training, round pen work or is confined to a stall or small area. There is no way the little hoof can stay symmetrical without help from the farrier.
Photo 1. The horseshoe diagram on the left is a pattern of a hoof. The dotted line shows where the shoe should be, if both sides of the hoof are to be symmetrical, but there is no hoof wall. When a front pattern factory made steel shoe taken right out of the box is placed on the hoof to size it, the edge of the shoe (represented by the dotted line), is going to stick out. So you ask, if the shoe is going to stick out, the horse will step on it with a hind foot and where are the nails going to be placed? In this case we are going to make a handmade shoe, allowing us to punch our own nail holes closer towards the medial (inside) of the hoof wall. This is when your farrier needs a forge and and knowledge in what we call "corrective shoeing."
Photo 2. Now, you ask, what are you going to do about the missing hoof wall? We are going to take an artificial hoof bonding material to fill in the hoof wall, "where the foot is supposed to be." All of this will provide the horse with a symmetrical foot. This will allow the hoof to grow back in the proper direction between shoeings. (every 6 weeks)
Remember, it takes about a year for the hoof to grow from the hairline to the ground or maybe longer. It can take a long time to get a foot out of shape but twice as long to get it back in shape to where it is supposed to be. Also, if you have ever heard the statement, it is the farrier's job to fit the shoe to the foot, not the foot to the shoe. In reality both of these are incorrect. A true statement would be, "it is the farrier's job to put the shoe where the foot is supposed to be". If the conformation dictates how the foot lands, it is a constant job to correct the foot. To maintain a sound horse and keep his spine from being sore, it is imperative to use a certified farrier. If your horse is constantly throwing his head and seems to not be feeling well after a long ride, take your fingers and squeeze along the spine. If he is sore, he will let you know. But be careful, if the horse is real sore, he is subject to turn and bite you.
Photo 3. By placing a rasp or ruler on its' side and placing it from the cleft of the frog to the center of the toe, you can tell if your horses' hoof and shoe is symmetrical on both sides as on this correctly shod foot with this handmade shoe. This is best done barefoot to get a true comparison.
And as we say on Horseshoe'n Time, a Happy Horse makes a Happy Horse Owner!
Isn't it time your horse is shod right? Call a Certified Farrier today !
In order to take all of this into perspective I personally invite you to learn more and an easy way is with our "6 Steps to Balancing the Hoof and Horse for Sound Shoeing" now available on VHS from the BWFA. More about these six steps can be obtained in articles, during clinics, by attending school and on our Horseshoe'n Time weekly television show seen on cable, satellite and television stations from coast to coast. Check out HorseTV.com. for more information.
Farriers' National Research Center and School, Inc.
Attn: Ralph Casey, Pres./Dir.
14013 East Hwy 136
LaFayette, GA 30728
BWFA Office 706-397-8047
School Office 706-397-8909
Hoof Care Hotline 706-397-8396
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