A Hoof Fetish
I have always loved and respected the horse hoof. I know that sounds a little strange, but it’s true! As a child, I was allowed to drive around with my farrier, Red Tomlinson, to watch his work. I look back and find it interesting, and I guess a little odd, that my parents could see that I was crazy, horse obsessed and so they let me ride around with our farrier! Red was not a family friend or anything, just a good guy who must have taken a liking to my nerdy horsiness and hoof fetish. He was kind, safe and trustworthy. He was not your average farrier back then and neither were the guys who worked for him. Red owned 2 farrier schools and one of his guys became a vet with a lameness clinic. I learned a wealth of knowledge from Red.
Today I can say that I love my farrier… not in the attraction way but the good ‘ol dependable way. Our relationship is crucial to my business. With 70 horses in my care, and their performance all about their feet, I need a dependable farrier who can work with me, my clients, and Dr. Cindi LaCroix.
Cindi is my childhood friend and now one of the most respected lameness experts in the world of show horses. She and my farrier get together every year at the farriers conference and discuss horse hoofs, particularly mine. If one of my horses ever has a problem, I’m so lucky to have a stellar team that agrees with each other on the basics.
Anyone can research horse hoof basics on the internet and feel like they know what they’re doing and what horses’ need. However, sometimes it seems that very few horses stand on perfect feet. You think it should be a simple thing, but look around…look at your own horse’s feet, look at all the horses the next time you’re at a show. You might be surprised at the variety of styles you’ll see….
There should be plenty of room for heel expansion, a quarter roll we call it, around the back edge of the shoe. Think of it as if you could roll a quarter on top of the shoe edge. If the shoe is too tight the heels are crushed and we constrict blood flow. The hoof should have short toes and plenty of heel. The angle of the hoof should match the angle of the pastern bone. On the front hooves, the horse must support 60% of their body weight on this alignment and any variation puts a lot of misplaced stress on their joints.
The shoe should extend past the heel of the hoof to add to the support of the body by creating a broader base. A shoe that provides balance.
The shoe needs to be nailed to a balanced foot. This can be a hard one to see… I watch horses walk on flat concrete. I watch to see if the hoof lands with perfect flatness, as compared to landing on a high edge and then rolling to become flat.
Then there is the “voodoo” of the reverse shoe! This is one of Dr. Lacroix’s favorites. We rehab a lot of horses with known problems in their heels. Most of these horses are basically lame horses that can’t be fixed by conventional methods, or they are thoroughbred horses off the race track with low heels and long toes.
Here’s our “voodoo”…we make a regular shoe go on backwards. Before it is nailed, they grind it to be thinner in the front otherwise considered beveled to the front. The toe of the horse remains open while the heel is supported by the full thickness of what would normally be the front of the shoe. By doing this, we have raised the heel by lowering the toe and the toe continues to be “filed” by the horse while doing its normal walking each day. I call it “voodoo” not because it doesn’t have good science backing it, but because it really works when all else has failed! We have had our local vets suggest the equipac and therapeutic “fancy shoes” that I also like, and often try…however, when I hear from everyone around me that we can’t fix a particular horse, I look at my farrier and he knows exactly what we are about to do. We try the voodoo!
So that is my fetish! I could go on and on about all the things I want to share but the point is, be INTERESTED in what is happening to your horses hooves! And, be kind to your farriers. It is a back-breaking job that deserves to make a good living…our horses’ health and performance relies on them more than we sometimes know.