We often receive letters and emails from horse lovers wanting some simple tips on checking for lameness and shoes coming off too frequent. Well, here are just a few.
It is very difficult for anyone not familiar with shoeing to really know what he or she is looking at when they are evaluating their farriers’ work. First let me emphasize that shoeing is a science and very difficult for most people and vets to comprehend because shoeing can appear to be a simple process. So let me say this in the very beginning…most professionals in the horse industry agree that 80% of all problems related to the horse will occur to the lower limb and hoof area, falling directly under the care of the farrier. The farriers’ role should be regarded as the most important role in the equine industry. A farrier with a farrier science background, one who is certified by their peers and continues their education is probably, or should be, your horses’ best friend!
I would say this to any horse owner who cares about their horse, and that is to find out about learning more about farrier science before they try to become an expert at critiquing their farrier. Here at the Farriers’ National Research Center and School, we have a free program where owners can learn about shoeing and we encourage all owners to do so. It is financed and offered by the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association.
Here is a simple tip that can determine whether the shoe has been properly set or if it will fall off before the next shoeing, which should be every six weeks. After your farrier has completed their work, you can take a simple business card and do some checking. Now, remember this, it won’t tell you everything about the shoeing job.
In photo 1, you can see a business card placed between the shoe and hoof wall at the heel of a freshly shod hoof. The shoe will extend past the heel just about a quarter of an inch as indicated in the photo. You should not be able to slide the card between the hoof wall and the shoe. If this card slides in freely between the hoof wall at the heel and the shoe, this means there is too much space and the shoe will come off in about 2 to 3 weeks. The reason being is that when the horse is in motion, while walking or running, the foot does not strike flat. He lands on one heel or the other first.
Therefore the weight of the horse presses the shoe to the foot and because of the space, it creates movement of the shoe and causes the nails to loosen prematurely.
Here is a simple tip to determine lameness or sole pressure. Lameness in horses is always a big problem whether it is in the upper or lower body areas. Often times I get myself in a snare by writing articles in trying to help the owner spot problems before they occur. There are many things to look for when evaluating shoeing. And one of my first checkpoints is the horses’ spine. Yes, a horse can become lame in the upper body from improper shoeing. Of course a more common problem I often see is sole pressure.
Let’s say the farrier comes out and shoes your horse and the next day it is showing signs of lameness, meaning soreness or tenderness when walking, holding the hoof off the ground, etc. Chances are, nine out of ten times, when the owner calls the vet they automatically assume that the horse has been nail quicked. Nail quicking is a problem, but 90% of the cases that I have evaluated immediately after shoeing were actually created by sole pressure.
By calling your farrier immediately the problem can be solved.
Better yet, horse owners can easily protect themselves from sole pressure lameness or as the farrier refers to as “pressure shod” by using a simple business card as in photo 2.
Immediately after the horse is shod and still has a clean foot, take a business card and slide it between the shoe and sole all the way till it touches the nails. Do this all the way around the inside edge of the shoe. This space will ensure you that there are NO pressure points on the sole. The inside edge of the shoe should not be touching the sole. What carries the weight of the horse is the hoof wall, which is the outer portion that the farrier will remove with nippers and a rasp. The sole is the underside of the hoof that should only be slightly pared out with a hoof knife being careful not to remove too much sole that could again cause lameness. This is the same area that should be cleaned out frequently by the owner.
A novice horseshoer may cause this sole pressure by incorrect or unbalanced shoeing or simply not knowing that you cannot just take a shoe out of a box and nail it on the foot. Preparations to the shoe must be made as in this case, beveling the sharp edge on the inside of the shoe that could cause sole pressure. Remember, what I said earlier, shoeing may look simple, and many owners may try it out to save money, but there are many, many steps and techniques involved in shoeing. All horses are not equal, they should receive services catered to their specific needs according to their conformation.In order to take all of this into prospective I personally invite you to learn more and an easy way is with our Grammar School of Trimming and Shoeing Horses DVD. More about these six steps can be obtained in articles, during clinics, by attending school and by bringing your horses to the school.
Photo 3 Identifying the problem is the farriers’ most valuable asset. Mr. Casey on left, with Jarvis Bowen of Chatsworth, Georgia, seen on Horseshoe’n Time.