Q: I've read that the hind
feet should be 3-4 degrees higher than the front to promote a more collected
movement of the horse. For example if the fronts are trimmed and shod at 54
degrees the hinds should be 57 to 58 degrees.
-13 year old gelding; Quarter Horse used for team roping (heading).
15-3 Hands & 1250 lbs.
- currently shod with St Croix eventers side clips in O size.
Look forward to your response. Thanks.
A: My thoughts: 15:3 hands, 1250
lbs., 0 size shoes…sounds like a modern day bred Quarter Horse. I look forward
to the day when they breed these beautiful athletes with the feet to support
their muscular bodies.
Remember: Today's facts are tomorrow's theories. Twenty-five or thirty years ago
the facts said that the ideal angles for horses were 45 to 50 degrees in front;
50 to 55 degrees behind. Today's facts generally accept that the ideal horse is
53 to 56 degrees in front, 55 to 60 degrees in the hinds. The horse you describe
has angles that would fall within the accepted tolerance of today's thinking.
However, the correct hoof angle can not be determined by any chart, scale or
recommendations by people who are not looking at the horse. The correct hoof
angle is determined by the phalangical alignment of P1, P2 and P3. Shoulder
angle, length of back, length of neck and length of body all have to do with
determining the correct angle for a particular horse, as does the discipline in
which the horse is engaged.
Over the years I have shod a good number of different breeds and disciplines. In
the course of those shoeings I have had trainers, veterinarians and owners
advising me to "lower the heels on this horse", "raise the heels
on that horse", "lengthen the toe on this horse", and "back
up the toe on that horse". In most cases I would balance and level the
horse as I saw fit and say, "Is that what you wanted?" And they would
most assuredly say, "Absolutely, now you've got it!" And what they
would have was what I determined was correct for that animal.
There are, of course, times when a trainer or horse owner should be listened to.
Sometimes they know a particular horse and what is best for him. I remember many
years ago I was shoeing an old Tennessee Walking Horse brood mare. She was lame.
And the owner said, "Jack her up!" So I jacked her up to 56 degrees in
front. She was still lame. Next time I went out he said, "I said jack her
up!" And I jacked her up to 60 degrees. She was a little better but still
lame. Next time I went out he said, "If you don't jack up that horse, I
will get somebody who will!" Made me mad. I told myself I'd show this old
so-and-so. I jacked her up so high that her dorsal wall was almost vertical. She
walked and trotted off sound! That is where we kept her for the next five years
until she died of old age, and she never took another lame step in all that
So I learned not to totally disregard all owners and trainers. Sometimes they do
know best. But by and large, hoof angles will be determined in the manner I have
There are, of course, times for shortening a toe to speed and ease break over
for a particular discipline, for lowering the heel to help move the hind legs up
underneath the horse, or other such manipulation deemed necessary by a
knowledgeable farrier who is shoeing the whole animal--the whole picture--not
just the feet.
A heading horse puts a lot of torque on his shoes. Being a big fan of the St.
Croix Eventer shoe, I would applaud your selection. Eventers with clips will go
a long way towards keeping shoes on a roping horse. However, there is always the
danger of the horse stepping on the shoe, jerking it half off and stepping on
the clips…so do be careful!
How can you be careful? Do not work your horse to a state of exhaustion to where
he is stepping on himself. Don't push your horse past his abilities or training.
If you are going to shoe with clips, especially on the front feet, don't shoe
him short but don't leave a lot of heel hanging out there for him to step on,
Good luck with your heading.
The American Blacksmith