Shoeing the Natural Hoof

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Q: I have a 9 yo 1700 lb, Belgian Draft gelding that, after a very hot and dry summer, developed a crack in the off hind heel. All his feet were in poor shape during the late part of the summer (chipping and small cracks) even with trimming every 5 to 6 weeks. He was due for a trim, when, after finally getting rain (where he was out in a paddock in the mud unfortunately), he lost about one inch of hoof on the outside of the off hind heel, as well as a portion of sole in that same area. There was some interior tissue visible, which I treated topically with peroxide and betadine. There wasn't distinguishable heat. He wasn't lame at walk or jog. The coronary band is intact, but a little disturbed looking to me. I have been applying Corona to the coronary band and heel in this area especially, since it seems a little harder or calloused than his other feet.

The vet's opinion was that it'd would grow out given 3-6 months or so and he recommended that I not let him stand in mud or water while it was growing out, since that would make the new tissue softer and more likely to break off again. This horse has never to my knowledge been shod, and he has had pretty solid feet up til this summer with 5-6 week trims. All his feet, of course tend to flare at the heel, and I usually ask the farriers I use to file them down a bit. This hasn't been happening as much in the 3 or 4 months prior to this incident.

He gets a biotin/vitamin supplement daily (about 250mg biotin/lb of supplement). I'm at a new barn, with a new farrier, who hot shoes, but I don't yet know her well. She did trim him nicely within a week of when this injury occurred. I haven't had a chance to discuss this with her yet.

My question, is as the hoof grows out, do you think he will need to be shod to protect the newer tissue, or is there something else I can do to keep this area from developing more damage. Some sort of boot I can make perhaps? I'd rather leave him barefoot if possible, he only works under saddle in an arena and on trail rides on the property, he is NOT being driven at this time.

Thanks for your time.

A: While your regular trimming schedule is commendable, it is obviously not enough to protect your horse's hoofs. The horse should be shod with Kerckhaert clipped draft shoes, fitted full from the quarters back. On the hind feet there should be no less than 3/16" for expansion on the medial wall and 1/4" on the lateral wall. You should extend the shoes at least 1/2" behind the heels.

On the fronts, give him 3/16" from the widest part of the foot back, including 3/16" extended behind the heel.

Do NOT shoe just the hind feet.

There is a product called Durasole which I highly recommend you use on the soles and commissures (the grooves on either side of the frog) of this horse's feet. Corona applied to the coronet band should provide sufficient dressing for your horse.

Christine, all too often I have witnessed and receive e-mail concerning horses that are not shod. In 99% of the cases the horses should have been shod but weren't, due to an owner's misconception that it is better that the horse remain barefoot and "natural". Usually you only get away with this "natural" situation for a limited amount of time. The end result is what you have now. If you want your horse to remain natural, you will have to turn the clock back to before man interfered with his environment and his freedom, and then the law of the jungle applies--only the strong survive. Have your horse shod regularly, every 6 to 8 weeks for most horses, by a qualified journeyman farrier (certified).

On my web site you will find pictures of Daphne and Dolly, a Belgium-Suffolk cross team of logging horses. This is one team of many I have shod in my lifetime and they have feet equal to and superior to many saddle horses because of a balanced diet including proper supplements, and an owner who has made himself knowledgeable concerning the needs of his horses to keep them healthy. These horses are shod every 6 to 8 weeks, all year round, and are the pride of the owner who basks in their glowing health from the tip of their ears to the beautifully shod healthy feet that support them.

Good luck with your big horse,

Geronimo Bayard
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon


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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.