Odd Shaped Feet
(How to Find a Good Farrier) 

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Q: I would like a little advice about finding a skilled Blacksmith. I currently own a 11 year old, 17.1h TB cross that I school in Dressage. He has decent sized feet for his size (he is not a heavy boned TB), but his front feet are very different in shape and angle. His right front is high in the heel, and he has a toe crack. My current farrier calls it, "slightly buttressed." His left foot is very low in the heel and is sort of shaped like a paddle. I have had the same gentleman shoeing him since I bought him in September of last year. He has not spent a day lame and I believe that is a good sign. However, I have noticed at times that some of his hoof is "hanging" over the outside edge of the shoe (on his paddle shaped front hoof). Sort of like the shoe is not shaped to his foot. On his back shoes there is about an 1/16th of an inch of his toe over the front of the shoe on both rear hooves. Is this correct? He does hot shoe my horse.

I have asked him several questions about his training etc. He did say he went to farrier school etc...but didn't say where. I was just wondering if there was anything I can look for that might be a sign of his competence or lack thereof. I hate to second guess my farrier because, after all, the horse has been sound since he has been shoeing him. I just see my horses feet as "special" because of their shape and fear that if not shod properly he will go lame (i.e. pull a muscle or tendon above his foot because of lack of balance, changing of angles (which I would not like him to do) etc. in his front foot shoeing). Is there anything I can look for to assure me that my horse is being shod properly?

Thank you in advance for your valued response!

A: You have actually asked several question. I will go over each of them for you.

You stated that there are times that some of your horse's hoof is hanging over the outside edge of his shoe on his paddle shaped hoof. Normally this would be considered a no-no. When your horse is shod, he should be standing completely on the shoe. The shoe should fit the outline of the hoof wall from the toe to the widest part of the horse's hoof, approximately at the third nail hole location. From that point back the shoe should be approximately 1/16 " wider than the hoof wall as well as extending 1/16" past the end of the horse's heel. This is sometimes referred to as "shoeing a dime and a dime". Let me explain. You should be able to place a dime on edge on the shoe, laid against the wall, just behind the widest portion of the horse's hoof. Also you should be able to place that dime on the shoe at the back of the heel. If you can't do this, your farrier is shoeing scared, meaning he is leaving no shoe for expansion or for growth. Depending upon the speed of growth and other circumstances, the horse's toe will pull the shoe forward and he will have no shoe to stand on as his foot grows. When that happens, the heels and the quarters of the horse's foot break down. Your horse's foot would also be subjected to possible heel bruising, corns and sole bruising.

There are exceptions on placement of the shoe such as that which your farrier seems to be doing on your horse's back feet. Setting the shoe back 1/16 " on the rear hoofs may very well be correct for how your horse is traveling. It is sometimes done for horses that are forging or overreaching so they will not strike the front feet with the steel shoe on the hind foot. If it is done in conjunction with a square toe, your farrier may very well be attempting to provide your horse with lateral support and/or possibly more hock action. Since your farrier has been shoeing your horse for several months and the horse has not spent a day lame, I would say that yes, that is definitely a good sign. You need to give your farrier credit for this.

The American Farrier's Association puts out 2 very excellent brochures. One is called "Choosing a Farrier", the other is called "Guide to Proper Hoof Care". These can be obtained by calling 1-606-233-7411. The AFA also has a web page at www.amfarriers.com.

I would also suggest you read the other Question and Answers on my web page as well as the articles. These are not intended to make you a horseshoer but rather a more informed horse owner where your horse's trimming and shoeing are concerned.

An eleven year old horse whose front feet do not match in shape and angle is not all that unusual. Chances are that your farrier is not going to be able to make dramatic changes here but he can help your horse to improve somewhat in both feet. A buttressed foot may be shod with a roller motion shoe which consists of swelled heels and rocker toe. You mentioned a crack in this foot but didn't say vertical or horizontal or whether it started at the coronary band or the ground surface, so I really can't comment on that.

The left foot being low in the heel and shaped like a paddle sounds like a foot which could be a candidate for an egg bar shoe and possibly building up the heel with acrylics such as Equilox or Level-It. I have had tremendous success with this type of foot by shoeing it with a raised egg bar shoe (see my Q&A Nonexistent Heels). The last horse I applied a shoe like this on grew 1 1/2" of heel in 12 weeks with resetting every 6 weeks.

Drop me a line and let me know how your horse and farrier relations are working out.

Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith

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