Walking Horse Problem

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Q: We are in the walking horse business. At the present time, we have a coming three year old show horse that we are having problems with his feet. We have had him barefoot since the first of November, 1996. Everything was going along really well, then his feet began not being able to hold his shoes. His feet seem to be growing outward into a point, rather than rounding as they should. They have improved since we took his shoes and padding off and have been using a hoof dressing on them. Do you have any advice for us?

A: I received your question and would love to try to help you and your horse. However, the question is very vague and a little confusing. If you would care to restate it and include more information perhaps I can be of assistance.

Some things that would be helpful to me are:
•Where (state or at least part of country) are you located?
•What conditions is the horse kept under (turned out or stalled, wet or dry ground,
pasture or dry-lot, etc)? What is his diet?
•Is he still being ridden and if so how much and how hard?
•A better description of the condition causing him not to keep shoes on (feet brittle,
shelly, thin walled etc). Could he have been stepping them off with other feet?
•Do you have a certified Journeyman Farrier? What experience does he have shoeing
Walking Horses?
•A better description of how his feet are growing now (outward into a point doesn't
bring a picture to mind). Do you mean a flare? Where is the flare?
•With more information at hand I will be better able to give you an intelligent answer.

Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith

Q: Will try to answer your questions and give you a better description of my situation. This horse, as I stated, is a coming three year old walking horse. He is a show horse and is stabled inside at all times. At the present time he is barefooted all the way around (we took his shoes off around the first of November, 1996). We bought him as a coming two year old. They had him shod, small shoe and light pad. We gradually brought him up with bigger shoes and more pad as he matured into it. It seemed everything was going well. Then we would be riding him on the outside track, or even inside the barn in the hallway, and off would come a front shoe. This started around the early part of the fall of 1996, around October. He seemed to be throwing the shoe off, not stepping on it with another foot. He was not pulling any hoof away, fortunateley, but he was making the walls of his hoof weak from having to put so many nails back in them. We do have a qualified blacksmith, but my husband does some of his own shoeing, and has been shoeing this colt. Having talked with our blacksmith, he was not able to satisfy my wanting to know how things could be corrected. The front hoofs are growing out at the front almost like this >, as opposed to being nice and round. They are not spreading at the toe, so therefore we have nothing to nail to and cannot get the pad and shoe back on. I am not sure if you are familiar with the shoeing of a walking horse, but the nail pad is nailed to the hoof, and then the shoe and built up pad is nailed to the nail pad, not to the hoof. There is a band that is put across the shoe, from side to side, to help hold the shoe on. Walking horses are usually reshod every 6 to 8 weeks. The back hoofs are in fine shape. We would like to get him back to work as show season starts soon, but at this point, I don't think we have a strong enough hoof to hold the shoe. His hoofs seem to be healthy, but since they aren't growing very fast, there must be something wrong. His diet is 12% ground horse feed, timothy hay, salt, and all the water he will drink. His stall is cleaned twice a day and bedded with shavings as needed. He is in good shape, weight wise and so forth. I hope that I have helped some. I know this is a difficult thing to ask and try to put down on paper everything you need to know. I really do thank you for answering me and I look forward to hearing from you.

A: You stated that your horse came to you as a coming two year old with small shoes and light pads and healthy feet. Then your husband took up shoeing this young horse, building the youngster up to bigger shoes and more pads. He thought that the horse matured into them. Obviously this was not the case because the horse seemed to be throwing the shoes off. Of course he was. He doesn't have walls strong enough, thick enough, or mature enough to hold this kind of weight on the ends of his feet.

You stated you have a qualified blacksmith. I would ask you, why isn't he shoeing this horse rather than being asked to try to explain to you how you can correct the mess? I would be willing to bet that he probably is not shoeing this horse because he would not bring the horse up as quickly as you and your husband obviously want to.

I am very familiar with the shoeing of Walkers, Morgans and other horses that require Big Lick shoeing. This type of shoeing is a very specialized field as is the shoeing of running horses, reining horses, park horses, and other equine disciplines having unique shoeing requirements. This work should not be left to amateurs (including husbands). If there is even a slight imperfection in the balancing or leveling of the feet, the weight and length of bigger shoes and more pads will not only cause shoes to come off, but will do irreparable damage to a horse's feet and legs, and even to the structures higher up.

Your original post says you are in the walking horse business. I am in the homeowner business but I do not do the electrical wiring, the plumbing, or the roofing of my home. I leave this to professionals. You should leave the shoeing of your horses to qualified professional farriers.

I suggest that if in fact you do have a qualified blacksmith (or as properly identified, a qualified farrier), you should have him shoeing this horse. I might also add, a qualified farrier does not mean someone who happens to be tacking on shoes in your barn. If you do not know what a qualified farrier is I suggest that you contact your state farrier's association and/or the American Farrier's Association (1-606-233-7411), farriers@aol.com or www.amfarriers.com and get yourself educated as to who should be shoeing your horses.

My comments are not intended to scold or punish you but simply to try and help you understand that when we domesticate the horse we take on the responsibility to provide adequate care. The further you deviate from natural conditions the greater the responsibility. Big Lick shoeing must be done extremely well in order to avoid ruining the animal.

Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith

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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.