Basic Shoeing: Working with a Club Foot

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by Dave Farley, CF APF

When asked to work on a horse with a club foot, take extra time to evaluate the whole horse. Look at the horse from all angles. Watch the horse as it takes a couple of steps; this can help you see where the foot cannot take stress.

Above: Right Front Foot

A horse will protect himself just as you do when hurting. Learning this and understanding the lame horse is mandatory for a farrier to have a successful, positive shoeing experience.

Doing anything less is simply application, not correction.

Above: Left Front Foot

The condition of the foot, the way the horse stands and your shoe modification ability will
help determine the end result.

With all this in mind we worked on a
club foot case recently:

This particular horse, a six year old gelding, has what I feel is a grade three club foot (on a 1-5 scale).

Apparently the club foot condition has been
with this horse since it was a foal.

This horse found it difficult to stand square or under himself before shoeing.

In photo 1 you can see the dish in the hoof wall is at or just below the coronary, a grade 3, whereas a dish at or just above the end of the toe would likely be considered grade 1 or 2. This club foot, as seen in photo 2, has very straight medial and lateral walls, versus only medial or lateral. Look closely at photo 3 and you can see hoof growth at the heel is approximately twice as much as the toe growth. There is separation of the wall from widest area medial to widest area lateral shown in photo 4. The bars are starting to close in or point towards the frog as you can see in photo 5. If the end of the bars are not opened as I did on the right (I simply use a rasp and knife) they will start to pinch and narrow the frog.

There are several other factors that contribute to this horse’s lameness. Look at photos 6 and 7. Notice the pronounced side bone. Photo 8 shows a prolapsed sole that is painful, making it impossible to have a normal stride. Also notice the degenerative sole growth just in front of the frog. This is from osteomyelitis or infectious bone. Photo 9 is the lateral x-ray showing the remodeled bone and poor quality of the bone.  The toe crack in photo 10 has also been the site of drainage from abscesses due to micro fractures from the distal end of the coffin bone.

With all this in mind I decided to modify a shoe to do several things. Rocker the shoe both toe and heel to allow for ease of break over and landing, add a leather rim pad to raise the prolapsed and painful sole off the ground and fit the shoe more medial to center the frog while putting the hoof support closer to the center of the leg (photos 11 and 12).

Before applying this shoe it was almost impossible to pick up the left front. After application of the modified shoe to the right I was then able to shoe the left. I also applied a thicker rim pad to the left front to raise that side allowing the right foot and leg to be more square and weight bearing. You can see in photo 13 that the left front is much wider than the right, a result of bearing more than its share of weight over the years.

Photo 13

Our thanks to Dr. Bruce Lyle for providing radiographs on this horse and to the owners – Chad & Cathy Pippen for allowing us to work on their horse in a recent clinic.  All reside in Aubrey, Texas.

This article is from The Natural Angle Volume 8, Issue 3 – written by Dave Farley, CF APF. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.

Dave Farley, CF APF

Dave-Farley-4Dave Farley, CF APF of Coshocton, Ohio has been shoeing horses for over 40 years. He has shod for a broad range of disciplines, including Western horses, Reining, Dressage, Hunters and Jumpers. His business today is focused on Hunters and Jumpers on the “A” circuit.

Throughout his shoeing career he has participated in educational functions. For a number of years he has been doing shoeing clinics in the US and Canada, many sponsored by FPD but also as a guest speaker and clinician at events like the AFA Convention and the International Hoof Care Summit. In 2000 he received the Clinician of the Year Award from the AFA, in recognition of his contributions to the industry. In 2008 he was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame.

Dave is known for his willingness to share his knowledge and experience with farriers throughout the industry. His dedication is obvious to those who have heard him speak in the past. Dave is a founding member and Immediate Past President of the American Association of Professional Farriers. This is a national farriers association focused on continuing education for the trade.

He also partnered with Roy Bloom to form a video company called Hot Iron Productions. The goal of the company is to produce top quality video footage to help explain shoeing and forging concepts, including their latest issues, 12 Points of Reference – Balancing the Equine Hoof and Shoeing the Jumper.

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