Basic Shoeing: Shaping for Symmetry

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by Dave Farley, CF APF-I

One of the constant struggles in shoeing horses is the effort to establish and maintain good hoof shape.

It is not unusual to have a horse come to you that has been fit to the perimeter, a method many of us used to think was good horseshoeing. But as time goes on we often find that we have problems when we shoe using this principle. You will often see a long toe as well as excessive flares. A hoof that has flares and dishes will often have flatter soles and uneven growth patterns. You can see this in the rings on the outside of the hoof. A well-balanced hoof has a good blood flow and will grow more evenly. If you don’t change this shape problem you will also have more difficulty shaping shoes and getting a good strong nail pattern.

There are a few ideas that I use when determining how to trim and fit, especially when faced with first time jobs. I start with a couple thoughts in mind:

  1. Front feet should be more symmetrical than hind feet
  2. Hind feet have straighter toe quarters
  3. Hoof wall thickness should be consistent from one side to the other
  4. Flares are not supposed to be there

The photos in this article show feet that have been perimeter fit, resulting in an imbalance from my perspective. I try to trim and shape the foot so that the freshly trimmed frog is in the center of the hoof capsule. This is a goal but remember that you can’t always do everything in the first shoeing. This often means there are flares that need to be removed. I generally start this with the foot up on the stand and rough it in when I remove the shoes. This gives me a good view of the shape of the coronary, which is also a very good guide for what the hoof shape should be.

With the foot in trimming position, I can now gauge the thickness of the wall and the balance from inside to outside- again using the frog as my center. I will even up the wall thickness as much as possible now. This provides a guide for me when I take the foot forward again and work to remove more flare. You have to use some discretion in taking flares off. You don’t want to take so much that the wall will be weak and you will have difficulty getting strong nails in place. Even in the toe area you should use caution. It’s better to set the shoe back than to take all the horn away.

If you work to achieve more symmetry in the trim you will find your horses come back to you in much better shape.

You are encouraging good hoof growth as you develop your eye for trimming this way. You will find your work getting easier each shoeing. Shoe fit becomes much less of a struggle. In my work I have found that using front and hind pattern Kerckhaert shoes has fit with these shaping principles very nicely. It is apparent that Kerckhaert has put a lot of effort in developing the shapes of their shoes to match what the shape of a well-balanced foot should be.

This article is from The Natural Angle Volume 5, Issue 2 – written by Dave Farley, CF APF-I. For more Natural Angle articles and tips, click here.


Dave Farley, CF APF-I

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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