Volume 6 Issue 2: What is Balance?
Trimming and Shoeing for Proper Medial/Lateral Balance

By Andrew Elsbree, CJF

Print this Page [print this page]

1To get a horse in proper balance you must begin by observing the horse's conformation and how his feet land on the ground. I begin by watching the horse walk as he comes to the shoeing area. Is he landing flat? Then I take a couple of seconds to stand in front and get a good look at the front feet to see if either the medial or lateral side shows any distortion. At this point, I've already begun to make a mental plan for balancing the horse's front feet. I always try to start on the foot with the most distortion. Before picking the foot up, I stand behind the foot and try to sight from the fetlock to the border of the ground surface of the hoof. When a horse is in balance, you should see three circles: the fetlock, the coronary band and the border of the ground surface of the hoof. Everything I do in trimming and shoeing each foot will have an effect on the horse's balance. By achieving a well-balanced foot with a symmetrical shoe applied, shoeing the horse becomes a very easy job.

Distortion or flares are indicators of a foot that is out of balance. In most cases, it is important to lower the part of the foot with the flare. If you have a good, flat surface to walk the horse on, you may be able to determine if one side of the hoof is hitting the ground before the other. In most cases, the side hitting the ground first will show distortion and will need to be lowered. Once you have decided how to get the foot to land flat, go ahead and trim it.

The next step will be to address distortion of the hoof wall. By looking at the bottom of the foot, I examine the wall thickness to determine if it is thicker on one side or the other. I then, while holding the foot between my legs, use the sharp side of my rasp to mark the hoof wall that I want to remove when dressing the foot. I run my rasp around the ground surface edge and hold it in such a way that it only cuts out an eighth of an inch up the wall. This allows me to make sure that I have plenty of hoof wall left for nailing on the shoe. A good rule of thumb is never remove more than half of the thickness of the hoof wall. While marking the wall, I try to define the foot into five symmetrical parts- the toe, the toe quarters (stopping at the widest point), and the heel quarters. If you do this on every foot you trim, it won't take long to get them symmetrical. I then pull the foot forward and dress the hoof wall down till my mark disappears. Now the ground surface border of the hoof should be almost a copy of the coronary band. I then set the foot down on the ground and take a look from the front and decide if the hoof is displaced medially or laterally. At this point I begin making plans for my shoe.

When preparing the shoe, we need to keep in mind our plans for balancing the hoof. I try to fit the flared side of the foot very tight while adding width to the opposite side. In some cases, this may require punching fine nail holes on one side and coarse nail holes on the other. The shoe should contain the five symmetrical parts of the foot. I find that even if the foot can't be brought all the way into symmetry at this time, the shoe should be made symmetrical and then boxed off back to the wall. Having a good perimeter fit and making sure the shoe hasn't shifted while nailing will result in a more balanced hoof.

It has been my experience that balance needs to be taken into account at every step in shoeing the horse, from trimming the ground surface to dressing the hoof wall and positioning the shoe. When feet come into balance, resetting becomes a breeze, just trim off the extra wall and drop your shoe right back on the foot and nails are easily driven to the proper height.

[back to top]