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Farrier Q & A

Welcome to our Q&A page.  We enjoy working relationships with a wide variety of experts in the farrier industry and we will be glad to share their insights and experiences with you. 

Please feel free to click here and ask your question – or share your information and experiences with other farriers.

Question from Kathy

I have a 14 yr old TW mare. I have a new farrier and have had issues with lames in the front. I have noticed after a week or two of trimming she's appears to have long toes and walks on her heels. Is there a difference btw trimming a gaited horse verses a QH?

Answer from Dan Burke

Most farriers follow the same principles of trimming no matter what the discipline or breed. They look for good hoof pastern alignment and medial lateral balance. We have some videos that might be worthwhile for you to invest in that can help with some of the principles farriers are applying - of course every horse is unique and the balance issue can sometimes be difficult to ascertain.

I would recommend you contact one of our dealers to buy a copy of the 12 Points of Reference by Hot Iron Productions - Dave Farley and Roy Bloom have worked together to assemble this info. You can visit our website dealer locator - farrierproducts.com/locations.html and find the names of dealers near you.


Question from Laurie - Seattle, WA

My gelding is 7 but only this last year has he had a lot of freedom to play around on a uneven ground, with rocks etc., along with hills. Almost every time between shoeing he has pulled a front shoe, usually the right one. It can be days after being shod up to days before the next shoeing we go between 6 and 8 weeks only. My Farrier has tried many things and so have I. He’s mostly had Natural Balance shoes on the front with regular clips shoes in the back. He does not have good feet, he grows out and flat with under run heels and thin soles. My farrier has tried putting the shoes on backwards, he did not pull them, but got sore toes from no front support. He currently put on Equilibrium on the front and stayed with regular clips on the back. A week later off came the right front again while loping up a slight hill in his pasture. My farrier has decided it would be better to trim the ends off the shoes, which will give very little support then have him continue to pull the fronts off, He does not pull shoes while under saddle and we ride Mt. trails. I tried leaving bell boots on but he ended up with a sore below his fetlock so I took them off.

We live in WA State so it’s a wet but not muddy environment and he currently tested sore frogs and heels on all four feet, he will do anything to not walk on hard surfaces like packed gravel roads., He’s not an easy horse, not a good multi tasker,, he will step where ever on a trail, top of a rock, limb etc., so he does not pay a lot of attention to placement of his feet, he hardly trips.

The front feet are addressed for the issue but not the back, Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, this has gone on for a year now.

Answer from Dave Farley CF

We too have some wet weather and hills on our pastures, but I doubt anything like the beautiful area you live.  Some horses with hoof conformation similar to yours struggle to keep shoes on.  I have several suggestions.  While the natural balance shoe seemed to work as well as the reverse shoe, I suggest you have your farrier apply a steep rocker toe.  This allows the foot to break over much faster than a square toe.

It sounds like both you and your farrier have tried every trick in the book.  The best way to find out if this can be corrected would be to find a friend who has a turnout that is more level.  Would it be possible to do this for one shoeing to see if this corrects the problem?  I questioned a few farriers in this area as to how they handle horses with this problem and they all say a change in environment corrected it.  They all say, and I agree, hoof conformation like your horse is the hardest to keep shoes on no matter where they live.

I am very proud that you seem to have a very good relationship with your farrier and you are willing to allow him to try different shoe modifications.  I am sure your farrier would love to remedy this issue as much as you do.  Please let us know if the rocker works or if your horse does better in a different pasture.

Note from FPD:

In addressing challenges like the one described above, consider using one of the following Kerckhaert shoes, all designed to enhance breakover.  Used in combination with Liberty nails, you have precision and greater results.

Click here to view the entire Kerckhaert and Liberty line of products.

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Question from A Horse Owner

I bought a horse with natural balance shoes on. When my farrier saw him he took him out of them and put him in an egg bar shoe and a normal shoe. He cut a hole in his toe as he had a slight crack in it. A month later he went lame. Got an abscess and for two years I am fighting abscesses in the foot. There is no keratoma or foreign body in the foot but he gets them roughly every three weeks. He had one last week. I had him shod on Christmas eve. He was sound and now lame again, which i think is another one. Please help.

Answer from Dave Farley CF

I completely understand your frustration. I also feel bad for your horse. There should be a reason why you cannot find the origin of the problem. After two years there has to be something causing the abscesses. I suggest a process of illumination. When I am asked to work on a horse with this type of problem I take the following steps and have had 100% success.

(1) Hoof test the area to localize it to a specific area.

(2) If the horse is lame I ask the owner to have a vet x-ray and include a lateral view to determine if there is proper bone alignment and normal sole depth. A toe down view is also necessary to look at the distal end of the coffin bone, to see if there is any bone abnormalities.

(3) Attempt to be there to assist the Vet or ask the Vet to contact me afterwards to come up with the correct trimming and shoeing to get your horse sound.

Have you ever had a vet look at the feet when he is lame? If so did he/she get a response from hoof testers? Have you had a (lateral view) x-ray of the foot with the shoe on to determine if he has proper lateral balance and normal sole depth? Did they x-ray the outer perimeter of the coffin bone to eliminated any bone problems? If so. I would love to see it?

Please keep us posted on the next steps.

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Question from Elaine - Center, TX

I have a 2 year old colt. When he was given to me he was emaciated and had thrush. I had my farrier come out and trim his feet and asked for the best solution to kill the thrush. It has been 6 weeks and the colt still has thrush. I have been cleaning his feet every day and washing the feet with bleach, as I was told that is the best way. Now his frogs are in very bad shape and are falling off. How do I fix this and what should I expect to see as it heals?

Answer from Dave Farley CF

Elaine, thrush can be very stubborn. This will require daily attention. The first thing you need to do is purchase some Thrush Buster. It is manufactured by Mustad. Buy several bottles. Clean the feet and make sure they are dry and free of all dirt, manure and urine. Apply the medicine to the frog area. Pack the frog with clean cotton. Apply Thrush Buster to the cotton. Wrap the foot with vet wrap. Be careful not to get any of the Thrush Buster above the hairline. Do this each day for fourteen days, then every other day for a week. Then every third day for two weeks. This should kill the thrush that is in the frog. I suggest that you continue to apply this medicine every four days until all signs of thrush are gone. Let us know how your horse’s thrush looks in six weeks.

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Question from Sherry - MI

I have a 6 yr old paint gelding that I have raised from a baby. He has had a significantly mellow life (not much hard work) but recently we've changed our routine a bit and are working a little harder, his hind feet are widening on the outside and are very short on the inside (he is barefoot in the back and has shoes on the front). He stays inside at night and is turned out during the day. Normally, his back feet seem to wear normally with just his turnout and small amounts of riding we do. Since we have started working a little harder, I have also noticed some lameness in the rear. There is no swelling or heat I can identify and there are no bruises or rocks inside any of his feet. I'm really concerned because last weekend, after just lounging him, he came up so lame in the back that he was almost dragging one rear foot. By the next day he seemed much better but not 100% better. Could this be the result of his rear feet issues? If so, does he need shoes now? What kind should he have, etc. He has had rear shoes before when he was in full-time training and was fine with them but I removed them because he wasn't getting worked regularly. Thank you for your help!

Answer from Dave Farley CF

It is time for your horse to be balanced and shod in the rear. His age and working on a regular schedule will require hind shoes. He is now more mature and should be heavier as well as wider in conformation at age six. These changes will alter the foot condition and possibly require him to be shod on regular basis.

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Question from Lynne - Crofton, MD

I have a warmblood that is constantly losing shoes. It is a miracle if he keeps them on for more than two weeks. In the summer when the ground is hard and dry the shoes fall off and his hooves chip and sometimes crack. In the winter, when the ground is wet and swampy, the shoes fall off or are sucked off by the mud. He remains sound, but does gimp around when forced to walk on gravel. Several people have told me that the problem is the "hoof balance" and that it is wrong. Some folks have recommended that I try glue on shoes but I'm not sure how well these will work in wet conditions. I have ordered the Hoof Rite supplement hoping that it will improve his hoof condition. Can you explain proper balance of the hoof? What more can I do to help my horse?

Answer from Dave Farley CF

There are many things that can cause shoe pulling. Some horses have a conformation that allows the horse to pull them. It could also be the stall or pasture environment (wet). There are some horses that do have a vitamin missing in their diet. Several months after the right vitamins are fed they grow a healthier hoof wall. It could be the farrier is not properly balancing the feet or modifying the shoes to keep them on. The number one problem with horses losing shoes in the summer is flies. Even if you fly spray your horse it usually looses its effect soon after it dries. Have you ever noticed your horse stomping the ground trying to get the flies off? The hoof, if already weak cannot take the constant stomping on any hard surface. In the warmer winter areas, weak feet simply cannot withstand the wet, swampy or muddy conditions. Moisture expands the hoof and pops the clinches. Then, when it dries the shoes are loose. You are not the only person with this problem. There are thousands of horses with weak, brittle feet that function without losing shoes. One has to recognize the problem (as you have), then realize what is necessary to keep shoes on. There are a few who do not want to go the extra mile to keep a horse like this. This horse is different and simply cannot be treated like other horses. The simply answer to this is to limit a horse’s turn-out. Professional trainers have found that a horse with this condition need special attention. They do not turn these horses out if the pasture condition is not just right or if there are flies present. They just ride them more often.

You may need to do something different. You mentioned he has a problem walking on gravel so he does need shoes. I think you have to figure out what you can do to remedy the shoe pulling problem.

I do not feel poor balance is causing your horse to have poor quality feet. I will explain how you can test your horse for balance. Simply walk him on a flat, level concrete or asphalt surface. Watch closely as the foot lands. Do they land flat? If so then you are a very lucky owner. Not many horses are perfectly balanced. More than half do not track perfectly balanced, but still keep their shoes on and perform their duties well.

Remember, it takes several months to see the benefits of a hoof supplement. Have a good look at what you are willing to do - or change - to own a horse with this condition.

Thanks for the question.

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Question from Karen - WA

Hi, Dr. O'Grady. Can you point me to any research that has been done on the affects of a broken pastern axis? I am looking to identify reasons to not trim a horse to achieve a broken back pastern axis (there is a specific barefoot trim modality that trims a hoof for a "harmonic curve" which is the same thing as a broken back pastern axis).

Answer from Stephen O’Grady, DVM

There is a new text, Veterinary Clinics of North America - Equine Podiatry, published by WB Saunders that gives many references regarding the detrimental effects of trimming to achieve a broken back hoof pastern axis. If one looks at the mechanics to start, in order to support weight, P1, P2 & P3 need to be in a straight line. If this line is broken back, the coffin joint is placed in extension and the tension within the deep flexor tendon is increased. Remember the broken back hoof-pastern axis is usually associated with the underrun heel. Not an ideal situation.

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Question from Peggy - OH

We have a 3 year old quarter horse that, since the wet spring, we have had to keep her shod due to cracks in her hooves. Wonder if we can use some glue product instead of shoes for winter. Thanks in advance!

Answer from Dave Farley CF

This year has really been wet! It has taken its toll on horses all over the country. As for your question about using an adhesive instead of shoes, I recommend the product SUPER FAST. This product is very easy to use and will protect the hoof without the use of nails. But you need to get the feet as dry as possible before application. You can visit their web site at www.vettec.com.

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Question from Anja - Germany

A friend’s and my horse (15 year old warmblooded stallion) started 4 years ago to develop vertical cracks at the inner side of his right front hoof. Only one crack at a time. Crack always was very thin and was bleeding. He got special shoes (closed + padding) and the cracks always were healing very well. As soon as the crack was completely gone our farrier switched to normal shoes again. After a few weeks/month crack recurred. Now he has two cracks (as before thin and bleeding), one at the inner side of the hoof, the other one at the heel (that is the worst place I learned from our farrier). The first crack developed with a normal horse shoe, the other one after the special shoe was put on (although two days before he got the special shoe he was (unintentionally) galloping over hard ground, our farrier thinks that is the reason for the second crack, although it occurred only after the special shoe was put on. Our farrier now suggests to remove more or less half of the hoof, including the cracks, to put on a "half moon horseshoe" + hoof dressing and hope that there will be no infection and the hoof will grow back. Is there any advice or alternatives you can think of? Thank you very much in advance!!!
Best regards.

Answer from Dave Farley CF

Quarter cracks can be frustrating! I always double-check the medial lateral balance before applying any corrective shoe. One must first understand that it is when the crack is loaded with the horse's weight that it continues to stress and bleed. With this in mind the crack has to be unloaded to start to heal and grow new hoof from the coronary. There are many ways to achieve this unloading of the crack area. I have applied the shoe that your farrier has suggested. There may be a problem if this shoe is applied and the horse is turned out and steps on that side of the foot. There is nothing to protect that opened side of the foot from uneven ground. This shoe does work well if the horse is not turned out and only ridden on level ground. A nice eggbar shoe applied, along with floating or cutting away the foot from the crack back will do best. One can also apply a thick rim pad to that foot and end the pad just in front of the crack to allow the area from the crack back to not touch the shoe. This open area under the shoe should be cleaned daily to keep the space from filling with debris (manure and dirt) and again loading the affected area.

This is a couple of ways that I treat quarter cracks and both have great success as long as the foot is properly balanced. If theses cracks are not corrected soon they could get infected causing the coronary band to scar. Let us know which way you decide to treat your horse.

Thanks for the question and we hope this helps.

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Question from Denise - NJ

I own a 21 year old Thoroughbred gelding who I've owned since he was 5 years old. Always been pretty healthy. Last week the barn manager found him 3 legged lame with the horse not able to even touch his left rear leg to the ground, I called the vet who tested for a hoof abscess but found none, the horse had a 103 degree fever and was in terrible pain. The vet took x-rays to rule out a fracture, support wrapped the leg after close inspection, gave him antibiotics and bute and Banamine and we keep a close watch. 3 days went by with slow progress and on the 3rd day we changed the wrap and found a large abscess on the outside of the ankle center of the joint. The vet was surprised as she had closely inspected all of the lower leg. The abscess is very large and has several draining spots. We rewrapped after cleaning out the now draining abscess and the horse is almost without pain. We are expecting a full recovery. My question is how or what caused this type of infection in an ankle?

I have never seen an infection like this and I think my vet was surprised too but she said a small puncture might be to blame could that be so for such a large infection?

Answer from Stephen O’Grady, DVM

We usually try to address foot problems on this site but I'll try and give you a general answer. Your horse could have suffered a puncture wound as your veterinarian suggested or it could be acute lymphagitism of the hind limb. The fever will usually accompany lymphangitis. The infection will account for the fever and the intense pain. The pain will persist until drainage is established usually in the lower part of the limb (fetlock). Your treatment seems appropriate. We keep these cases on oral antibiotics for a couple of weeks to resolve any residual bacteria present.

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Question from Warren - Canada

We have a 16 year old quarter horse diagnosed with upper ring bone. If we fuse this joint will it affect his gait enough we wouldn't be able to show him in western pleasure?

Answer from Stephen O’Grady, DVM

Fusing the pastern joint is called surgical arthrodesis. As with any surgical procedure, there are always risks involved. If successful the horse will be sound and in some cases you may see a mild shortened stride at a trot/jog. You should be able to show at western pleasure. If you have it done use a reputable clinic or university and a board-certified surgeon. Best of Luck.

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Question from Sidonna Davis - Woodward, OK

What type of trimming is recommended for a Tennessee Walker used for pleasure riding. We live in quarter horse country. How does it differ from a quarter horse trim if any? If shoes are put on the Tennessee Walker what is recommended?

Answer from Dave Farley CF

There is no difference between the trimming of your walking horse and a quarter horse. If you are using your horse for pleasure riding only a normal shoe is all that is necessary. If you are riding on trails that have rough terrain then you should consider some type of traction device such as heels on the shoes or borium applied to the shoe that will provide maximum traction.

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