Farrier Industry Price Increases

Much to the displeasure of Kia my marketing director, it has been since July that I have actually managed to write a blog post, I knew I missed a month but didn’t realize it has been this long. This month’s post will deal with a current issue in the industry as a whole, and next month we will talk about continuing education. We will be back to our book review series in December. 

We have all noticed prices going up and some items being hard to find, especially with COVID-19; it is no different in the farrier industry. In the years I have been in business I have never had a supplier tell me prices are going up, like most industries, they just slowly raise prices every year. This year for the first time, suppliers sent out letters noting price increases because of the amount they have gone up. We have seen prices rise anywhere from 10%-300% in the past year to year and a half. Some of the shoes I like to use have been on backorder for 6 months, the glue that we use had to change how it is packaged because the company couldn’t source the normal containers, steel that we hand make shoes from has more than doubled in price and is increasingly difficult to find. We have also seen an increase in other areas such as insurance and the cost of vehicles. 

Unfortunately it is not just supplies and insurance that is going up, the infrastructure bill that the Senate approved in August will allow for a pilot program to test the concept of a mileage tax for every vehicle on the road. Since farriers drive well above the number of miles compared to most of the population, this will increase our taxes considerably if it comes to fruition. If we look at a similar mileage tax PA is currently looking at, a similar rate increase would raise the tax burden of farriers by at least $3,000-$6,000. 

Farriers all over the country will need to raise their prices to compensate for the increase in cost we are facing. Most of us try to keep costs as reasonable as possible however the overhead costs of running a farrier business are greater than most people realize and seem to be continually increasing at the moment. Hopefully everything will settle down and the supplies we need to care for your horses will become more available again, until then we can expect farriers all over the country to need to raise prices more than normal just to break even. 

Gregory’s Textbook of Farriery

The last two books we have looked at are of historical significance but are not up to date for the modern farrier. Today’s book however is one that should be at the very beginning of everyone’s library. Published in 2011, Gregory’s Textbook of Farriery by Chris Gregory CJF FWCF is widely used as the primary textbook at many farrier schools across the country. As we consider what books to include in our library this should make the top of the list as one of the first books to obtain. Written in an easy to read style with lots of color pictures and drawings, this book covers most of what a student/apprentice will need to learn in the first year or two of education.

Overview

This is the first book I would recommend to someone obtaining if they are serious about becoming a farrier, as such, it gets a place at the top of the list. It walks the reader through the basics of each category that a farrier should understand in an order that is extremely important. Starting with an introduction to the craft and the tools we use, Chris quickly moves on to anatomy. With discussions on the foot, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, vascular and nerve supply as well as an introduction to biomechanics, the anatomy section gives a good basis for all that follows in the book. Chapter 36 begins the section on forging. The step by step pictures, practical exercises, and the completeness of the list of skills is perfect for any beginner and a good reminder or reference section for the seasoned farrier. The pathology section is structured well with each pathology broken down by Chris’s acronym DRASTA (Definition, Reason, Anatomy, Symptoms, Treatment, Anticipated outcome). Memorizing and understanding each pathology with this or a similar acronym will help the student to be sure not to miss any important information on an exam or when thinking through a case. The book finishes with helpful tips on business and further education and certification. 

Relevance to certification

Gregory’s is one of the primary texts for the American Farrier’s Association CF and CJF exams, it is also on the reading lists for the AFA Therapeutic Endorsement and the Worshipful Company of Farriers booklist. For the AFA, CF, and CJF this should be the primary book to study though it would be best to go through every book on the lists. 

The Principles and Practice of Horse-shoeing

Our next book for review is another older book, this one from the late 1920’s. The Principles and Practice of Horse-shoeing by Charles Holmes FWCF is on the reading list for the Worshipful Company of Farriers AWCF exam, it should of course be noted however that this is a historic book and the science of farriery has advanced since it was written. Regardless of the age of this book, it is still a valuable read. 

The very first page of the book is already filled with wisdom, every paragraph should be read and reread and considered. 

“The farrier should be a man of good intelligence, capable of keen observation” 

This phrase could very well be the thesis for the book. The rest of the chapters of the book go into what farriers should be thinking about and paying attention to. 

Part 1 is anatomy, beginning with bones and joints and moving to tendons and ligaments then nerves and blood supply; the last section is all about the foot. While some of the names are different, the majority of the information presented is still quite applicable for today. One very helpful section is a summary of the ligaments associated with each joint. 

Part 2 is practical work. This book was written in the UK and during a time that nearly every farrier shop had multiple people working. This section refers to a fireman and a doorman – the fireman being responsible for building and fitting shoes while the doorman trims the feet and nails shoes on. The first section is on tool maintenance and shoemaking, again much of what is described is outside what is normal at this time since technology and how we use horses has changed, though there are still some very good points to keep in mind. Next, Holmes goes through the work of the doorman in how to trim and nail on shoes. After hints on basic shoeing, the author turns next to hunter shoeing and then to traction devices and pads.

Part 3 is titled Pathological Shoeing, this is where the theoretical and practical skills combine. A piece of advice on the first page of this section is still very applicable today. 

“One should endeavor to make what is required as simply, easily and cheaply as possible, so long as good work is done and satisfactory results are attained.” 

There are a lot of different ways to make shoes for certain mechanics we need for a foot, some ways are far easier than others and it certainly pays to be able to accomplish the goals we have in an efficient and timely manner. The rest of the section goes through various pathologies and how to treat them. Keeping in mind that this book was written nearly 100 years ago and our understanding of pathologies has progressed significantly in that time, there is still much to glean from this section as many of the basic principles for treatment have not changed. 

The final section of the book is a short explanation on the Worshipful Company of Farriers, a list of questions, and an explanation of the test levels at the time. An interesting appendix is also added on the history of horseshoe nails.

Overall this is an excellent book that is very deserving of a place in any farrier’s library, if you can find a copy. I would recommend this book be read somewhat early in a farrier’s education if possible, simply for the point of view of the author on craftsmanship. This should of course not be used as a main text to study but is a requirement for the higher exams. Unfortunately as the book is no longer in print and has not been for some time it is a bit harder to find, because that is the case this book will go later in our list of recommended reading due to it being difficult to find. At just over 200 pages this is a relatively short easy read that should be enjoyable by many.

Practical Farriery Book Review

The first book we will look at in our review series is Practical Farriery by C. Richardson FWCF. First published in 1950 in London this book was originally written with a young farrier or apprentice in mind. At just about 70 pages long in the 1968 edition I have, it is a relatively short book compared to the others we will be looking at.  

Richardson covers very basic anatomy of the hoof and leg as well as some pathologies. There are also some sections on trimming and shoeing techniques. At the end of the book is a glossary and a list of sample questions for higher exams. The anatomy section begins with the structures of the hoof. As much of the anatomy that we know and use today was originally recorded long before this book was written most of what is here is still accurate even if some of the names in common use have changed. Bones from the knee and hock down come next. Again there is some terminology that while we don’t use it everyday is still quite correct. Chapter 3 deals with joints and ligaments. A fantastic feature of this book is a list of the ligaments involved at each joint from the fetlock down. Tendons take up chapter 4. In this chapter the names of tendons are quite different to what we use today of some of the tendons; however it is still quite readable. Chapter 5 is the longest chapter being dedicated to the treatment of various pathologies. The last chapter is full of hints and tips for young farriers/apprentices. 

Reading through this book I am struck by the ease of reading due to Richardson’s writing style. This makes it a good primer for a younger apprentice as well as an enjoyable read for a seasoned farrier. While this book is not on the recommended reading list for any of the tests we take, it still deserves a place in the library of any farrier. This is a quick read that will be interesting to any farrier as well as some horse owners. This book could be put anywhere on the list of books to read and is one I would probably recommend as a “filler” book when you want something to read that isn’t too taxing.

Upcoming on the Blog: Reviews of Farrier Books

Here at DFS we are very committed to education. Education for a farrier takes many forms; school, apprenticeships, clinics, hands-on practice, certifications, lectures, and books. While we have a lot of great options in each of these areas, one of the learning methods I see overlooked or misunderstood the most is books on farriery. In all the studying I have done, there are only two good book lists I have come across and no real reviews. I have however found many other farriers asking for book suggestions. 

One thing that many farriers have in common is that we typically learn best through hands-on experience rather than in a traditional classroom setting or through books. Because of that many will find jumping into the more advanced podiatry texts intimidating if there is not a sufficient base knowledge first. By organizing farrier books into an appropriate order for study we will be able to get the most out of each one. This is a project I am going to endeavor to start in this blog. 

Over several posts on this blog, I will be giving a brief review of many different books on farriery and putting together a list of books in a suggested order of reading so that each book builds upon the concepts presented in the previous books. There are of course different stages of learning that we are all in; these stages could be broken down into categories such as apprenticeship, basic/beginning farrier, seasoned farrier, and advanced/therapeutic farrier. We can also break books into different categories such as those that should be read/studied straight through and those that are best as reference books.  

We will be going through all the farrier related books in my library as well as any new ones that I add. If there is a specific book you would like to see a review of, feel free to reach out. 

Liberty Cu 5 Slim XL Nail Review

We were given a box of Liberty Cu 5 Slim XL nails to try and review. While we typically use an E-head nail instead of a city or regular head nail we do occasionally punch a fullered shoe for a city head. 

In deciding what nail to use for a particular shoe and foot there are several factors to consider:

  • Packaging
  • Consistency in size/forging 
  • Material
  • Ease of driving 
  • Clinching 
  • Size of nail shank
  • Nail fit in shoe

Packaging
As with the rest of Liberty nails these come in a nice plastic box. In this wet climate the plastic holds up much better than cardboard which falls apart due to the humidity we deal with here. 

Consistency
As with the other Liberty nails these are very consistent and clean.

Material 
This particular nail is in the Cu line so it is a steel nail coated with copper. While the copper coating is designed to be anti-microbial it is certainly not enough to cure anything. The main benefit I see with the copper is the nails don’t rust. In the wet, humid environment I am in, normal nails that are not used often will rust just sitting in the trailer.

Ease of Driving
The smooth finish of these nails combined with the stiffness of the shank made them drive very consistently and easily. 

Clinching
While some nails can be too stiff or too soft to have a nice small consistent clinch, these were a nice balance that allowed for a good consistent clinch that was easy to produce. 

Size of Shank
As a general rule, I will use a nail with the thinnest shank that I can get away with for a horse. This particular nail has a nice slim shank that will displace very little hoof wall similar to the LX50 that I would typically use. 

Nail fit
The head of this nail fit quite nicely in the keg shoes I tried it in and was very easy to punch for in a fullered handmade. 

Overall a very nice nail that I would happily use again.

2020 is over!

2020 was a hard year for the vast majority of us, and I believe most of us are hoping 2021 will be better. Many of us, including our company, have been affected by the pandemic directly through a change or loss of work or at least a change in routine. While the new year will not immediately change anything, it is always nice to have a fresh start and review the past year. At our end of the year meeting, we get to sit down and discuss how the year went, if goals were met, and what goals we have for the upcoming year. This past year of course was a bit harder, but even so, there were some bright sides to the year.

Positives:

  • Lots of continuing education from attending both the International Hoof Care Summit and the American Farrier’s Association as well as several online webinars and of course countless hours studying 
  • Kia was able to speak to farriers about marketing through an online conference hosted by the American Farriers Journal 
  • We had 2 articles in the American Farriers Journal this year
  • Business was actually fairly good most of the year as an essential worker
  • We were able to provide about $30,000 worth of discounts to our clients 
  • Neither of us have been sick with COVID-19 yet
  • We were able to make a donation to the Indiana Eventing Association in honor of each of our clients
  • We were able to upgrade our rig 
  • We passed out candy to the community on Halloween
  • Good friends helped get at least some horses done during challenging times
  • Kia began learning to trim horses, and did a great job

Challenges:

  • COVID-19
  • Clinics, competitions, and horse shows cancelled 
  • In the middle of November, I ended up with a laceration on my right hand. What I thought would be a quick 2 weeks of healing turned into a month and a half of not being able to use my hand.

I have to thank everyone for being so patient with the lapse in scheduling during this difficult time. While we always try to stay on schedule and keep horses taken care of, there are unfortunately sometimes things that happen. The good news is that we are now beginning to reschedule as I am able to get back to work in at least some capacity.

Working Wounded

Unfortunately near the end of November I ended up with a laceration on my hand that made it so I couldn’t swing a hammer or use the hand to squeeze at all. Something like this really makes you stop and appreciate how much we take for granted in being able to do daily tasks. Since it was my right hand that got hurt and I am right-handed I had to relearn how to do many things with my left hand (trying to eat with a fork was surprisingly difficult). It’s not just the trying to do things one-handed but also the rescheduling that has to take place as a farrier. There were clinics I wanted to be at which I had to miss, and most appointments had to be rescheduled. With Thanksgiving this time of year the schedule already gets a little tight because of time off for the holiday. Pushing a week and a half of appointments into another already full week is definitely not easy but unfortunately had to be done. I was thankfully able to get some horses done even while injured. There were a few appointments I was able to show up to because of extremely good horses that would stand patiently while I fumbled through trimming one-handed.

I am very thankful for the help that I received throughout the time that I was injured. 

There were appointments where I was able to get my marketing director Kia to come along to at least be able to squeeze the nippers as I guided where they went. Another fun aspect was that one of our local veterinarians, Dr. Mudd from Janssen’s, who is also an accomplished farrier in her own right, volunteered to come with me on her days off and shoe all of the horses for the day. It was great fun getting to discuss the various horses and cases throughout the day, not to mention, how often do we as farriers get to stand around and tell the vet how to shoe horses while they do the work? Other local farriers pitched in as well and got some horses done that I needed taken care of. Dion O’Brien CJF and Danvers Childs CJF both took care of horses for me. Thankfully most clients were quite understanding and patient as I’ve had to reschedule and move them around. 

As with everything in life there are always lessons to be learned from each incident. In this case there are several takeaways that several of us can learn from. First, I probably could have been a little more careful and not gotten hurt in the first place. Second, never assume auto pay is actually turned on for a bill, always check every month. Third, it’s always a good idea for a farrier to have close contacts with other farriers that can help out when there is trouble. Fourth, this is yet another good reason or benefit to have either an apprentice or a multi-farrier practice.

IFA Fall Clinic 2020

While most of our work at DFS is based around traditional trimming and shoeing techniques on sound horses, most especially english sport horses, there are times that we need to work on horses with extra special needs due to some type of pathology. When these needs arise it is imperative that we have the education and skill set required to help these horses. 

During the course of normal trimming and shoeing appointments we are constantly correcting imbalances and distortions but it generally all falls within the scope of normal maintenance for the horse. For most horses with some type of pathology we are able to forge or fabricate a steel shoe that will help solve the issue we are dealing with. Unfortunately there are times when a nail-on shoe simply won’t work for a horse, such as a white line disease case we are currently working on, in this case a glue on shoe may be the best option. 

Since we don’t use glue on shoes on a daily basis it is crucial to pursue continuing education so we can be ready for whatever therapeutic situation we find. Thankfully, we were just able to go to yet another clinic on glue on shoes for therapeutic purposes. The clinician, Dr. Craig Lesser, is both a farrier and veterinarian at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky. Dr. Lesser specializes in lameness cases and was able to share a lot of great information and techniques.  

The clinic was held over two days. The first day was a mix of lecture and demonstration with the second day being hands on. During the hands on we discussed and worked with both direct and indirect glue on shoes. This will enable us to continue to better serve our clients by having yet another tool available for us to use for keeping horses sound.

Are those extra costs necessary?

“Are you sure you aren’t upset we are pulling shoes off? I can pay extra if I need to.” 

“I’m really grateful you will come out for one horse.” 

“Are you sure I don’t need to pay more since there are less horses now?”

“I hope you are charging enough for the extra time you spent.”

“Are you sure that doesn’t cost more?” 

“I’m so sorry I had to reschedule, I can still pay today if you need me to.”

I’ve received several questions and comments lately on pricing or scheduling that seem to come up due to people’s experience with other farriers in the past. If you have been in the horse world for a significant amount of time, then you have probably at least heard of stories of farriers being upset because of a cancellation or having less work to do at a barn than they used to or adding pads or glue on shoes simply because they cost more. At one time before going to shoeing school myself, I listened to a farrier rant that people were taking food from his children by deciding to pull shoes off for the winter. At DFS we never want to let finances get in the way of the needs of the horse or owner. Based on our core values and mission statement, we have policies in place to take away the stress of daily income numbers.

At DFS, our farriers aren’t paid based on how many horses are done each day. This means there is no incentive to rush and work on too many horses, or have clients spend more money than is necessary. With farriers being paid a monthly salary, it takes away the personal stress of what is done each day. From a business standpoint, we don’t often look at the details of how profitable a particular horse is, but rather we simply run our schedule to make sure we stay within a particular income/expense budget per week and month. By building margin into the business we are able to not worry about a slow day or even week, let alone what is done at each stop. We also try to take away the stress of overwork that is so common among farriers by not overscheduling. While there are some busy days and slow days, overall we strive to only do a certain number of horses each day so that we are physically ok. 

To help stay within our budget for both time and money as well as keep our service for issues like lost shoes reasonable, we maintain a fairly small working radius. By never traveling past 45 minutes from the shop and keeping most clients within 30 minutes, it saves us time and money but also allows us to be close enough to most clients to have a lost shoe on within 24 hours. 

Because of how we budget time and cost, we have also been able to offer a discount program for our loyal clients, it also means there are times we are able to discount much of our specialty work such as pads, studs, bar shoes, time spent with the veterinarian and the like. At the time of this writing we have been able to discount roughly $15,000 of work for our clients. 

With our commitment to care for both you and your horse, you can be rest assured that we will won’t make hoof care decisions based on making more money and there will never be hard feelings about someone choosing to use a different farrier. We want what is best for each horse and client we work with.

Rider Influence on Hoof Shape and Soundness

Of the many factors that influence hoof shape and distortion, one of those is how the horse loads the foot. The hoof is what we refer to as viscoelastic, meaning that it has properties that are both elastic and plastic. When an elastic structure is deformed it will return to its original shape, plastic deformation however does not return to its original shape. The hoof being viscoelastic generally has elastic properties and will deform then return to its original shape during each stride. However the hoof will deform more permanently under constant stress of being unbalanced or bearing weight unevenly. 

While we often talk about the effect of conformation or the work performed by the farrier we should also take into account the effect a rider can have on the stresses placed on a hoof. As riders we greatly influence the way our horses move, for better or worse. Due to the positioning of the saddle on the longissimus dorsi muscle the slightest weight shift by the rider can have a great impact on how the hind legs of the horse move and bear weight. In many disciplines the rider will encourage the horse into self-collection, this places more of the horse’s weight onto the hind limbs while also shifting how that weight is distributed over each foot as the horse compensates. As riders the movements we ask the horse to perform and how they perform them will influence both how the horse moves at that moment as well as how they will move in the future and how each muscle develops. This change in the horse’s musculature and movement will then have a great impact on the shape of the hoof. By ensuring the horse’s muscular development and movements are symmetrical the rider can influence the horse to have a nicer foot. If however the horse is allowed to move improperly or develop one side more than the other the result will be mismatched feet and possibly eventual lameness. 

Choosing a Farrier Rig

This spring we were able to purchase a new trailer from Stonewell Bodies in New York. There are many different variations of farrier rigs to choose from, so what considerations go into choosing what to buy or build? It seems the list of considerations is nearly limitless, with certain basic types of rigs being more popular in different areas. Here in the US, heavy trucks or trailers are popular, while in the UK there are far more small vans, in some areas it is light pickups like a ranger or tacoma. 

Some of the considerations: 

  • Mileage driven per day
  • Fuel economy 
  • Type and condition of roads traveled 
  • Ease of access to properties 
  • Typical weather conditions
  • Amount and type of equipment needed
  • Preference of driver
  • Type of work typically done
  • Supplies needed per day
  • Client expectations
  • Efficiency for work 
  • Convenience 
  • Height of farrier
  • Single or multi farrier practice 
  • Maintenance schedule 

While this new trailer is a shiny custom built model we have used several different rigs over the years that were very efficient. For the first two years out of school I used a Ford Ranger that didn’t even have a cap on it. Just a forge, anvil and some bar stock in the back. Good on fuel mileage but not so much fun in the rain. Next was a Dodge 2500 with a cap on it which went though a couple different configurations. This was much better as everything was out of the rain and permanently mounted along with a swing out anvil for the second configuration. Third was a white two horse trailer that was stripped out and converted. This was by far the most time efficient system and the best in adverse weather since everything stayed in place and you simply had to walk in and start working. This new Stonewell trailer will hopefully be the last for us to buy as it will be a simple matter of replacing tow vehicles as needed from now on. 

For DFS we selected the trailer we did for several reasons. Being able to have the trailer custom built allowed it to be set up efficiently for the type of work we do, as well as the process and order we do it in. The trailer is also small enough and light enough that we will be able to downsize to a more fuel efficient truck in the near future. The ability to use the trailer with a variety of tow vehicles also allows us to perform maintenance on a truck without missing a day of work.

Marketing, Its Not Just For New Farriers

For many farriers when you mention marketing they think of advertising. A little over a decade ago as DFS was being established, it was commonly thought and taught by many of the farriers around this area that as long as you did good work and showed up on time then you would have all the customers you could ever need. Of course for a farrier just starting out, you do have to get your name out there so the phone can ring. Unfortunately, there was and in many cases still is, a general thought that any farrier that utilizes marketing or advertising must not be a very good farrier. 

Ten years ago in this area of northern Indianapolis there were many large barns as well as a seemingly unlimited number of private farms. A nice mix of foxhunters, jumpers, eventers, dressage, and general pleasure horses kept many farriers busy. At the time it seemed like that would never change, but now with the continued expansion of housing many of the older large barns have been sold to developers and the hunt club has closed. There are still plenty of horses in the general area however the location is starting to shift. It is currently hard to say where the largest population of horses/horse owners will end up but it certainly won’t be the same. 

For some of the long established farriers this has presented a problem of losing a lot of work they were used to having in these large barns that are now closed. While a farrier in the past could have a full schedule of barns within a half hour diameter and maybe only need to go to one or two barns a day that is quickly changing. 

So, is marketing just for new farriers? I think it would be helpful first to consider what we mean by marketing. When we talk about marketing we are not just talking about advertising to get new clients. While gaining new clients can be a part of marketing it is not everything. A major part of marketing is guiding the perception of your business that the public has. Of course if the public has a good perception of our company then that can easily be leveraged to gain new clients if needed. For established farriers, many times we only need to maintain a good reputation and keep ourselves foremost in the minds of our clients, however there will always come a time for any long established farrier when there will be turnover in clientele, so we also need to be ready to attract and accept new clients. 

With this different way of thinking about marketing combined with the current equine market in this area, I would suggest that even the most established farrier should be keeping up with at least basic modern business marketing practices such as a company facebook page and possibly a website.

Diamond Hoof Knife Review

Recently we won a Diamond hoof knife in a drawing held by Farrier Product Distribution. Since it is not one that we typically use, we figured it would be a good first product review. The knife that was sent to us was the right hand drop blade hoof knife (DROPR). 

Observations as the knife was unpackaged:

  • The blade is fairly narrow 
  • The hook at the end of the blade is quite long 
  • The fitment of blade to handle is rather poor
  • The handle is comfortable 
  • The blade angle is steep with the rest of the blade being left thick
  • The drop loop is not a graceful curve, but has a bit of an angle at the bottom of the drop
  • The blade is coated in some kind of black anti-rust coating. 

I spent a day using the hoof knife as it came out of the package. While I am not typically a huge fan of a drop loop knife due to the type of feet I generally work on, it didn’t take long to get used to it. The handle was quite comfortable (probably the best part of the knife). It was not however as sharp as I would like right out of the box. It scraped more than cut for the first several horses I used it with. After a day of using the knife straight out of the box, I decided to modify it and try again. I ground the hook of the knife down somewhat and re-profiled and sharpened the blade so that the bevel was a smooth transition into the spine. Trying the modified knife on the second day, it was a much nicer cut and feel.  

In summary, with some modifications this could be a decent knife to use, especially for a cheaper backup knife or for a student or part-time farrier. The narrowness of the blade would lend to it wearing out rather quickly for a full-time farrier that is sharpening a knife everyday and just is not as nice and refined as the handmade hoof knives most full-time farriers generally use. In this case the Diamond hoof knife will stay in a toolbox in one of the trucks just in case a spare is needed.

Low Foot Case Study

Before pictures from a horse with a club foot (not the case study horse)

While it would be nice if every horse had perfect feet, we all know that is not the case. Unfortunately, there are many issues with horses’ hooves and conformation, one of them being upright or club feet. There are times these two terms are used interchangeably; however, they describe very different conditions. We will explore upright and club feet in later blog posts but for this post we want to explore a common issue with both conditions – the opposing limb. 

When a horse has an issue such as a club foot or any unilateral condition that results in chronic low grade pain or discomfort, they will have a tendency to overload the opposing limb. On a few horses this does not become much of a problem; however, for many horses as the opposite limb is overloaded. Over time it will generally result in the horn of the hoof being compressed and crushed at the heel. Eventually the hoof will end up with a negative palmar angle. While most when faced with a club foot or similar issue will almost exclusively focus on that issue, I have found that if managed well, the club foot will not be the issue that makes the horse the most lame, rather it will be the “good” foot that ends up being the largest problem in the long run. 

PLR shoe and rim wedge pad
After the shoe was pulled, the heels not able to touch the ground due to the frog prolapsing below the plane of the foot

The case study presented in this blog was first presented when the horse moved back to Indiana from Texas. It had been treated for a club foot that was due to contraction deep flexor muscle and tendon. The horse had been fitted with wedge pads and aluminium PLR shoes. When first presented the horse was as sound as it had been for some time but was certainly not perfect. Fortunately we were able to shoe at a local vet clinic so that the horse could be examined and before, during, and after radiographs could be taken. The club foot was already being managed well so not many changes were made, though the shoe was replaced with a handmade. 

On the low foot, the vet and I were concerned about the overloading especially as the frog was displacing distally to the point the heels of the foot no longer touched the ground when the horse was barefoot. If the horse was left like it was the foot would continue to displace and become more crushed. With the foot now having a negative palmar angle, it meant it would be more susceptible to tendon, ligament, and navicular problems. We decided that supporting the foot utilizing the frog would be the best solution in this case. A steel heartbar was used; however, due to the prolapsed nature of the frog, a wedge rim pad was used to bring the shoe to the same plane as the frog. 

There are several options to consider using when we need to support a hoof using the frog and/or sole. Typical effective options include but are not limited to: heartbar shoes, pour in pads, impression material, or some combination of the above. In a later blog post we will discuss the different properties of these materials. 

After a couple shoeings in the new package we were able to remove the wedge pads from the heartbar as the frog was back to being on a normal plane with the rest of the foot and the heels were back to being much stronger. While not totally ideal, the foot is in a much better condition and the horse is more comfortable now than before. The goal will be that the foot becomes strong enough to not need quite as much support. 

At this point the horse is more comfortable than it has been in the past. In summary, by not neglecting to support the opposing limb on a horse with a chronic unilateral condition such as clubfoot, we can keep the horse sound for longer and hopefully lessen the chance of catastrophic injury due to a crushed heels/broken back axis. 

Heartbar with rim wedge pad
Foot without a shoe after changing to not needing the wedge