The following article is based on Dr. Scott Fleming and Grant Moon's presentation at the 2019 International Hoof-Care Summit. To watch the presentation, click here.

Gimmicks and fads never last. What will always remain is a process of thought based in the basics of farriery. Grant Moon calls this being a thinking farrier — always evaluating what one sees and does when working with a horse. 

This thought process yields a system that is repeatable and applied to every horse. For the performance horses he works with, Moon calls this goal “shoeing in the normal zone.” He shared a survey of his process at the 2019 International Hoof-Care Summit during the Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center Friday Lunchtime Panel.

Building a Picture

It is important to have a repeatable process of evaluation before you work with a horse. Moon likes to begin with a static evaluation. During this, it isn’t just the observations he notes regarding the horse’s conformation or changes in the hoof capsule, but he also wants to gather overall information from the client, especially if he has never previously shod the horse.

“I’m going to ask how long the shoes have been on, if I haven’t shod the horse before, because that can be really indicative of some of the problems the horse has,” he says. “My shoeing looks good at 4 weeks, but at 12 weeks, it’s not so pretty.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Time is money, but you must swiftly conduct static and dynamic evaluations of horses.
  • An important part to being a proactive farrier is your ability to utilize forging to benefit the horse through the entire cycle.
  • Collect as much information as possible on factors that will influence your shoeing choices for the individual horse.

He also wants a static evaluation, noting that farriers often operate under time constraints, so this process is more ideal. He quickly watches the horse at a trot and under saddle with rider. Is the horse sound? What does the leg flight look like? How does each foot land and load? Client input also is critical in this evaluation.

Moon continues beyond sight observations. He uses California farrier Don Birdsall’s technique of coronary band graphing to recognize hoof distortion. A view of this technique is shown in 
Figure 1. Moon doesn’t use this as a physical exercise so much as a visualization during his evaluation.

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This shows an example of coronary band graph, a technique taught to Grant Moon by Don Birdsall to see hoof distortion.  Photos: Grant Moon

“When I was younger, I viewed feet as either high on the inside or high on the outside,” he says. “What I’ve learned is we can have diagonal imbalance. For me, I’m visualizing coronary band graphing as I walk up to the horse.”

Hoof mapping has long served as a guide to help normalize trimming or to position shoeing, but is not a rule. 

“Foot mapping is a great tool, but has inaccuracy,” he notes. “We cannot get it 100% right. There are distortions, stretching the white line, stretching of the lamina that will move the bone inside the hoof capsule.”


See how Grant Moon uses the coronary band graphing to recognize hoof distortion at

Radiographs certainly can be helpful ­— if the farrier knows how to read and apply to the hoof-care plan. Like other farriers, Moon uses these to determine where he’s going with his trim and positioning his shoe. He adds that it is critical to get post-trimming/shoeing X-rays (Figure 2). Pre-shoeing radiographs help build the plan, but the post-shoeing radiographs help determine whether that plan was correct. Without post-shoeing X-rays, how do you know whether you accomplished what you set out to do? 

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A before and after radiographic view of shoeing, which is crucial in monitoring a successful shoeing plan.

Moon finds reading shoe wear isn’t always a reliable guide. He compares horseshoe wear to his own feet.

“If I buy and wear a new pair of shoes, they don’t wear evenly over time,” he notes. “I wear them into what I like. But it also gets to the point where I wear them so much, I wish I’d stop wearing them because my ankles start hurting. I wear them past comfortable. Some abnormal can be good, but it can turn into the negative zone also. It’s a hard thing to look at.”

Examination of external landmarks are of course critical in evaluation. Moon stresses the importance of considering your trim ratio. This will have an effect on the palmar/plantar angles.

My shoeing looks good at 4 weeks, but at 12 weeks, it’s not so pretty …

“If we’ve hoof mapped, we’ve drawn a vertical line into the foot for the center of rotation (COR),” he says. “If we want that to be vertical after, we’d have to have a 1:1 trim ratio so the bottom of the foot is still flat and the line still floats up. Trim ratios are important for us to think about.” 

Building a Plan

This assessment leads to the trimming plan. Moon says his thinking is always on minimizing distortion. Continually question what you are looking at and what you want to accomplish. Trim on all planes that you see. 

As you build your trimming plan, don’t obsess on trimming flat. As Moon notes, be proactive in thinking of the cycle the horse is on.

“I have horses where I floated the medial heel every time I trimmed them,” he says. “Because every time I come back because of a conformation defect, they’re starting to shunt the heel. I would slightly float the heel. Then in 2 weeks, it would be balanced. In 4 weeks, it would be back out of balance, but it didn’t spend as much time out of balance. A flat trim is not always ideal.”

If a shoe is needed, this evaluation should also lead into the plan and selection of an appropriate device. The considerations remain consistent, including toe fit, branch fit, heel length, and features and modifications of the shoe. The shoeing plan, much like everything leading up to it in your evaluation, must be crafted for the individual.

“For example, our environment or our rider might dictate that we have to shoe with less length,” Moon notes. “We’ve got to think about all those things as we’re going along for safe shoeing.

“Many of your horses probably need some sort of help,” he says. “It’s when we look at that horse that’s 4 years old, he’s got the long pasterns, he’s got a rounder foot. By the time he’s 8 years and he’s pounded down the road, he’s going to have crushed heels, collapsed feet and negative palmar angle. Why wasn’t the arch support provided earlier? Why wait until it’s broken?”

Shoeing and forging skill are areas that separate the proactive from the reactive farrier for Moon. It is the ability to foresee the issues from the history and thorough evaluation of the horse. Some of the considerations include the horse’s job, surface material, physical demands, age, rider ability, shoeing interval and where the horse lives. These are decisions that will best help the horse and its performance. Will you rocker or roll the toe? Will you use clips? If so, how many and where? There are many considerations to review, and these decisions in accordance to the individual foot must be made swiftly when working with the horse.

It is important to understand the mechanics you place in the shoe. The decision that is good for the leg may not be entirely appropriate for the foot and further material or product is needed.

“For me, extension means fitting outside the normal,” he says. “It might be outside the side of the foot, it might be behind the foot. Support means more surface area. A shoe could be wider, perhaps all the way around, or wider on one side. It might be a support and an extension shoe (Figure 3)

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Modifications determined for a shoeing plan should be an outcome from analysis of the horse. Extension for Moon means going beyond normal and support means wider than normal, delivering more surface area. He provides this shoe as an example of both.

These considerations illustrate the process that Moon takes with each horse. The goal is to make the best decision based on these factors for the individual.

“Not all is predictable in our industry,” he says. “We’ve got to be ready for the unpredictable. I’m always trying to be a thinking farrier. Everything I do is for decision and it has to have an effect.”

Why is a Horseshoe Considered Lucky?

Many theories exist explaining the origin of the lucky horseshoe superstition. Through his work, Grant Moon has traveled the world. No matter where he goes, the horseshoe remains a symbol of luck.

Moon’s preferred theory is that hundreds of years ago, across Europe and North America, the horse was a mode of transportation. Yet, the majority of peasants would not have had access to a horse.

“I wouldn’t have had enough money for a horse or wagon,” he says. “If I had found a horseshoe, I would have found a valuable material, I would have found something I could make into a tool or a weapon. The peasants, when they found a horseshoe, they were lucky.”


May/June 2019 Issue Contents