The past year has been interesting, to say the least.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in our daily lives, it also has been one of the busiest years within the farrier industry as horse owners spent more time with their mounts. With increased business comes a greater need for hoof-care education. As the year comes to a close, American Farriers Journal editors compiled the articles that you read most from each month in 2020.

1. Effective Shoeing and Feed Strategies to Improve Poor Foot Quality in Horses

Chris Cole of Pennwoods Equine and Pennsylvania farrier Dave Billotte discuss important information relating to equine nutrition and the effect on horses' feet.

2. What Do Hoof Rings Say About a Horse’s Health?

vettec hoof rings

Stress. Although it is a natural part of life, stress can have a negative effect on health, and not just for humans.

In fact, horses can experience a variety of stressors that impact their health. Sometimes, signs of stress can show up in a horse’s feet as hoof rings. To keep horses happy and healthy, it’s crucial for horse owners to identify stressors that can lead to hoof rings, and provide proper care to hooves when needed.

3. Consider ...The Whole Working Foot

Figure 1c

Today’s researchers need to ask themselves a few basic questions:

  1. Why do we keep removing parts of the horse’s hoof that are trying to grow?
  2. When we remove the heels of the hoof, what’s going to happen to the alignment of the bony column?
  3. When one-third of the anterior hoof wall is removed, how will this affect the horse’s base of support?
  4. If we can cause the heels of the hoof to grow down instead of forward, won’t the toe back itself up?
  5. Since we know that the body is always trying to repair itself, shouldn’t we be trying to assist it or at least not interfere with this process?

A key to understanding how the equine foot functions is to first realize that the hoof was made to travel upon the earth from which the animal’s food source comes. The better the food source, the better the earth below it. The earth also provides another essential element to the well being of the animal: It is one of the best shock absorbers known to man.

4. Pricing for Trimming and Shoeing | Farriers' Horse Ownership

Nationally, the typical full-time U.S. farrier charges $131.46 for a trim and nailing on four keg shoes while part-time farriers charge an average of $94.49 for the same work.

Some 94% of U.S. farriers are not only involved with the footcare needs of numerous horses, but they and their immediate families also own horses, ride and/or compete in many different events.

5. Alfalfa and the Insulin Resistant Horse

Alfalfa can be an excellent addition to most horses’ diets, even for those that are insulin resistant (IR).

Equine nutritionist Juliet Getty often recommends feeding it because it boosts the overall protein quality of a grass-hay diet and, in general, enhances the horse’s muscle tone, immune system and overall health. Some people, though, just don’t want to feed alfalfa — they believe it causes laminitis. After years of working with horses, it appears that it may, in fact, lead to laminitis in some horses.

6. Sugardine — A Stinky, Gooey Mess That Works When Treating Wound Injuries

Sugardine is simply a paste of granulated white sugar and betadine solution or scrub mixed to a toothpaste or peanut butter consistency, and it is a remarkably safe and effective wound dressing.

It’s so simple that people can’t believe that it actually works until they see it firsthand. Then afterward, they can’t believe no one ever taught them about sugardine.

7. Radiograph Method Can Fall Short in Determining Sole Depth


When evaluating the horse’s sole before trimming, there are many things we need to consider and have the presence of mind to ask ourselves some important questions — even when our tried-and-trusted methods suggest the horse has enough sole depth.

I’ve used the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization’s (ELPO) Hoof Mapping Protocol on thousands of feet, but there was one thin-soled cadaver foot that concerned me. When I mapped this foot (Figure 1a above), it indicated that the tip of the pedal bone was at the apex of the stretch frog. I questioned whether it was correct because it looked like it was too far back.

I made sure that I was careful exfoliating the sole around the tip of the bone because it didn’t look like there was much protection there. It’s one thing if you’re going to trim the foot and put a shoe on it or some other sort of protection under it, it’s a whole other thing if you’re going to leave this particular horse barefoot.

8. Stop Your Glasses from Fogging While Wearing a Mask

Wearing a mask to protect your respiratory system while grinding, gluing, not to mention social distancing, farriers with glasses often struggle with fogged lenses. One farrier has found a way to solve the problem with materials on his rig.

“To prevent fogging while working, take impression material and apply it to the nose area,” suggests Patrick Quinn, a Frederick, Md., shoer. “Wear the mask while it hardens. It works great.”

9. Hall of Fame Farrier Dave Farley Shares 12 Points of Reference to Use When Trimming


Hall of Fame farrier Dave Farley was working for the large animal hospital at Ohio State University when he first realized the profound impact that point of view can have on evaluating the equine limb.

“One of the tools we had was a fluoroscope,” he says, noting that it had a fluorescent screen and was used for viewing X-ray images without taking or developing X-ray photographs. “It was unbelievable because it would rotate all the way around the horse’s limb.”

Up until that point, Farley had worked mostly with radiographs, which are one dimensional. Although they are a necessary diagnostic tool, they are not the “end-all-do-all,” says the Coshocton, Ohio, and Wellington, Fla., farrier.

10. Equine Reciprocating Systems: Extreme Skeletal Specializations


Most, if not all, farriers are already familiar with the chain of bones that forms the equine forelimb: scapula, humerus, radius-ulna, carpal bones, cannon bones and splints, pastern bones and coffin bone. Added to this list are the three pseudo-bones called sesamoids, which lie behind the ankle and coffin joints. Joints form where bones meet. Specializations of equine joint shape have a big impact on the way the horse’s forelimb functions. Because joint shape dictates movement capability, the architecture of the horse’s joints is the ultimate determinant and guide for forelimb reciprocation.

The basic function of the skeleton is to support the weight of the body against the downward pull of gravity, and this is emphatically the case in the horse’s forelimbs — as opposed to its hind limbs. The horse’s hind limbs are powerful, spring-loaded thrusters whose main job is to push the body upward and forward. Forelimbs are meant to receive the weight and momentum of the body as the forefeet touch ground. Impact resistance, substance and stability are of prime importance in the forelimb.

A 1,000-pound horse traveling at around 25 mph — the speed of a canter or slow gallop — generates a tremendous amount of momentum, and the faster the horse runs, the more momentum it generates. The design of the equine forelimb anticipates the stresses involved not only by structural stoutness but also by limiting wobble. This is accomplished in three ways: by flattening the ribcage, by preventing supination and by tongue-and-groove construction.