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. 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.

2. 2020 Farriers Week: Farriers Spotlight

Farriers Week 2020

Farriers work hard year-round to provide quality hoof care for horses worldwide. To honor their dedication and service, American Farriers Journal created Farriers Week. In its 21st year, Farriers Week is an opportunity to recognize farriers for their contributions to the equine industry.

American Farriers Journal started the "Farriers Spotlight" in 2012, which is an online-exclusive compilation dedicated to showcasing some of the many farriers in the industry. The farrier tributes featured here were either submitted to us by farriers who want to thank their mentors and instructors or members of the equine community who want to express their gratitude to the farriers who care for their horses.

3. 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.

4. How Hind End Geometry Improves Performance and Balance


Car manufacturers know placing the power at the rear of the vehicle allows for better balance. Nearly all race cars are rear-wheel drive so that when accelerating from a stop, the vehicle’s weight transfers to the back of the car and provides increased traction.

In many respects, the horse is the race car of the animal kingdom, a rear-view drive mammal with its hind end functioning as a piston, says Steve Kraus, head of Farrier Services and Senior Lecturer of Large Animal Surgery at Cornell University.

The certified journeyman farrier points to draft horses as proof. Heavy horses needed to stay sound so they could do draft-type work and buyers selected horses based on hocks that pointed toward each other with parallel cannon bones and a slight toe-out. This configuration places the lateral side of the hind hooves under the plumb line that is dropped from the lateral point of the hips to the ground.

5. 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.

6. Maryland Farrier’s Toe Length Protocol Keeps Show Horses in Top Form


The most important tool of the farrier trade is the mind’s eye. Developing a highly trained eye is the key to consistently bringing horses’ feet to their proper parameters. There are three tools that, if used correctly, have the potential to not only speed up the development process, they can also confirm everything your eye is telling you, regardless of skill set.

After more than 4 decades of using dividers, the Ward & Story Hoof Protractor and a tape measure, my findings have been consistent. These tools are reliable and won’t lie. The dividers and hoof protractor are mainly used to transfer toe length and angle to the opposing foot. The hoof protractor is also used to confirm a flat foot surface. Keep in mind, you have to be consistent with the protractor. It must be set firmly on the foot in the exact position each time. An eye centering aid that is incorporated into the protractor that aligns with the point of the frog works well. Also, keep in mind in regard to angle, we know that most front feet do not match. However, the protractor can at least point out how much of a difference there is, allowing for a happy medium to be reached.

The tape measure will take every bit of guesswork out of the final trimmed toe length.

7. Think Again Before Trimming a Negative Palmar Angle Foot


This year marks my 55th year of shoeing horses. Techniques have changed several times throughout that career based on subjective evaluation and misleading science. We now live in the age of information (and misinformation), and those who force their opinions on our farriery practices are expanding. Throw in a measure of “how-to” by owners and veterinarians who don’t shoe horses for a living, yet feel the need to tell us how to do it anyway. Fortunately, knowledge will help weed out the stupid stuff.

The autonomy that we should have to practice our craft is based on our experiences, skill and education. Actual decisions of normal hoof-care standards and the necessary techniques to address gait problems or lameness issues mediated by farriery should be left in the hands of the farrier.

Yes, input from other professionals involved with the case should be considered. However, the decision should be left with the farrier because that is the professional who will be the ultimate responsible party for those decisions.

8. 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.

9. Dealing With Thin-Soled Horses

The sole is the guardian that shields the sensitive structures of the hoof from contact with the outside world. Acting as the primary barrier against ground surface trauma, it is designed to handle concussion naturally; however, it seems that this once efficient protector has become one of the most abused structures of a horse's anatomy.

While the sole itself can grow quickly, it is the formation of callous that creates the necessary cushioning effect and that develops slowly.

Using healthy hooves from domestic horses as the standard, sole thickness normally is about 3/8 inch, with a uniformed callous extending to the underside of the lateral cartilages and the coffin bone.

Seen in a standing horse, a naturally shaped hoof would also have an arch to reflect the coffin bone's position at the front half of the foot, with the lateral cartilages forming the underpinning for the back half. This type of configuration allows for flexibility of movement, which enables the foot to effectively dissipate the shock of impact. And, while a stone bruise can happen as quickly as stepping on a rock, the amount of force placed on a thin-soled foot will have a direct effect on its susceptibility to harmful trauma in general.

10. Pricing For Success

What can you charge?

It’s a question that farriers commonly ask and one that Adam Wynbrandt hears often. His re­sponse?

“I tell them, ‘Well, no, the question is, what do you need to charge?’” says Wynbrandt, who has 2 decades of farriery experience and owns The Horse­shoe Barn in Sacramento, Calif.