Sammy Pittman blends his work as a farrier and veterinarian with his knowledge of farrier practices to help horses stay comfortable on the biomechanical level.
One way that he accomplishes this goal, helps improve life quality and helps horses become sound is by implementing a rocker shoe. This is something that Pittman, owner of Innovative Equine Podiatry and Veterinary Services in Collinsville, Texas, believes every farrier should be able to utilize.
Although perfecting the rocker trim can take years of experience, Pittman shares tips on his go-to for lameness cases. He provided this insight at the 2020 International Hoof-Care Summit.
First, Pittman uses his hoof knife, standing almost straight up, to remove the crumbly part of the foot until it feels waxy on the wall side. This is his depth gauge. Seeing how much he can take off of the wall side helps him ensure that he does not get too tight underneath the tip of the coffin bone.
Next, he rasps the toe into a gentle rocker back to the middle of the foot.
Then he picks up the foot, rasps the heels to rocker the heel back to the widest part of the frog.
Next, take the front and back and blend them. This creates a smooth radius. The goal is to have a gentle roll from toe to heel, without a lot of sharp curves and edges.
After completing the trim, he moves on to the shoe.
Pittman notes that most of the mass will be in the heel, so focus most of the rocker there. If you try to rocker directly in the middle of the foot where you want it, you will end up with a lot of rocker in the front part of the foot and nothing in the back.
When you rocker the shoe, the branches will want to roll up on the inside and create sole pressure. You must forge the branches back down. The goal, as previously mentioned, is to have a smooth, gentle roll on your trim. This will make the shoe easier to fit.
The lateral view of a rocker trim
and wedge shoe with positive
pressure frog plate.
The solar view of a rocker trim and
wedge shoe with positive pressure
When applying a rocker shoe, it is important to keep an open line of communication with the horse owner or agent and to closely follow their progress. After the appointment, the horse should be put into a rehabilitation program. It should not be put back into heavy activity. The horse still will be sore, although some immediate improvement can take place. It should be clearly outlined to the owner or trainer that the horse is to be hand walked in straight lines only, with no turnout.
Only when they are proven sound at a jog in a circle will Pittman allow his clients to get back on the horse. Turn out will be added back into the program after the horse stays sound with controlled exercise. The load will increase from there. The horse will guide what the recovery program should look like. Pittman emphasizes that the healing process cannot be rushed in these cases and will vary between horses.
Some horses that have extensive damage to the navicular apparatus might only remain sound in a rocker shoe. In the world of Western Pleasure, this could mean that championships are no longer achievable because of the change in the horses’ gait from the shoe. However, the horse still can remain comfortable and might be able to place in certain levels. The owner can then decide at this point to block the horse, keep it in a traditional flat shoe, continue with injections and hope to place in certain classes, or keep on with the rocker shoe and rehabilitation program.
Whether the problem is being used to correct a long toe lever, mule-footed horse, or another situation, it can be an extremely useful tool if utilized correctly.
- When and How to Rocker and Roll Toes in Horseshoes: Adjusting breakover can help ease stress on the limb by bringing it back into mechanical function.
- Placing Nails, Fitting Shoes: It’s not an easy decision to make and there are many differing opinions as to what works best.
- Rocker Toes Ease Breakover and Maintain Support: This horseshoe modification may also add life to your shoes.