There are several steps Texas farrier Chad Chance goes through when evaluating a horse prior to sliding plate selection.

"Reining horses are chosen a high percentage of the time on pedigree, however, conformation also plays a key role in these equine athletes," he explains. "Developing an eye and the skills to evaluate reining horses is one of the first things a farrier should do."

Here are some steps he suggests:

  • Get behind the athlete and look to see if it is cow-hocked or bow-legged.
  • Then, from the side, look to see if the athlete is sickle-hocked, post-legged, balanced or has a good set to the hock. Is the athlete high-hocked or weak in the gaskin?
  • Look to see if the hoof capsule is at a high or low angle. Also look from the front of the athlete to evaluate the thoracic limb.
  • Look to see if it is toed-out or toed-in. 
  • Also look at the balance of the front hoof capsules to help identify what style of shoe you need on the front feet. You’re looking for overall balance and identifying conformational deviations that can be corrected.

"In addition to the conformation evaluation, I always take into consideration the horse’s occupation," he says. "That might sound strange, but I think its important for a farrier to determine if this horse is going to be ridden by an amateur and just go around the pen, or be trained at a high level for competitions.

"I also always want to find out from the trainer his of her objectives for this particular horse. I want to know how far along the horse is in its training and what kind of footing that the horse will be stopping on. These are critical in determining the size of sliding plate to use."

For Chance, the standard shoe size is 1/4-by-1 inch and the length will vary according to foot size. From there, he uses all the information from the evaluation process to determine if he should use a larger or smaller shoe.

The sliding plates that he uses range from 3/4 inches to 1 1/2 inches wide, with the size increasing in 1/4-inch increments. He finds that reining athletes that are deep into their training might need a 1 1/4-inch to even a 1 1/2-inch section.

"Young prospects will usually get a 3/4-inch section," he says. "However, if the young athlete is mature and strong, I might start with a 1-inch sliding plate. If the ground does not have a good clay base, you will want to think about a wider-webbed plate."

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