Blake Brown stresses the importance of learning how to read a horse’s conformation, particularly when dealing with adult horses.
“A mature horse’s conformation doesn’t change,” says the retired California farrier and current Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center clinician. “We need to study the horse’s conformation to understand how the foot loads and what that means for how the hoof grows.”
“Even if a base-narrow horse is shod perfectly, it will grow more medial wall,” he says. “That tells you to adjust your trim accordingly. If you keep trimming the hoof wall evenly all the way around, the next time it will be twice as long inside and four appointments down the road, you’ll have a quarter crack. That’s the kind of thing that causes lameness issues.”
Base-narrow horses, for instance, will grow more medial wall, because their stance places more weight on the lateral hoof wall. Brown says you can’t change that, but you must take it into account.
Brown says the proper approach in a case like that may involve suggesting more frequent trims to an owner. He says trimming every 30 days will be more appropriate than every 6 or 8 weeks. The trim might also be adjusted to rasp the medial side while leaving the lateral side of the hoof wall virtually untouched.
“If you are shoeing the horse, fit it fuller on the outside,” he advises. “The tighter you make the shoe, the easier it will be for the foot to flare and roll over the edge of the shoe.”
Brown says his normal rule of thumb with such cases is to double the amount of room he would leave for expansion on the flare side when shoeing for a horse with a more balanced stance.
He believes it’s even more important to look at the conformation when you’re looking at a recurring problem such as a flare. Flares are more than unsightly. They stretch the white line, which can lead to separations that provide the pathways for bacterial infections that can lead to white line disease.
Brown has found that most often, actually addressing a flared hoof involves paying attention to the hoof wall or heel on the opposite side of the flare.