Bryan Baire, owner of Palmetto Farrier Service in York, S.C., and I met for breakfast at a little restaurant in York, a short distance from his home. Baire has been shoeing horses for a little over 3 years and is certified with the American Farrier’s Association and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers. We talked about the plans for the day and then headed out to his client’s barn, which was also in York.
We were met by the owner of Equisport Stables, Cyndi Jones, along with Beth Rebels, the owner of a nice Thoroughbred mare. Rebels’ mare, Cappy, has had some ongoing lameness issues and Baire thought it would be a good case to review. It also proved to be one that demonstrated the importance of taking a horse’s conformation into consideration when providing hoof care.
I have an evaluation sheet that I use when I am doing consultations on horses. With the evaluation sheet I am able to review the horse’s conformation and note any irregularities that a horse may have so that those will be addressed during the trimming and shoeing of a horse.
My experience at working with nothing but lame horses over the past 28 years has shown me that when the horse’s conformation faults are recognized and addressed in trimming, then supported with a proper-sized and properly fitted shoe, those lamenesses disappear.
The first thing that was noted was the mare had a significant high-low syndrome. When she grazed, she placed her right front foot forward and her left front rearward.
This is something that we see regularly in today’s horses. When it is not addressed with proper trimming and shoeing, I believe it is the No. 1 cause of lameness in horses.
We also noted a couple of other conformation issues. The mare had a valgus knee on the left front and was bench-kneed on the right front.
Her front toes were slightly toed-in. Evidently her conformation issues had not been addressed when she was very young. When a foal has knees like these, nature tries to bring the feet in under the load from above. We made notes to address this when we fitted the shoes.
The mare was slightly base-narrow behind, with a valgus hock on the left rear leg (the diagonal leg to the one she always places forward when eating). This is common with horses that have a high-low syndrome and should be addressed when trimming and shoeing.
You will notice on a horse with a high-low syndrome that the hoof angle on this rear foot will always be lower than on the other rear foot.
Tale Of the Tape
Baire trimmed the front feet and we took some measurements of them. These included angles and length. We recorded these to refer to for future shoeings.
Once the fronts were trimmed, we took a ruler and measured across the hoof to find the widest part of the hoof. We drew a line across the hoof at the widest part, and then measured from the toe to the widest part of the hoof.
We recorded that figure and then measured from the widest part of the hoof to where Baire had trimmed the heels of the hoof back to the widest part of the frog. We wrote that measurement down as well.
When we compared the measurements for each foot, it was plain to see that the right front foot — the low one — had much more toe located forward of the widest part of the hoof than the left front foot — the more upright foot.
On that right foot, the distance from the widest part of the foot to the toe was 1 inch more than the distance from the widest part of the foot to the heels. This is due to the horse continually leaning back on the heels when placing the foot forward to eat. It had literally pushed the whole hoof capsule forward, away from the center of rotation of the leg above, causing a thickened dorsal hoof wall as well. The left front foot was nowhere near as bad.
Both front feet still had low angles after being trimmed, so we knew we were going to need to elevate the heels. We also wanted to re-establish the frog as part of a support system, so we used Castle Plastics wedged frog support pads.
The right front took a size 3 shoe with a squared toe in order to get the breakover set back so that the distances from the widest part of the hoof to the toes and heels would be the same.
On the left front, we needed a size 2 shoe. We simply needed to rocker the toe on the left shoe to get our breakover in proper position.
Because the horse’s front feet were slightly toed-in, we used a bit more expansion than normal on the lateral branches from the widest part of the feet back to the heels. Horses with toe-in conformation will always grow more medial wall between shoeings. The tighter the shoe is fit to the lateral wall, the easier it is for the foot to roll to the lateral side causing injury. The added room for expansion laterally provides support for this conformation issue.
Help For The Back End
The rear feet were unshod and we had very little to work with. The medial heels were run under and slightly contracted. The left rear, as described earlier, was the worst. The angles were low from wear, so Baire brought the heels back to the widest part of the frog. We then took a pair of size 2 Delta Challenger TS 8s and squared the toes to help the breakover. We also extended the heels of the shoe to the bulbs of the heels for support.
Baire fitted the medial branches full to help support the underrun and collapsed heels. He fitted them so that if you dropped a straight line off the medial coronet band, it would touch the ground surface of the shoe.
Baire safed the weight-bearing surface of the branches, as well as the ground surface of the medial branches. This was to keep Cappy from pulling the shoes. This shoeing job brought the angles and support to the rear legs that the horse needed.
Cyndi Jones, the stable owner placed a pizza order since we hadn’t stopped for lunch, and Cappy’s owner, Beth Rebels, went to pick it up as we were finishing up the shoeing.
While we waited, we reviewed a 3-month-old foal with an angular limb deformity — a valgus left front knee — and trimmed the foal’s feet to aid in straightening the knee.
Afterward, I received this email from Baire.
“I had a great day with the Delta Mustad’s ‘Day with a Clinician’ educational program. The day was very valuable with lots of good information learned from Mr. Brown. The horses we worked on will certainly benefit from the day and I will continue to use what I learned to help other horses.”
I also heard from Cappy’s owner following the next shoeing. She wrote:
“Cappy is doing really well. Bryan just came to shoe her this past Tuesday and he commented that her right front foot is significantly improved. I can’t thank you enough for taking your time to help Cappy!”