Shoeing a horse for endurance riding is an attempt to provide support, protection and traction. Yet, the additional weight and length of the shoe that’s necessary to accomplish this disrupts normalcy for the horse. It also has an effect on wear and the ability of the toe to accommodate the way the horse moves.
“We’re disrupting all sorts of things,” says Vacaville, Calif., farrier Kirk Adkins. “It’s important for me to look at the way I’m disrupting the foot and try to minimize the effect of the horseshoe.”
There are specific things that Adkins looks for before beginning a new shoeing cycle.
“At the end of 6 weeks, I want a horseshoe that isn’t pulling the toe forward,” he says. “I also want something underneath the heels at the back, because the horse’s foot grows perpendicular to the coronary band. That pushes the shoe forward, away from the base of support of the fetlock. So, now we have additional leverage on the deep digital flexor and suspensory tendons. That’s why it’s very important for me to keep plenty of support behind the natural foot.”
Trimming For The Club Foot
Adkins trims a horse so that the entire perimeter border of the coffin bone is even with the ground, yet it’s not always possible — particularly with a club-footed horse.
“A lot of these long-toe, low-heel horses will have a negative plane,” says Adkins, who has been shoeing endurance horses since 1975. “The heel portion of the coffin bone is below the toe and I can’t achieve a planed coffin bone with the trim alone.”
To help accommodate that, he modifies the shoe.
“I aggressively set the breakover back and use a bar shoe to engage the back half of the foot,” he explains. “If necessary, a low wedge bar pad can be applied to help relieve the negative angle of P3.
“Engaging the frog may also help. There are a variety of ways to accomplish that, such as using heart bars or polymer fill materials. I tend to not use a wedged heel shoe since this focuses the pressure on the weak heels. It lifts the frog from the ground and could promote further collapse of the heel area.”
It’s important for a farrier to recognize how posture and muscle changes affect balance of the feet. Poor posture by both the rider and the horse lead to imbalance in the whole horse and the hooves.
“Posture is the No. 1 thing that I have to deal with when shoeing sport horses of any type,” says Burnsville, N.C., farrier Jeff Pauley. “There are very few really good, athletic riders. When horses get sore backs, they change their postures in the way they stand. This causes changes in the hoof capsule.”
It’s a good idea to establish relationships with veterinarians, acupuncturists and massage therapists to help treat the effects of poor posture.
“They can make our job easier,” he says.
Poor posture isn’t the only culprit when it comes to back pain.
“I’ve found it beneficial to communicate to horse owners and/or trainers changes that are happening in the hoof,” says Pauley, who has been shoeing endurance horses since 1999. “An example is if the horse has back pain from an ill-fitting saddle. The horse will compensate and an imbalance will appear in the hoof capsule. If the back pain isn’t recognized, communicated and resolved, the hoof imbalance can’t be corrected.”