The first day of lectures and competitions kicked off Wednesday’s 44th annual American Farrier’s Association Convention in Overland Park, Kan.

A horse’s biomechanics is incredibly difficult to understand and often there are very different views that are held by individuals.

Mitch Taylor, director of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School in Richmond, Ky., prepares a hind limb of a foal before the start of a dissection at the American Farrier's Association Convention in Overland Park, Kan.

“As farriers, owners and trainers, our perspectives are based on intuitive information, some science and often simply on looks,” Ashland, Ohio, farrier Randy Luikart told attendees during his lecture, “Weight Bearing Mechanics Revisited.” “Our knowledge of mechanics shouldn’t be that variable. We regularly fail to logically and systematically assess and apply known mechanical principles, which has produced even more variation in what we consider to be true."

Simply put, the horse’s biomechanics are not all that different from a machine.

“What is the difference between a machine moving by cables or belts and one moving by muscles and tendons?” he asks rhetorically. “Muscles and tendons feel the pain and mechanics.”

The laws of physics and the corresponding math must be relied upon, rather than appearances.

“We do far too much to make feet appear to be normal or appear correct to our view,” Luikart says. “We don’t, however, spend enough time clinically testing what we’re going to do to the horse so we know exactly what is going to be better for the horse. We just assume that if it looks right, it must be right and we’re unwilling to consider the fact that it could look wrong and be right.”

Alternative Approach To Shoeing High/Low Feet

In the first lecture of the day, Brent and Brian Barrett teamed up to deliver a presentation on shoeing high/low feet.

Brent Barrett is a certified journeyman farrier and an equine veterinarian who owns Equine Podiatry Services in Ocala, Fla. He primarily focuses on laminitis, club feet, low heels and foot infections.

Brent Barrett encourages farriers to be proactive when they realize that their shoeing job isn’t up to snuff. If a shoe is applied incorrectly, take it off and nail it on correctly.

“Be your own hardest critic,” he says.

Brian Barrett is a certified journeyman farrier with a therapeutic endorsement, as well as an Associate of The Worshipful Company of Farriers. Based in Winchester, Kan., he shoes a variety of disciplines.

One of the most important tips when shoeing a horse, Brian Barrett says, is to not rely on your sight when evaluating a foot.

“A lot of times, I can feel a distortion better than I can see it,” he says. “I just run my figures around the foot. So, start doing that.”

Using Modern Materials In Your Farrier Practice

Farriery is steeped in tradition and old world knowledge. Sometimes it’s difficult to break from that tradition and use some modern products in their practice.

“When we talk about the word modern, a propane forge is the most modern some of us want to get,” says Travis Burns, lecturer and resident farrier at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. “The foundation of my practice is horses shod with normal, steel shoes.”

Yet, sometimes nailing on a shoe is not an option and it’s important to keep an open mind, he says.

“There are a lot of good reasons to use glue-on shoes,” Burns says. “It’s the inability to safely or securely nail on a shoe because there’s not enough hoof wall. Using adhesives and being innovative might help you in the end.”

When applying a glue-on shoe, one aspect is critical.

“Preparing the foot is the biggest part of gluing on a shoe,” he says. “Ninety percent of all problems with glue-on shoes goes back to prep work.”

Among those important aspects of preparing the foot include maintaining a clean, dry foot and do not fill cracks and holes in the foot with the adhesive.

“After the foot is dry, keep it in a dry environment,” Burns says. “Humidity will play a role. Get the foot as spotless as you can get it. If there are any pockets of white line disease, you need to make sure that you get glue in that area. It can seal in dirt and debris and can exacerbate the condition.”

He encourages farriers to pack those areas with a mixture of Keratex and copper sulfate.

Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage & Eventers:
Do you know the difference?

Coshocton, Ohio, farrier Dave Farley broke down the differences that exist in hunters, jumpers, dressage and eventers.

“As farriers, it’s our responsibility to know the differences,” says the president of the American Association of Professional Farriers. “We have a ton of responsibility. Owners assume farriers know how to shoe each discipline. A trainer expects a farrier to know. The horse deserves to receive the best foot care.”

Lower Limb & Hoof Capsule Dissection

Mitch Taylor, director of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School in Richmond, Ky., dissected two cadaver limbs including a hind limb of a foal that died during birth and never touched the ground.

“Learning anatomy is really important so we can identify variations of normalcy,” says Taylor, who was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame during the 12th annual International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The horse is a good species to study to learn about all of the changes it has undergone as it has adapted.”

Forging And Blacksmithing

The exhibit hall at the Overland Park Convention Center teemed with activity throughout the day with blacksmith, forging and shoeing demos by Roy Bloom of Drummond, Wis.; Tom Willoughby of Crown Point, Ind.; Mark Milster of Purcell, Okla.; Jim Quick of Longmont, Colo.; and Brian and Brent Barrett. In addition, several competitions took place including the National Forging & Horseshoeing Competition.