Balance: More About The Trim Than The Shoes

Montana vet-farrier has found trimming to conformation is often enough to restore lame horses to soundness

Whenever farriers talk about feet, there’s a lot of discussion about hoof balance. For sound, healthy feet, balance is crucial, but the concept of balance is not always understood.

Tia Nelson, a veterinarian and farrier from Helena, Mont., says terms like flat, level and balanced are used interchangeably — but says they don’t actually mean the same thing.

Balance, she says, should not be confused with symmetry; these are  not the same thing, either. Hoof balance is dynamic. It is always changing as the horse moves.

Nelson says the conformation of each horse will determine the proper breakover point and balance.

“A 1,200-pound Thoroughbred with a long, sloping shoulder and pastern angle should not be shod the same as a 1,200 pound Quarter Horse with more upright shoulders and pasterns, even though both horses might wear the same shoe size,” she says. 

“Individual leg conformation should dictate what’s best for each horse, as Mother Nature would do if that horse were running free and wearing feet naturally. Conformation must always be taken into consideration when evaluating hoof balance.”

Balance First

When talking about shoeing, she says it’s not so much what you put on the foot that matters, as much as what you do to the foot. 

“The shoe should be like the icing on the cake,” she says, explaining that what really counts is basic preparation. She says the foot must be balanced before you even think about putting on a shoe.

“There are many horses that come to…

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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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