Shoeing with the Work in Mind

Hall Of Fame equine vet Olin Balch stresses the importance of activity-specific hoof care

SIMILARITIES AND CONTRASTS. Olin Balch, a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame, is an advocate of what he calls activity-specific hoof care. The three types of horses shown working here, a jumper, plow horses and harness racers, would all need to be trimmed and shod differently — yet Balch points out that there are more similarities than differences in the work involved.

Olin Balch’s long-time interest in the biomechanics of equine locomotion began when, as a student, he worked his way through veterinary school by shoeing horses. Years later, his innovative work on hoof balance and lameness helped lead to his election to the International Equine Veterinarian’s Hall of Fame.

In this article — the first of a two-part series — Balch, DVM, Phd., takes a look at activity-specific hoof care, a subject about which horse owners, veterinarians and farriers alike can be quite passionate.

“Activity-specific hoof care is directed at maintaining or enhancing the performance or functionality of the horse,” Balch says. “While the optimum shoe type for the draft horse used to skid timber in the forest is quite different from the Standardbred trotting a sub 2-minute mile, there are more similarities in hoof preparation than differences.

“Within activity-specific types of hoof preparation, farriers are challenged to identify and apply to that individual horse precise and often subtle trimming and/or shoeing alterations to ensure the finest performances.”

Again, he cites Standardbreds as an example. “Slightly lengthened hooves and weighted shoes are often necessary to keep…

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Toby Raymond

Toby Raymond is a horse owner and freelance writer who lives in Vermont. She is a frequent contributor to American Farriers Journal.

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