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Scott McKendrick maintains hoof imbalance often leads to serious soundness issues. “All hoof and leg deviations from the ideal get worse with neglect of the hooves or excess growth and can even become more deviated in their form and function,” says the Trenton, Utah, farrier.
The most common one McKendrick sees is a fairly long-toe-low heel imbalance where the broken-back hoof-pastern axis shifts more weight onto the heel and makes the hoof more prone to heel bruising, navicular concerns or deep digital tendonitis. He says it’s also fairly common to see high heels with a dished toe appearance in young horses, which may be due to a true clubfoot or an assortment of simple hoof imbalance issues.
When farriers and veterinarians observe a horse’s movement at the trot, Hilary Clayton says the actual speed of the animal affects what they see. “Lameness concerns appear to decrease at faster trotting speeds,” says the retired Michigan State University equine veterinarian and researcher. “But the lameness doesn’t change — it’s just that your eyes can’t see it as well when the horse trots faster.” Especially with subtle lameness concerns, Clayton suggests farriers watch horses move at a slow, consistent trot.
It’s no secret that a farrier’s job is physically demanding. Contorting oneself into a pretzel under a 1,100-pound horse for several hours a day has a tendency to leave even…