Farriers' Roundtable

Q. “Some Quarter Horse trainers and owners want aluminum shoes with a lot of backup and squared-off toes. But won’t this hurt the knees if the toes roll over?” —Minnesota Farrier

A: It’s important to realize that the forward part of the foot provides structural support during the loading phase of the stride. I’ve had occasion to square off and back up toes to what could be called extreme measures, under the supervision of a veterinarian. The result is that the horse tends to stumble.

The foot doesn’t have enough anterior support for the forward progress of the limb. Instead of articulating at the axis of the pedal bone, it articulates at the ground. That causes the knee to throw out and can cause the horse to stumble.

That’s what I notice most about squaring off the toes beyond the horses’ ability to compensate for it. They don’t have the tendon structure or the musculature to support that phase of the stride. I shoe mostly hunters, and if a horse is coming off even a small jump and that occurs, there’s a good chance the horse will stumble and lose the rider. 

What the trainers really want is to minimize the amount of knee action and animation of the limb. That objective is obtained by reducing the breakover to an appropriate point. It’s the farrier’s job to determine what is appropriate. Too little will cause the foot to snap noticeably in the stride, but too much will put the horse…

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