Something happened in my practice recently that has occurred at least a hundred times before. One of the latest shoeing products, a good product, was applied incorrectly and the horse that I was working on was suffering for that reason.

I’ve been shoeing horses for 37 years and have worked with a large veterinary equine practice for 24 years. This opportunity has let me learn much about the therapeutic experiences that have been sent my way.

Over the years, 20 percent of work at the clinic has been cases where a horse has injured itself, has laminitis or involved gluing shoes on foals with angular deviations. The other 80 percent are horses the vets say are lame because they weren’t shod properly.

When they say these horses are not shod properly, let me give you some examples of what they are talking about:

  • The feet do not balance with the horse’s conformation.
  • The shoes are too small.
  • Prescription shoes and pads recommended by the vet are the same size as the horse came in with several weeks ago, which caused the lameness in the first place.
  • A therapeutic shoe was not used properly.

Preventing Problems

One horse I worked on today could not even be transported to the clinic. I had to go out to the ranch with a vet who had to block the horse’s feet so I could remove the shoes. Lying down, he was in such pain that you could hardly touch his feet without hurting him.

This is not a story about how my founder case is worse than the case you worked on. Instead, it’s an example of how a very good shoe that recently came on the market was misapplied and a horse already in big trouble ended up in a lot more difficulty.

My concern is not with this product, but with how many new products are often misapplied.

When Mustad came out with the Glu-Strider shoe, they spent a fortune on clinics. They demonstrated how to properly assemble and apply these shoes. The idea was to make sure the product was applied correctly for the best results. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Companies send representatives and farriers to shoeing clinics and conventions to demonstrate their products. They field test these products long before they put them out on the market to know if they are really good or not.

Some products never make it, not because they aren’t good, but because they are too complicated to apply in the field or there’s another product that works just as well for less money.

Lots of dollars are spent in new product research, development, promotion and clinics. Someone who has invented something may know it will help you or the horses you are working on. Taking time to teach you to use it to the best advantage makes sense for everyone.

But what I often see are the results when a farrier has not taken the time to learn about new products, hasn’t gone to a clinic to learn about the product or hasn’t worked with someone who knows how to properly apply it. As a result, the animal suffers and so does the product’s reputation.

Why Does This Happen?

I wish farriers would ask themselves a few questions before using new products or shoeing procedures:

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KNOW THE PRODUCT. A major concern among a number of knowledgeable farriers is not with new products coming on the market, but with how some of these items are often misapplied by inexperienced shoers.

  • Am I familiar with this product?
  • Do I know how to apply it properly?
  • Do I have the tools to apply it?
  • Do I have all the essential informa- tion (X-rays, history, etc.) on the horse to proceed? 
The shoe I’m referring to in this case was the Natural Balance shoe. Colorado farrier Gene Ovnicek has put countless hours into the study of natural balance hoof care, wild horse hoof pattern research, the natural life cycle of the equine digit and laminitis. I’ve been to his clinics, have read his book and use some of his products.

But nowhere in his clinic or in his literature has he recommended treating an acutely laminitic horse with 7 degrees rotation by trimming the foot as short as possible and applying a Natural Balance shoe directly under the solar margin of the coffin bone. That’s the case I saw today.

This horse’s owner overfed her horse to the extent that it caused laminitis. She had a vet examine the horse, take X-rays and place the horse on medication. She was told by the vet to have the horse shod to support its laminitic condition.

The farrier did not communicate with the vet, which was the first mistake. Because of not knowing the severity of the rotation, perhaps not understanding the principles of shoeing for laminitis and not understanding the purpose of the Natural Balance shoe, this became a real nightmare. The owner has already spent over $1,000 and may still lose the horse.

What A Shame

This is not an isolated case. It happens more frequently than you think with egg bar shoes, special pads, acrylics and other products used for therapeutic shoeing.

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These products each have a purpose and it’s not just to make our job easier. They were invented as a therapeutic aid and do wonders when applied correctly.

Egg bar shoes are used for caudal heel support to carry or bear weight, keep a horse from falling, slipping or sinking or to hold it up. They serve a definite purpose when applied correctly.

When a vet calls for a bar shoe for underrun heels, he wants to move the heels toward the back of the foot and provide more heel support. It’s our job as farriers to correctly apply the shoes by following the vet’s shoeing prescription.

It is also our job to inform the client to take precautions to keep the shoes from being pulled off. It is not right to nail on a ready-made bar shoe that ends where the underrun heels end on the foot, charge an extra $30 and drive off. Instead, the vet, farrier and owner must all do their parts correctly if the horse is to benefit. 

Licensing Worries 

With the kind of unfortunate shoeing situation I witnessed today, we are closer to government regulation that you may think. I’ve been an independent contractor for nearly 37 years, but am sickened by what I see at times.

How do you think horse owners feel? It’s their money that is being spent on these atrocities.

Start taking pride in your work. Continue your education.

There are plenty of free clinics offered all across the country. The companies who manufacture many of the products that you use daily sponsor many of these clinics. These events are not just about product education, but also cover forging techniques, trimming strategies and a host of other informative and useful ideas you can use in your daily shoeing work.

Be more than just a horseshoer. Instead, become a professional farrier.