ROCK AND ROLL SHOE. Blake Brown, right, shows a rock and roll shoe to farriers following his case study presentation at the 2007 International Hoof-Care Summit.

Apache was presented to the veterinary clinic where I was the resident farrier in 2003. The horse, who stands nearly 16-hands high, had a right front lameness. He also has high-low syndrome, meaning that one foot has a long toe and a low heel and the other foot has a short toe and a high heel.

When grazing or eating off the ground, Apache puts his right front forward and his left front foot rearward. Over a lifetime, he has developed asymmetrical feet. The cause is uneven pressure on the heels of the forward foot. The heels become crushed and underrun. At the same time the toe migrates forward, thinning the sole and creating a longer breakover for the toe.

The foot that goes rearward will be resting or pressing on the toe and the effect is exactly the opposite of the other. The growth is retarded in the toe and the heel grows longer and becomes contracted, the frog becomes atrophied and the sole becomes flat.

I have noticed that horses that have a more upright shoulder and long upright pasterns will use the foot that goes back to rest on. This, in turn, will cause the foot that goes back to develop a dish in the toe.

Initial Diagnosis

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SHOE MARRIAGE. Brown builds his rock and roll shoe from two Delta Lite Keg shoes. In Apache’s case, a size 0 shoe with a beveled toe was tacked and welded to the inside of a size 3 shoe, which was eventually nailed to the hoof. He shortens the heels of the smaller shoe by the same amount as the width of the web of the larger shoe.

We gave Apache a thorough going over that included a lameness workup, radiographs and an ultrasound examination. The right front foot was diagnosed with:

  1. A broken-back hoof-pastern axis that actually resulted in a derotated coffin bone.
  2. Prolifertive bursitis in the navicular bursa.
  3. A small flexor surface defect on the medial surface of the navicular bone.
  4. A subacute, 24 mm, Type III core lesion in the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) at insertion on palmar P3.

Proliferative synovities is basically inflammation of the navicular bursa. This represented both increased fluid within the bursa and inflammation of the lining of the bursa. The tear in the DDFT is tendonitis, or focal tearing where the tendon inserts on the coffin bone.

The veterinarian recommended injecting the navicular bursa with hyaluronic acid — a joint lubricant fluid — and a steroid. The vet also recommended confining the horse to a 12-by-24-foot area without turnout and prescribed a shoe to support the navicular bone and relieve breakover.

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BEVELED TOE. In this view, you can see the beveled toe of the smaller shoe. The tack welds in the quarters are used to hold the two shoes together and are kept behind the beveled area, so that they won’t interfere with the adjusted breakover.

I recommended that the owner place Apache’s feed up off the ground, so he would stand with his feet together as he ate.

I had the X-ray technician take an X-ray as I slid wedge pads under the right front foot until I had the pastern and coffin bone lined up. It took two No. 3 RCH wedge pads to bring the bony column into alignment and I squared the toe of a size 3 Werkman Special shoe to set the breakover back. I extended the shoe package to the bulbs of the heels.

1 Year Later

Over the next year, Apache’s navicular bursa returned to within normal limits and the DDFT was healing. But I was making no headway in getting the hoof angle to improve without a wedge pad and a wedged egg bar shoe. He simply would not grow any heel. So I decided to shoe Apache with a rock and roll shoe. 

I have made these shoes in the past and have used them very successfully on horses suffering from ringbone. I have found that they help horses to be more comfortable and go back to work, as well as helping their foot condition improve. Horses that had chronic low heels actually started to grow a healthier and more upright foot after being shod with rock and roll shoes.

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FOOT PREPARATION. The heels are trimmed to the widest part of the frog and the toe is backed up. Adhesive was used to build the heels of the right front foot up to a better angle.

I made sure to trim Apache’s heel back to the widest part of the frog for the first shoeing with a rock and roll shoe. I then used Equi-Thane Super Fast from Vettec to build the heels up on the right front foot to a more proper angle.

I then took a size 3 Delta Lite keg shoe and fit it to the right front foot of Apache. I used a size 2 Delta Lite on the left front because the foot was not as elongated as the right front foot and a size 3 would have been too big.

I then took a pair of size 0 Delta keg shoes and hammer-beveled the leading edge of each toe, going back into the web at least half of the width.

I then fitted the size 0 keg shoes to the inside rim of the ground surfaces of the shoes that I had fitted to Apache’s front feet.

If you do this, you want to cut the heels of the bottom shoe so that they do not go all the way back to the heels of the shoe that will be nailed to the foot.

The heels should be shortened to whatever the width of the web of the shoe is that will be nailed to the foot. For instance, if you are using a shoe that is 3/4 inch wide, the heels of the smaller shoe should be cut so that they end 3/4 inch from the heels of the shoe that is being nailed to the foot.

I then tacked the smaller keg shoes to the ground surface of the shoes that I had fit to Apache’s feet. I tacked them in four spots; the two heels and just to the outside of where the smaller shoes were beveled, so as not to take away from the breakover point of the shoes. I then turned the shoes over and welded the inside rims together.

After the shoes were nailed on and clinched, I filled the bottom of Apache’s feet with Vettec Equi-Pak Instant Pad Material, using the soft product. I did this to make sure that Apache’s frog would become part of the support system when he stood and worked, sparing his heels the weight and concussion.

The shoe was centered under the foot and the hoof-pastern axis was aligned. After a couple of resets, Apache was beginning to grow a natural heel and his hoof-pastern axis was greatly improved.

Apache and his owner are back to work. They’re rejoined the drill team they were once members of and Apache’s foot remains healthy. His owner does continue to feed him up off of the ground and limits his pasture time so that he does not continue to put uneven pressure on his right foot.

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LINING UP. When finished, the shoe is centered under the foot and the hoof-pastern axis is aligned.

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SHARING THE LOAD. The finished shoes are filled with soft pad material to help insure that the frog is bearing part of the load.