DRAFT HORSE ENTHUSIASTS. Mike Wildenstein, resident farrier at Cornell University, works on the foot of a Clydesdale at a draft-horse shoeing educational seminar at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass. Wildenstein uses his own draft horses in the woods and swamps around his New York home.

Mike Wildenstein says that one of the key things in trimming and shoeing a draft or heavy horse’s foot is to remember what’s above it.

“The basic anatomy of the hoof in the heavy horse is the same as in a light horse,” he says. “The difference is what is above the hooves.”

That would be anywhere from several hundred to more than a thousand extra pounds of animal. Wildenstein, a draft horse enthusiast and owner, says the size and the weight of the draft horse will have a negative effect on the hooves. He stresses that the working draft horse needs to be retrimmed and reshod every 6 weeks.


Wildenstein, a certified journeyman farrier and a fellow of the Worshipful Company Of Farriers Of Great Britain, is the staff farrier at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He says an evaluation is the place to start shoeing any draft horse. That includes making yourself aware of the horse’s conformation, looking at the hooves for flares, then picking up the foot just to look at it. He also moves the foot forward while he’s holding it, seeing how the fetlock and other portions of the leg interact with it.

He suggests this step-by-step method for trimming working draft horses.

♦ Find the parameter at the point of the frog. The parameter is found by trimming at the point of the frog until a separation of the insensitive frog and insensitive sole is no longer visible.

♦ Find the parameter at the collateral sulcus. This parameter is defined by finding the junction of the insensitive frog and the wall at the widest point of the collateral sulcus.

♦ Trim the frog to its natural symmetrical shape with a hoof knife, as the frog is the center of the hoof and is used as a guide for trimming and shoeing. With a hoof knife, trim the central sulcus so that dirt and debris will not accumulate in this area.

♦ Trim the bars if they are folded over and trapping dirt and debris.

♦ Remove rough, exfoliating sole with a hoof knife.

♦ Remove dirt and debris in the area of the white line.

♦ Trim excess hoof wall with nippers.

♦ Use a rasp to flatten the bottom of the hoof to a plane surface.

♦ Use a rasp to help achieve uniform wall thickness.

Working With Drafts

Wildenstein says there are several things to keep in mind when your shoeing a heavy or draft horse that are different than shoeing smaller horses.

“Draft horses don’t stand well for very long with one foot off the ground,” he says. “Move from one hoof to another to give the horse a break. Work on diagonal hooves, especially when shoeing. Complete the work on one diagonal before you start on another.”

Draft horses work is also not a goodplace for cold shoeing — especially if you need to modify a draft keg shoe.

“You have to use some heat on these shoes ” he says. “That’s a lot of metal to move.”

Shoeing For The Season

What type of shoes to use depends on the season and the type of work the horse is going to do. Wildenstein uses his own drafts in the woods and swamps in the Northeast and uses these seasonal shoeing prescriptions, cautioning that your needs will depend on where you are shoeing and for what purpose.

♦ Spring: “I use a shoe with toe and heel calks as the mud demands traction for the horse.”

♦ Summer: “I use a flat plate with drive-in studs and a leather pad to protect the sole and frog.”

♦ Fall: “The mud is seldom so deep as in the spring, so I continue using the plates with a drive-in stud but go without the pad. No matter what type of packing you use between hoof and pad, mud seems to work its way under the pad, creating an environment conducive to decay. During the mud season, shoes are lost. By reducing the baggage on the hoof, I am able to maintain the placement of the shoes on the hooves.”

♦ Winter: “Traction is a priority. Large removable studs are used to facilitate changing traction with the ever-changing weather. Mustad No-Snow Pads are used to keep snow from building up under the hoof.”

Wildenstein also hot-fits shoes on draft horses, making sure to get at least three points of contact and uses toe clips on both front and hind feet.

“A very wide shoe without traction devices is a slippery shoe,” he says. “Creasing it will help with this.”

Be Safe

Wildenstein emphasizes the importance of training draft horses to stand for a farrier at an early age.

“Working on an adult heavy horse that has not been trained is very dangerous,” he says. “These horses can injure or kill you in seconds. You have the right to say no when someone wants you to work on an untrained horse.”