Farriers' Roundtable

Q: What should I do with a chronically lame horse that is no longer lame, but does not grow any toe?

—An Oklahoma farrier

A: This is a situation that is most likely to be encountered in a chronically foundered horse.

It happens because the change in coffin bone position resulting from founder causes a pinching of the blood vessels at the toe. The decreased circulation then causes decreased hoof growth.

By far the most effective treatment I’ve found consists of grooving the hoof wall at the toe horizontally, about 3/4 inches below the coronet—just low enough to be below the coronary band, and therefore in full-thickness hoof wall. Maryland farrier Dave Ferguson did a good job of describing the procedure in an American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) presentation a few years ago.

Another situation where such slow hoof growth occurs at the toe is in a clubfooted horse. Grooving the toe does no good in these cases as the poor circulation and slow growth is caused by excessive weight/pressure at the toe rather than pinching.

These horses will typically have hoof angles of well over 60 degrees—often 65 or even more than 70 degrees. Lowering the hoof angle to under 60 degrees and applying an egg bar shoe will shift the weight bearing back from the toe more toward the heels and will help even out the hoof growth.

If the slow growth at the toe is due to something other than founder or clubfoot, then a daily…

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