A: On routine visits where I have a prior history with the horse, the first thing I ask the client is how has the horse been traveling/going? Has there been anything different? Is there something that should be discussed that would require jogging the horse?  If everything is normal, then I do not jog the horse.

If the owner reports something new and wishes to jog the horse for observation, I will evaluate the horse’s anatomy in relationship to its job description and athleticism. Here are my criteria:

1. The surface area must be flat with few distractions.

2. The footing has to been consistent with surface composition — no rocks, dips or very deep footing.

Ideally, the footing is about 3 inches deep to accurately observe and judge the horse’s locomotion. If there is a hard surface, the landing phase and loading breakover will not be true. If the footing is too deep, there will be a delay of breakover that requires more inertia and the hooves will not be observed on landing, loading or breakover. The flight of the foot will be handicapped as well as your assessment. Having the horse go in circles is the most important as it gives you the opportunity to observe how the horse carries itself, balances and the rider’s ability.

When observing the horse I always watch it travel to the left and then the right, checking diagonals. The first view I like is from the side because you can check the vertical lift on the fronts and hinds. Are they equal? How do the hooves make purchase to the ground — flat, heel or toe first? Are the steps and strides the same in length? Is propulsion even or is there a disparity? Are there any glitches or is it a smooth, rhythmic flow?

Next I have the horse trot toward me where I check its front end and observe its anatomical axles. Do they move in unison — flight of limbs, paddle, etc.? Does its body move straight? How is the landing? Are the heel, toe, medial/lateral and vertical lift even and symmetrical in locomotion? 

Finally, I have the horse trot away from me and observe the hip/croup and hind end. Does one side rise up? Does the horse track straight? Is there ease of propulsion? Does the horse break smooth or with hesitation?

— Gary Werner, Smithtown, N.Y.

A: As a vet and farrier, I’m looking for hoof and limb balance and the conformation of the horse. Movements at the walk and trot will not only show the gait, but also discomfort and pain.

Depending on the horse’s job, analyzing its gait can prevent accidents of all kinds. It helps me decide what types of shoes to use. Sport, race and show horses sometimes will need corrective shoes to change the gait in order to get better movement that will help the horse on the job. 

— Dr. Carlos F. Rodríguez, Caracas, Venezuela

A: I observe horses moving prior to trimming, but generally only at a walk. This is to assess how the horse lands on the feet (foot balance) and also to check for any signs of lameness. I will watch the horse trot if the owner describes a particular problem or if I want to assess a lameness issue to try to identify if the problem is foot-related. The benefit of identifying lameness prior to trimming is invaluable because it avoids me getting the blame for causing it.

I concentrate on foot balance and how the feet land rather than the job that the horse is required to do. However, I will take into consideration the demands of the horse, its environment and the surface it works on as to what I remove or leave on the balanced foot at the trim.

I also watch a horse move — usually at a walk — following my trim. Because I regularly take photographs of my client’s horses’ feet, I can evaluate what alterations I have made to the feet if a client reports a change in action or performance. Before my next trim, I will watch the horse perform to try to identify the particular problem and to determine if it could be related to any changes I have made.

— John Stewart, Ramona, Calif.

A: I look for any sign of obvious lameness, interfering and how the horse lands. Most gait faults that I encounter come from different size front feet, with one high heel and one low heel. The high heel tends to stab and the low will slap. You can trim and shoe these two different hooves to try to achieve an even gait.

I use lighter shoes on hunters and most western show horses to help reduce knee action.

— Stephen Senteney, Burbank, Calif.

A: I walk horses before shoeing to observe their footfall to see what part of the foot lands first. If a foot lands toe first, something is likely painful in the heel or the toes are too long. If the foot lands on one side first, it’s seriously out of balance due to angular limb deformity or there could be pain on the non-loading side. If the heels hit too hard it’s likely that the foot is too far forward of the leg.

Trimming and proper shoe placement could manage these problems. Breed or use makes little difference here except when dealing with gaited horses.

— Steve Kraus, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, N.Y.

A: As a veterinarian and certified farrier, I more often work with a client’s regular farrier than shoe the horse myself. But whether I am acting as farrier or veterinarian, I must always consider the job the horse does as well as its care. 

Horses that live out in muddy pastures must be shod closer and tighter than horses that are regularly turned out. Eventers and foxhunters must be shod a little less generously in the heels than show hunters or dressage horses by virtue of the terrain and likelihood of pulling shoes. 

Traction devices such as studs are a necessity for eventers and jumpers whereas foxhunters usually prefer Borium.

When I watch a horse walk or trot prior to shoeing, I am interested in whether the horse is sound. I believe this would save farriers many headaches if they knew the horse had a pre-existing lameness that wasn’t disclosed by the owner. Way of traveling, overreaching, lateral-medial and longitudinal balance are all reasons to observe the horse in motion before shoeing.

— Dr. Peter Blauner,Lansdale, Pa.

Editor’s Note:

If you have a topic you’d like to see addressed in the Hoof-Care Email Q&A, email it to
ajohnson@lessitermedia.com.