Farriers' Roundtable

Q: What are some of the things to consider when deciding whether to use flat or concave shoes? .

A: Shoe selection is one of the most important aspects of our job. We all trim pretty much the same. The bigger difference is in the choice of shoe.

In choosing a shoe, there are many factors to consider. You have to take into account its physical and physiological effects, including traction, breakover, support and weight. Applying our intuitive sense and imagination, we can take the individual mechanics of the shoes and apply them to the environment and discipline of the individual horse.

Traction, or lack there of, is ultimately a friction factor. How much sheer stress is applied to the hoof at any given time is what will justify an increase in traction. The critical factor here is not just what shoe stock matches the footing, but what shoe is safest for the horse and rider. Too much unnecessary traction may cause tripping and joint stress. Not enough can cause slips, strains and sprains. We have to be diligent to know the many factors of environment and athleticism that will aid in choosing the safest shoe.

Breakover and support are products of surface area and leverage. Concave shoes have less surface area of the same size cross section and will offer the best articulation on softer footing. Flat stock shoes offer a greater surface area to “float” on top of the dirt, which can be very effective when support is…

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