Farriers' Roundtable

Q: “With the extreme drought last summer in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, how did you deal with extremely dry hooves?”

—A Southwest farrier

A: When you shoe in the South­west, you become accustomed to dry feet. You use 15-inch nippers, sometimes with bent reins, wear out more rasps, bend more nails and your hoof knife is seldom effective. Instead of using the knife, the sole and frog are trimmed with nippers or even a ham­mer and sole knife in more stubborn cases. You take smaller bites with the nippers and start the cut in the quarters and advance slowly into the thicker wall.

Fortunately, in most healthy feet, there is adequate moisture at the “trim line” of a foot with a little length or if it has had a shoe on it. The dryness is usually only superficial.

But that’s not the case in hooves that grow slowly or have separations in the laminae or interior wall. These separations isolate the affected wall from its primary moisture source—the sensitive laminae—and they cut like glass. Shards of horn material can slice hands and even leather aprons and boots. Small splinters of hoof will create painful sores in your hands.

But now for the good news. Shoes stay on better, heels don’t collapse and thrush is seldom a problem in any conditions. All things considered, I prefer a dry foot for long term soundness as it is the more “natural” condition of hoofed animals. It’s more work to do a neat shoeing job on dry feet, so it’s easy to see why most farriers prefer a nice, soft moisturized foot.

—Jim Keith,

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