Jim Keith

The Homemade Hoof

Hall Of Fame farrier Jim Keith offers his own take on hoof balance and how it can change with the conditions that the horse calls home

A crowd of farriers was on hand at a clinic at Anvil Brand to learn from Hall Of Fame horseshoer Jim Keith, who has unusual views on hoof balance.

“It’s called horseshoeing, not footshoeing,” says Jim Keith, explaining why he rejects the traditional approach of aligning the hoof-pastern axis as the starting point for bringing a hoof into balance.

Keith of Tucumcari, N.M., a member of the International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame and a former, two-time American Farrier’s Association Educator of the Year, notes that there are widely varying opinions about what proper balance really is, which leaves many farriers confused and unsure about what’s right.

Appearing as the instructor at a recent shoeing clinic staged by Anvil Brand in Lexington, Ill., Keith said that rather than focusing on the pastern alignment, farriers should look at the whole horse and then trim the hooves to help the horse “stand on” its feet, placing the horse’s center of gravity directly over the hooves. By this method, a plumb line dropped from the horse’s shoulder would exit the hoof at the breakover point, he explains.

The Compensation Factor

But if his idea of balance stops there, he concedes, “Basically, every horse standing up is in balance.” So, Keith extends his definition of balance to include hoof care that “creates the least need for compensation” by the hoof to accommodate the horse’s activities.

“Horses compensate for everything that happens to them,” Keith says. He adds, “Compensation — I’ve been using that term for…

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Ron perszewski

Ron Perszewski

Ron Perszewski is a freelance writer and former associate editor of Ameri­can Farriers Journal.

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