Last Updated on February 25, 2022 by Allison Price
How a horse is shod can affect how he moves in show ring.
A.Shoeing can make a horse move better in the show ring in many different ways. To understand the impact of horseshoes on horse movement, it is important to consider conformation, hoof trim and the type of horseshoe. Each factor should be examined separately to understand the impact on the overall.
A horse’s maturity means that there is no way to shoe a horse to alter his gait or limb conformation. Any attempt to modify a gait that is not ideal can cause additional stress on the joints, bones and hooves. This will result in a short-term benefit which may be detrimental to the horse’s health. Hoof conformation can also be affected to a degree. We need to evaluate the hoof in these cases to determine if there is a hoof problem. A clubfoot is an example of the former. These horses have a lower than ideal foot and a club foot. Because of the difference in the angle between the feet, it is impossible for the legs to move together. The pressures that can be applied to the limbs, joints and hooves by trying to change the angles can cause similar pressures to those experienced when we attempt to modify gait in poorly-configured horses. Although we can make them more ideal, the difference is usually negligible. Mismatched feet can make horses very happy, but a difference in stride length could have negative consequences for hunter and dressage scores.
A well-trimmed hoof is the key to any shoeing job. Trimming the foot should match the shape of the leg and provide maximum weight-bearing support beneath the limbs. Under the guidance of a trainer, farriers may alter the trimming (e.g. raising or lowering heels) in order to create a more discipline-appropriate stride. While this can be a temporary fix, we add pressure and stress to the hoof’s focal points by altering the position of the hoof. This excessive force can cause problems such as quarter, toe cracks and sheared heels. Flared walls may also occur. We can’t make conformation go away no matter how hard you try.
The horseshoe placement and type are where you can make a difference. Aluminum shoes, for example, are lighter than steel shoes. This can impact your stride. Horses who wear heavier shoes tend to lift their knees higher in order to be able to land properly. A lighter shoe will allow your horse to walk with a longer, more flowing stride. It is important to understand what your horse does for a living. A jumper might need support from aluminum shoes, while a hunter jumping lower fences may be able to move more easily with lighter shoes. Steel might offer better hoof and limb support.
The location of the breakover in the toe area can have an impact on stride. Breakover occurs when the hoof is rolled over and the toe is about to touch the ground. A shoe that is placed slightly behind the hoof may break over faster than one that is flush with it or slightly ahead. We used to put hind shoes on jumpers a few years ago so that they wouldn’t pull off the front shoes. Since then, we’ve learned that a quick transition behind can strain the stifle. We’ve returned to fitting hind footwear to the natural, more pointed-toed toe. This allows the horse to dig in and propel itself forward.
It is important to take into account the horse’s job and his conformation when shoeing horses. While we should aim to groom the horse according his hoof and leg conformation, it is important to consider what he does for work. As with riding, it is important to get out of the way so that the horse can shine.