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Tuesday December 7, 2021

If The Shoe Fits #12

Written by Randy Sublett
Category: Essays For Horse Owners
Hits: 4840

Well now, let's impart some knowledge about horseshoeing. Does everybody know the correct terminology for gait faults? If you do not, please go back and read "If The Shoe Fits #11." It is important to know these terms if you are to be involved in the horse world.

Forging is the most common form of gait fault in the horse and happens to be the easiest to correct by a competent farrier. Remember that forging is the toe of the rear foot striking the BOTTOM of the front foot. This rarely occurs in barefoot horses because the barefoot horse keeps its hooves naturally trimmed. Forging is usually caused by excessive length in the hind foot, which means the front feet are also probably pretty long. Since there is not much clearance to begin with between the feet, striking often occurs. This is also a good time to begin speaking of gaits. Forging usually occurs at the trot. Why? Because the trot is what is called a diagonal two-beat gait. This means that the on-side hind foot is moving in synchronization with the off-side front foot and vice versa. Take some leg wraps or colored tape which will contrast with the color of your horse, (white usually works), and place them on the lower right front leg and the lower left rear leg. Now either longe line (that's right, it is not a lunge line), the horse or have someone ride it at a trot and you will see what I mean. At the trot, if the left hind leg is moving in the anterior phase of the stride, then the left front leg must be moving in the posterior phase of the stride. If this were not true, then the horse is not at a trot - or has only three legs.

Usually forging is corrected by a fresh shoeing. If it is not, then the farrier may place a square-toed shoe on the hind feet. A square-toed shoe is a shoe that has, obviously, a square toe, and is set back on the foot about 3/8" to 1/2" from the toe. I am a staunch believer that all hind feet should be shod with square-toed shoes. The shoe also aids in a straighter stride in the hind feet, as the place of breakover is encouraged to occur in the center of the toe. Notice I said "place" of breakover and not "point" of breakover.

Breakover is actually just what it sounds like. It is when the foot passes the point where the alignment of the bones of the lower leg change or "break" direction during the posterior phase of the stride. During the anterior or forward phase of the stride, the bones of the lower leg are oriented towards the front. After completion of the anterior phase (which ends when the foot contacts the ground), the horse begins the posterior phase of the stride: the leg begins moving rearward, thus propelling the animal forward. When the horse arrives at the end of its reach and the toe is just leaving the ground, the bones will change alignment to the rear. This is the POINT of BREAKOVER. When the leg has extended as far back as it is going to, the posterior phase of the stride is ended and the leg begins to move forward again, beginning the anterior phase. An easy way to illustrate breakover is for you to put on a pair of flip flop-type sandals. When the heel of the sandal snaps up and slaps your heel, breakover has just occurred. I had to put on a pair and walk around just to write this column. The PLACE of BREAKOVER should occur at the center of the toe and not to either side.

Now many horseshoers will claim that slowing down the breakover by applying heavy shoes on the rear feet will cure the forging problem. Wrong. Breakover cannot be slowed down or speeded up - it can only be made easier or more difficult. A rule of thumb is to always shoe as light as possible when trying to correct any gait fault. The reason many say to use a heavy shoe is because they do not know how to make or apply a square-toed shoe and, quite possibly, may not know how to do a balanced trimming.

Remember conformation? Horses with short backs and long legs will almost always have forging problems. Forging is not a serious problem unless you are in the show ring. "What was that?" the judge exclaimed. "Did I hear a clicking of the shoes? Points off for the horse!" he shouted. "Off with the farrier's head!" the crowd roars. That is when forging is serious.


(Randy, a practicing farrier, writes articles oriented to horse owners.)

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