| Your One-Stop Farrier and Hoofcare Portal - General Farriery Wed, 24 Jan 2018 09:24:24 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Hammer Command breningstall_anvilWhen you make a living using hammers, you have a different favorite hammer for each job. Rarely would you use the same hammer for more than one job. People who never pick up a hammer look at your assortment of hammers in total bewilderment.

They ask, "What do you use that hammer for? Or that one? Or that one over there?" Try as you may, it's hard to explain. I usually tell people I use the hammers "to hit stuff and things."

hammer_commandI define a good hammer as one that is made or modified to be used for a particular job. I have five claw hammers, but only one good claw hammer that I use for carpenter work. It would be of little use in turning a horseshoe or for nailing a horseshoe to a hoof. In turn, my blacksmith hammer or my driving hammer (for nailing on horseshoes) would be of little use as a carpenter's hammer. And so on.

Anyone with an arm and hand can hold and swing a hammer. As important as a good hammer swing is, the hammer is of little use unless you have control of the swing.

No matter what you use the hammer for, or what it's made of, the need for control is universal. You would likely not consider a baseball bat or a golf club to be a hammer, but by definition that's exactly what each one is--"a tool used to strike, hit, or change another tool or object." If you've ever played baseball or golf, you know the need for control.

There is only one way to get control of your hammer, and here is the magic secret: practice. Did you ever build something from wood? Then go back and look at the hammer marks on the wood. As the job progressed, the hammer marks became fewer. Why? Because you practiced as you drove each nail.

I'm going to give you a few tips on hammer control that will help you work on the anvil. First, stop reading and go get your favorite blacksmith hammer: ball peen, cross peen, rounding hammer, or whatever. But, hey! Remember to come back and finish reading.

The weight of a hammer is judged by its use--the heavier the hammer, the heavier the stock it is designed to work on. The lighter the hammer, the lighter the stock it will work. For most uses you will need a one-to four-pound hammer. Any hammer that's heavier or lighter will make your work more difficult than it needs to be. Since the cross-peen hammer is the most used blacksmith hammer, let's use that as an example.

Ok. Here's a two-pound cross-peen hammer. The handle is oval-shaped and about one foot long, including the head. Hold the head of the hammer in your hand, with the handle along your forearm. The end of the hammer should reach the bend of your elbow. Personally, I like my handles shorter, at about 10", which gives me better control than a longer hammer, and lets me work closer to the anvil. The best size for your hammer handle is the thickness that feels comfortable to you. You shouldn't need to hold the handle so tight that your hand gets tired. The face of the head should be slightly convex or rounded for a shoeing hammer, and flat with rounded-off edges for flat work.

To help you improve control, or just to see how good your control is, try this: get a piece of white pine lumber 1" thick, 4" wide, and about 2' long. Using a black permanent marking pen, draw lines across and along the board, 3" apart. If you wish, draw some horseshoe shapes, too.

Place the board on your anvil, or if you don't have an anvil put it on your work bench. Be sure the board lays flat, or the vibration when you hit the board with your hammer will hurt your hand. Hold the board securely with your free hand and start with light blows, aiming at the black lines on the board. After a few blows, stop hammering and look at the board.

The indents in the wood should be of equal depth and should be good imprints of the hammer face. The imprints should be dissected by the black lines into two equal sides. Tough, ain't it? You'll do better if you keep your eye on the spot you want to hit, not on the hammer. Develop a rhythm and swing that feels comfortable for you. Stand with equal weight on both feet. And don't over tax your back.

If your goal is to move large amounts of steel, swing your hammer with your body, shoulder, arm, and wrist. To shape the steel, swing the hammer with your forearm and wrist. The hammer should rebound off the work to start the next swing. That's why blacksmiths hit the anvil as they work--to keep up the rhythm as they move and turn the stock. For more power, hold the handle long; for more control, hold the handle short (choke up on it.) After you have made a large pile of kindling wood trying to hit the lines on your board, start a new pile of kindling by trying to repeatedly hit the same mark with each hammer blow.

Now heat up some steel and start hitting it. As you will soon see, when you control the hammer, how you hit the steel and how the steel responds are both in your control. So what are you waiting for? Go hit something.

F. Thomas Breningstall is an AFA and MHA certified full-time farrier living in Fowlerville, Michigan. His column "Hoof & Hammer" appears regularly in RURAL HERITAGE draft-animal magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

First published in Rural Heritage draft-animal magazine.

]]> (F. Thomas Breningstall) General Farriery Wed, 27 May 2009 07:29:09 +0000
Gluing On Aluminum Shoes

This is a nice application for the horse that has chipped, illness brittle or thin walls. Also, hooves with large flares that are difficult to nail into and constantly loose their clinch, allowing the shoe to work, loosen up and eventually tear off.

This also is a nice alternative for the horse that is sore in the hoof and may not be able to stand the concussion of the nailing process.


Materials Required:

  • Safety Glasses, Dremel ¼ Carbide ball bit, Paper cup
  • Latex gloves, Rasp, Tongue depressors
  • Saran wrap, Hair dryer, Small brush
  • Denatured Alcohol, Play-Doh Rusty’s Deadloc 2 part acrylic glue
  • Trim the hoof
  • Establish the size and type of aluminum shoe
  • Shape and fit the shoe

I believe in completing this process first. The benefit is that once you start to prep the hoof and shoe for adhesion, most of the handling will be done. This will limit the surface contamination factor.

Examine the sole closely for bruises, abscess, seedy toe etc… Note: Play–Doh will be applied where the glue is not desired later in the procedure.

If you find several problem areas during this examination, apply “Pure Gum Turpentine” for a couple days before continuing with this process.


Now rasp or use your dremel tool to clean the outer hoof wall, old nail holes, etc.... Be careful not to touch the surface after prep work with your bare hands. Prep the shoe bearing surface by passing your rasp lightly over this area.

I favor the approach of applying a light coat of “Denatured Alcohol” with a small brush to the prepped area, then wrap hoof in Saran Wrap.


Wrap the hoof in saran wrap then give the horse a break.


Lightly grind the hoof bearing surface and sides of the shoe. The intent here is to score the surface, removing contamination and shoe-manufacturing marks to aid adhesion.

Cover shoe with paper towel or Saran wrap. Keeping surfaces uncontaminated from dust, fingerprints and moisture cannot be stressed enough!


Place the Glue, “Rusty’s Deadloc,” a two part acrylic, in a paper cup and mix thoroughly. Put on your latex gloves. Always wear safety glasses, latex gloves and have good ventilation when using any acrylic.


Unwrap hoof and dry thoroughly with hair dryer. Move your heat around the hoof to make sure the hoof is completely dry.


Using a tongue depressor, apply a thick coat of adhesive to the shoe surface - ¼ inch thick at least. This will allow for a base to form when applying to the hoof.


Apply Play-Doh to the bottom of the hoof where glue is not desired. Remember, if the hoof has abscesses, deep bruises, etc..., consult your veterinarian before applying. It’s better to find time to do the job right the first time than it is to find the time to do it right the second time!

As you acquire expertise in this area, these conditions will be easier to identify.


The shoe is now applied to the hoof. Apply firm pressure to seat the shoe and fit it to the hoof. Note: Do not push excessively on the shoe. Your target is to have at least 1/16th of an inch of base glue around the entire weight bearing surface.


The adhesive is built up around the hoof and shoe in the heel area as outlined. Better too much than not enough in this area. It is easier to remove excess than reapply. This important process (as outlined in the photo) acts as a support wall.


Wrap the hoof in Saran wrap and apply low heat from the hair dryer to enhance the curing process. Keep the hoof suspended from the ground until glue is hard on the sidewall. You can check by pushing on the excess glue in the sole area. Once the glue has cured, hold for an extra minute and then release.


Remove the Saran wrap, clean off excess glue from the sole with your hoof knife or dremel bur tool. Remove the Play-Doh by picking it out with a nail.

This results in a nice professional looking application.


The pictures to the left show (top photo) build the glue ½ inch up the hoof wall from the top lip of the shoe. Make sure that you cover the entire shoe (middle photo) in the heel area. You then clean the wall up for a nice smooth finish (as in the bottom photo).


In summary, this technique is one that takes the 3P’s - preparation - patience - perseverance. Once you start to prepare the hoof and shoe, exercise plenty of caution not to contaminate the surface.

Shelly walls, flares, and chipping hoof wall problems will disappear.

As with everything else, with a little experience you will find this to be a nice application to add to your practice.

]]> (Rusty Freeman) General Farriery Mon, 18 May 2009 23:36:40 +0000
The Feet and Legs of a Draft Horse

The make-up of a draft horse capable of working hard throughout a long lifetime depends upon a great many essential factors. Correctness of underpinning with respect to set of feet and legs, shop the shape, size, and quality of the different parts may be considered both literally and figuratively to be the foundation upon which "good-using" horses are built. It is not a question of the draft horse breeder evolving new types or models nearly so much as it is of getting his product improved until the general run partake quite largely of the excellence of the "top" specimens which have been produced, comparatively few in numbers, by the best breeders for a good many years. The study of the feet and legs of workers which have been on heavy duty on paved streets will prove illuminating to the breeder. Good feed is always essential to best development. It is well to remember, however, that it is quite largely wasted when put into specimens which are faulty in the underpinning because of a bad inheritance. Mere scale does not make a valuable horse.

Diagrams and score cards may be said to he out of thought entirely by the skillful judge who is at work. The illustrations used here, however, will help to make some points clearer in connection with rules governing the correct set of feet and legs. Both power and the facility with which it is applied must be studied. Conformation which combines to the greatest extent strength to do work and action to "get there" with the use of the least possible energy is ideal.

In front it is desirable to have the legs set squarely under the body. Both should not appear to come from the same hole in a too narrow body; neither should they be "clapped on" to the outside of an already too wide front.

The forelegs bear more weight than the hind, their function being largely that of supporting the body and dispersing concussion (lessening jar when the feet come in contact with the ground) rather than propulsion. The long, sloping shoulder heavily and smoothly muscled, properly combines strength with a long, easy stride. The arm should be heavily muscled, relatively short, and carried forward, and the forearm long and heavily muscled.

The knees should be of good size, broad, deep, straight, clean and well supported from below. Standing too open at the knees, knock-kneed, knee-sprung, and calf-kneed are terms applied to some of the more important defective deviations in the set of the knees. Such defects decrease strength, sure-footedness and speed. Defects of this sort do not improve with age and length of service, but grow worse.

The cannons should be short and flat with the tendons well set back. A "tied-in" condition of the tendons below the knees is a serious defect. No draft horse ever had too much clean, flat quality bone below his knees or hocks. Long, slim cannons generally go with a "weed." Weediness has no place in any kind of horse and least of all in the draft type.

Clean, smooth, and well-supported fetlocks of good size are desirable. Draft horse pasterns should be of moderate length with plenty of slope and good quality. Proper length and slope of pasterns go with spring and sure-footed action; these qualities act as "shock-absorbers" and give the horse good control of his feet. The opposite condition means a short, hard stride and a short period of usefulness.


Properly placed feet which are medium in size, rather circular in shape, wide and deep at the heels stand wear best. Flat feet, i.e., those with wide, flaring hoof walls and lacking in depth, are not of long avail in withstanding the punishment hard-footing metes out to them. Furthermore, to add to the trouble, the horn is generally shelly with this type of foot. The high, narrow-heeled font is subject to contraction. Feet toeing either in or out cause bad action and hence a waste of energy. Users of draft horses on the streets have more trouble with horses going wrong in their front feet than in any other place. Very frequently forefeet prove the limiting factors. The qualities that make feet wear on the streets add usefulness to horses worked on farms even though the test may not be nearly so severe.

Propulsion is the chief function of the hind legs, which support less weight than the forelegs and also suffer less from concussion. It is important that the legs be properly set and the joints be strong so that the heavy muscles of the hind quarters may exert their power to best advantage. The diagram "R" (above) shows a perpendicular line dropped from the point of the buttock, dividing back of hock and cannon and foot in lateral halves and meeting the ground a short distance back of the heel. In practice horses are found to have freer action when the points of the hocks are turned in a bit and the toes of the hind feet out, thus giving more freedom for movement at the stifles. Hind legs thus placed insure a horse in going with his hocks well together and well under him. "Out-bowed" hocks do not permit proper delivery of power. Horses with hocks of this sort have a hard job in standing on "slippery" going, and the condition becomes worse with service.


The hock is an exceedingly important center of movement. The pull of the extensor muscles which propels the body is concentrated here. The hocks should combine good size with clean-cut quality and should be wide, deep, point prominent, and have plenty of support below. Sickle-hocks, hocks too straight, cow hocks, and hocks bowed out are defects which result in bad action and consequently undue strain and unsoundness. The remarks made respecting fore cannons, pasterns, and feet apply very much to the hind ones.

Cocked ankles, or a tendency thereto, will depreciate the price of an otherwise good drafter from $75 to $100, no other objection being raised. Any tendency to this must be avoided in sires, and mares showing an inclination to this fault should be bred only to sires that are especially good in slope and length of hind pasterns. Horses that stand with their hind legs out behind the normal position, as in "O", are liable to this and to other unsoundnesses. Sires of this kind should be castrated without delay.

Correct underpinning goes far toward insuring soundness. Furthermore, the development of unsoundnesses on good limbs is generally of not nearly so serious a consequence as when it occurs on the coarse, misshapen limbs. Horse breeding at best is slow when compared with the meat-producing animals. This makes imperative the necessity of obtaining good foundation stock.

There is a compensating factor which must always be taken into account and that is the temperament of the individual. Some "rattle-brained" horses wear out a good set of feet and legs in much shorter time than the individuals favored by nature with good brains and only moderate underpinning. While we are striving hard to breed model conformation, we ought to keep in mind that a "good head" is of inestimable value in a horse.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Spring, 1994 issue of The Draft Horse Journal, which had itself reprinted it from the 1919 issue of The Percheron Review.

]]> (J.L. Edmonds) General Farriery Wed, 13 May 2009 05:11:28 +0000
Farrier's Roundtable: Shoeing Draft Horses

Five well-known and highly respected farriers make up our Roundtable:

Dale McMain is a third-generation Belgian breeder from Delmar, Iowa. He is the younger half of the Double M Belgians. Anyone who follows the Belgian breed is familiar with the accomplishments of the McMain family in both the breeding and hitching end of the business. They have bred and presented several all-American horses on the line and their hitches have been winners at major shows from Lexington to Denver and many points in between. All of those winners have been shod by Dale, who was recently elected to a seat on the board of directors of the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America.

Jim Rupple, Hortonville, Wisconsin, is an equally versatile fellow. His apprenticeships include stretches at the Budweiser Clydesdale Breeding Farm in St. Louis and many years as Rolland Ruby's right-hand man with Ruby's Belgian hitch. Among his current responsibilities are the jobs of keeping the Live Oak Plantation Clydesdale, the Soder Farms Percheron and the Pareo Belgian hitches up and going. Jim flies out to reset the shoes on those hitches as needed. He, too, is partial to the Belgian breed, and is now breeding and showing some of his own.

Tim Kriz, Bethany, Connecticut, is the only one of these five who managed to get one of his wedding pictures on the cover of THE DRAFT HORSE JOURNAL. (Spring, 1992) His is a family of horseshoers. Timothy's grandfather came to this country as an emigrant from Czechoslovakia, and settled in the Naugatuck Valley of southwestern Connecticut, where he found his skills as a farrier in immediate demand. The family is still there... and still shoeing horses, an incredible number of horses. There are ten people in his crew. Where breed preference is concerned, I guess you would have to call Tim a Percheron person. He and his wife are both formidable competitors at the big shows in the northeast with their blacks.

Dale Schlabach, Sugarcreek Ohio, brings a slightly different background to this subject. Dale is located in the very heart of Eastern Ohio's Amish country and, consequently, has shod hundreds of Standardbreds as well as draft horses. If one wants to keep busy as a full-time farrier, I can think of few places on earth that would offer more opportunities to do so than Sugarcreek. He is also a native of the area, is Amish himself, and shoes many of the horses sold annually at the Columbus and Dover Sales.

Will Lent, Shelby, Michigan, is no stranger to the horse breeders of the country. Not only does he shoe a great many of the draft horses that frequent the sales and such places as the Detroit Show, but he can be found with his display at the big sales in Columbus and Indianapolis. More recently, this accomplished farrier served as the horseshoeing instructor at the Youth Hostel & Draft Horse Clinic, sponsored by the Percheron, Clydesdale, and Shire Associations and held in Huntington, Indiana. If it were possible to put all the horses these five men had shod head to tail, they would reach from Pittsburgh to someplace way out west.


Dale McMain: "We shoe to protect a horse's foot from the elements it comes in contact with. We also shoe to correct a foot or feet by creating an optical illusion (as with a horse that toes in or out) to make it appear correct. Sometimes corrective shoeing, like heartbar or bar shoes, is required to cure a problem. Many horses move better, with more animation and action, when correctly shod."

Jim Rupple: "The basic reason is to protect the hoof from bruising and cracking. We also shoe for more correct motion and in pulling horses it gives them much more traction."

Tim Kriz: "You shoe a horse for several reasons: to protect the feet from cracking, breaking up or bruising, to improve his way of going, or to enhance the size of his feet. Also, shoes with hard surfaces like borium provide better traction on some surfaces for a horse than when barefoot."

Dale Schlabach: "I feel that the reason to shoe a horse varies by what your horse is being used for. A regular farm horse needs to be shod whenever his feet become too short, or is worked where traction is important, which is true also on a pulling horse. A street horse needs to be shod for traction and wear, a show horse for dressage, to grow a better foot, create better movement, and occasionally for correction."

Will Lent: "In general terms, a working horse should be shod to prevent unsoundness. A livery horse, for example, will undoubtedly wear its feet down faster than they can grow. The horse may need traction, as with a pulling horse. I also shoe horses to enhance their gait, and for cosmetic reasons, as with a show draft horse. And, of course, there are pathological reasons for shoeing, such as navicular or founder. Sometimes I shoe a horse simply to please the owner."


Dale McMain: "A horse should not be shod when not in use, when not being shown, or when there is no purpose for shoes. Going barefoot is much healthier for a horse's foot than being shod all the time."

Jim Rupple: "If a horse is on good ground, it's good for the hooves to be trimmed back and left barefoot."

Tim Kriz: "As long as a horse isn't sore-footed without them when he's being used or if he's just turned out in a soft pasture, he doesn't need them."

Dale Schlabach: "I feel that broodmares, horses turned out for rest, and growing colts not being shown should not be shod, as frog pressure is important in spreading a hoof, and growing a healthy foot."

Will Lent: "A horse simply shouldn't be shod when it doesn't need it. I am referring to broodmares or studs with good feet, the horse that is used only occasionally for riding or driving, and, most typically, the horse that can go anywhere anytime, and be used for whatever reason without damaging the foot or going lame. Too many people wait too long before shoeing."


Dale McMain: "Pads should be used when a horse is pounding the hard pavement all the time, as are the Budweiser and Country Hitches, or anyone with a 6-horse hitch that is on the fair circuit. Also, pads enhance the looks of halter horses being shown. It also protects the feet when being driven or exercised on parking lots. Big rocks can easily bruise a horse's sole. I like leather pads the best. Neoprene pads last much longer, but are hard to hold in place. Hoof packing is a personal preference which depends on how long a horse will be wearing pads."

Jim Rupple: "I like to use pads on the front feet of most hitch horses that are shod for long stretches of time or year 'round, and on any horse that is on hard ground or pavement. The hooves can be packed to keep the moisture content right. I use different packing depending on what the foot needs. In most cases I use pine tar and oakum. If the foot is too moist, I've used Venice Turpentine. I also use pads to fill out the foot on a shoe, but I hate to see a draft horse stacked up on pads like a Standardbred."

Tim Kriz: "I use pads on draft horses for numerous reasons. They help protect the feet if a horse is sore or to help keep a horse from going sore. I sometimes use wedge pads on a sore horse or one that needs more heel."

" For show horses, pads can really enhance the size of the foot and this can improve their way of going. Pads can really help a horse grow a better foot especially when packed with some kind of hoof packing: The hoof packing keeps the foot moist and growing under the pad. Pine tar and oakum is the best packing material, but it's messy and hard to use. So, I often use a good commercial hoof packing like Forshner's."

"I prefer to use a leather pad with draft horses because they allow the foot to breathe. I find that rubber or synthetic pads seem to cause more thrush in draft horses than leather pads."

Dale Schlabach: "Pads should be used on any horse with hard, dry feet, so they can be packed with some kind of packing material. I prefer Forshner's Medicated Hoof Packing. Also, horses appearing sore need pads. We use either plastic or leather pads for these occasions. On show horses I prefer plastic pads, as I think they are easier to rasp, shape, and bevel. It's very important not to use a rubber-like, or too-soft pad, as there is give. Every time your horse steps on it your nail will breathe, and your shoe will have a tendency to work loose more quickly. An advantage with pads on show horses (where they want a bigger foot) is you can bevel them 1/4" on each side, so that you have gained 1/2" on width."

Will Lent: "Ah, yes, the perennial pad debate. Some years pads are in and some years they're out."

"I shoe with pads for preventative reasons (as on the street horse), for cosmetic reasons (to put a bigger shoe on the show horse) and on lame horses (a dropped sole, wedges on pulled suspensory tendons, etc...)."

''I use both plastic and leather pads. The plastic pad has a good memory: it will not lose its shape, if it's hard enough. It will not cave in on a dropped sole, and it will hold its degree on a wedge pad. Plastic pads that are too soft will loosen at the nails as there is too much give, and they don't finish well. A hard pad is a pain in the neck to cut. Plastic pads cannot breathe."

"All pads create the ideal environment for thrush which will thrive on the anaerobic bacteria which inhabit moist, airless environments."

"I prefer leather pads over plastic because they are easier to work with, they look better, and, I am told, they breathe. I don't personally think they breathe. If you make a cup out of an old pad that's been saturated with urine and water, it will hold water... so I don't think they breathe at all. They do provide an environment for thrush, and they do give, meaning that they cannot absorb concussion and protect the sole as well as a plastic pad. But the fact that there is some give enhances frog pressure, which is more natural to the foot. Each kind of pad has its drawbacks. Sometimes the only basis for deciding whether to use plastic or leather is the preference of the customer."

"Mostly I use a pine tar-based hoof packing because I think it's better than anything else. Occasionally, I use silicone."


Dale McMain: "Personal preference. The size of the horse. The age of the horse. The purpose for which the horse is being shod. I prefer 3/8" for the majority of ours."

Jim Rupple: "I use all 3/8" thick shoes on show horses. If you put borium on the shoes, they will last as long as the nail holes. Most pulling horseshoes are 1/2" thick."

Tim Kriz: "The thickness of the shoe is determined by a horse's way of going. If he has natural motion, then a standard shoe would probably be appropriate. If he needs to improve his action, then maybe a thicker shoe would help to enhance it. On the other hand, some horses will labor with a thicker shoe and need a lighter one to bring out their best."

Dale Schlabach: "What determines the thickness of the shoes which I use is the weight which is preferred. I feel on a weanling being shod for sales, 5/16" by 1" is heavy enough, on yearlings, 3/8" by 1", except in occasions where you have a real strong moving colt, maybe 3/8" by 1 1/4". 3/8" by 1 1/4" shoes will do on most all sale horses, 1/2" shoes are fine on hitch geldings. I feel that the greatest cause for a horse to wing or paddle is over weighted shoes."

Will Lent: "Most heavy horses do quite well with a shoe made of 1 1/4" x 3/8". I go up to 1 3/4" on the show horse so I can nail above the flare and add supportive area for the horse. Generally, I widen the web rather than the thickness of the shoe. If you widen the web as the foot grows, you not only support the foot, but add weight."

"Heavy horses should be left with more foot than other breeds to help dissipate concussion. I'm often asked if a heavier shoe will help a horse's way of going. In principle, it will: the heavier the weight on the end of the pendulum, the further it will swing. But I caution against using heavier shoes for this reason alone, and particularly on horses under the age of three. It just puts too much stress on the works in the legs, making injury an even greater possibility. Young horses have a hard enough time getting their feet to go where they should be going, so why add to the problem?"

"In general, the quality and size of the horse's foot, its conformation, and its use are the determining factors regarding the thickness of the shoes."


Dale McMain: "Thrush is always a common problem, but it is easily cured. The second most common problem is over shoeing which causes interfering, loss of shoes, loss of foot, and many headaches for the shoer."

Jim Rupple: "Any time you keep a horse shod for long periods of time, you can encounter problems. Dropped soles, quarter cracks and under run heels are the most common."

Tim Kriz: "The most common problem I see with hitch horses is cracked feet because of no pads and packing-- especially on a horse that really pounds the ground."

Dale Schlabach: "I feel that the most common foot problem on hitch horses is contracted heels from being shod year after year, and not having proper frog pressure. Hooves become dry and brittle from having a lot of growth. It becomes a problem to keep shoes nailed on properly without cutting the foot back in the midst of` show season."

Will Lent: "Thrush, abscesses and cracks."


Dale McMain: "Don't overdo the shoeing. A good, solid foot looks a lot better than an overshod foot that has been lost or pulled off several times and patched up. After a shoe is pulled off or lost a time or two, there is hardly enough foot left to nail to. There is a big difference between a 'big-footed horse' and a 'horse that grew a big foot.' Also, make sure that the heel of the shoe is under the heel of the horse."

Jim Rupple: "Keep from going over board on the flare and square toes unless you have a foot that can handle it. There is nothing wrong with scotch bottom shoes as long as they are fitted properly. You can do as much damage with a keg shoe as with a show shoe if it doesn't cover the heels or if they are left on too long."

Tim Kriz: "The thing to do is to keep the feet healthy with pads and packing."

Dale Schlabach: "Farriers can help eliminate these problems by keeping any thrush and excess pockets trimmed out so a disease doesn't get started. Also know when and when not to use pads or bars. Trying to get a good high nail helps keep shoes on longer. Advise clients to use hoof dressing and other hoof aids."

Will Lent: "With thrush, about all the farrier can do is to pare out the foot and tell the horse owner how to treat the hoof and to keep the horse in a clean and dry environment."

"With abscesses, it's about the same procedure. Cut out the abscess; the horse owner will have to treat it and keep the hoof clean and dry."

"I had a client with a horse whose foot was cloven as the result of an injury. We kept her shod year round, of course, and I kept the foot nicked at the ground level of each crack, and then used drawn clips on either side of the crack. And as long as the foot was reset often enough so that there was never any pressure on the cloven part, the mare stayed sound."

"In less drastic cases, regular hoof care and shoeing will do a world of good. Cracks get worse the more they're neglected. For a show foot, I often use hoof repair products to strengthen the crack and make it look better. I think most horses that are prone to cracks ought to be on some sort of feed supplement. It really helps."


Dale McMain: "The major improvements are that more people are making shoes in a mechanized manner and making good shoes a lot more available than they used to be for a lot of people. Stocks are no longer a rare item. Many people have them now, although I don't like to use them unless it is absolutely necessary."

Jim Rupple: "There are more suppliers for shoes and pads and we finally have hoof repair products. The gas forges have made the shaping of shoes more convenient."

Tim Kriz: "The use of borium to improve traction has been a big step forward. Also there is a better variety of hand tools and ready-made shoes available if a farrier doesn't make his or her own."

Dale Schlabach: "The biggest improvement in my own shoeing business in the last 10 years is that my boys are 10 years older. We shoe a great many sale horses and yearlings first time around. We greatly appreciate the accepted fact of shoeing stocks, new draft clinch, and better tools. Improved hard surfacing and different types of rubber shoes made by Anvil Brand are also an improvement."

Will Lent: "The major improvement is the larger availability of commercial shoes. Other than that, I can't think of anything that has really set the world on fire. Many newfangled products have been introduced to the market, and most of these have added little to the quality of shoeing. Shoeing isn't about products; it's about putting shoes on a horse that fit, are balanced, and help prevent unsoundness. A lot of that depends on the skill of the farrier and the kind of care that the horse regularly receives."


Dale McMain: "We start showing about July 1st, so as a rule of thumb, I like to have plates on before we plant corn, which is on or about April 20th. So it's approximately two months and ten days on average. Some horses need more time, some need less."

Jim Rupple: "If you have a good foot to start with, one reset (6-8 weeks) is enough. If you don't have a good foot, sometimes twice that amount of time is needed."

Tim Kriz: "I keep many of our show horses shod year 'round, but if they are not, it really depends on the horse. On a good-footed horse, I put on plates one shoeing before the show shoes. On a bad-footed horse, I would put on plates and then reset them once or twice before going to show shoes."

Dale Schlabach: "I like to plate show horses approximately 4 months before show season and to do a real super job without putty, 6 months."

Will Lent: "Ideally I like to get two shoeings in before the show season. So that means getting plates on 12 to 16 weeks before the first show."


Dale McMain: "The term 'scotch bottom' only means that the edge of the shoe is scotched or beveled or angled to meet the angle of the foot. All of my plates are scotch bottom plates for the simple reason that without that angle on the edge of the shoe, it would have square corners - which are twice as easy to step on and tear off with the other foot. So, to me, there are only scotch bottoms."

Jim Rupple: "I use scotch bottoms from the start, but shoes that aren't as full in the quarters. If you want a foot to spread you have to set the shoe wider than the hoof, but still support the heels."

Tim Kriz: "See above."

Dale Schlabach: "I like to go to scotch bottoms on the last shoeing before show time. We feel that exercise is important, but there is a greater problem to keep scotch shoes on when a horse is turned out."

Will Lent: "I use scotch bottom shoes when the horse is ready for them. Some horses can step into a scotch bottom shoe any day of the year; others can't. Still others could never wear a scotch bottom shoe unless, quite honestly, I made them do it! A great deal of all of this depends on the environment the horse is in. Terrain, clay, swamp, sand or cement all play major roles in how horses wear their shoes, and in how well they keep them on. The kind of care the horse gets is another important factor."

"I have some stables at which I can leave a lot of iron on most of the horses, and the shoes are going to stay on because of how the horses are cared for. They aren't subjected to conditions which would allow them to pull the shoes. At other stables I have to shoe the horses a bit tighter, because their care is less structured and they will be running into conditions which would make it possible for them to get those shoes off. Knowing how your clients care for their horses is a big part of shoeing with scotch bottoms."


Dale McMain: "Different horses grow and wear shoes very differently. It varies from 4 or 5 or 6 weeks for plates and a little less for show shoes. To be real honest, in many cases here at home, they are reset one day before they are about to lose them."

Jim Rupple: "I would say 6 weeks is the average, but that's just an average. All horses and conditions are different."

Tim Kriz: "It depends on the use of the horse and the condition of the feet, but generally 5-8 weeks for a reset."

Dale Schlabach: "I feel that 8 to 10 weeks between resetting shoes is proper, depending on your horse."

Will Lent: "I reset horses every six to eight weeks, and sometimes more frequently than that in the summer."


Dale McMain: "I hate to be critical about those feed supplements, as I've had little experience with them. But before going out and buying them, be very cautious and ask someone for proof."

Jim Rupple: "Supplements do help, but they are no replacement for breeding for a good, sound foot."

Tim Kriz: "I'm sure that they don't hurt - however, I don't believe they are a miracle cure. The best thing for a horse's feet is regular proper shoeing. And if you want to stimulate growth, keep the feet moist with pads and packing."

Dale Schlabach: "I feel that it is very important to feed supplements that claim to improve hoof health. Our main problem on feeding supplements is that it is such a slow process, and we usually expect quicker results."

Will Lent: "Supplements are good, and I think a large percent of horses should be on them. They should have good feed and water, regular worming, and a proper environment where adequate hoof care is provided, or else all the supplements in the world won't help."


Dale McMain: "Several years ago, I made myself and my dad my only clientele. So my biggest pet peeve is I never get paid anymore! As for other farriers, there are not enough of' them who are good for draft horses and probably never will be (for good reason)."

Jim Rupple: "As a farrier, you need good work areas and horses that get worked with on a regular basis in order to do a decent job. Some people never try to improve the conditions and it gets frustrating. I also hate to see a bunch of shod horses running out together."

"I give anybody credit who tries to keep a horse shod decently. My pet peeve is that we don't try and learn as much as we can from one another."

Tim Kriz: "My biggest pet peeve is clients trying to tell me how to shoe their horses when they have no idea what they are talking about."

Dale Schlabach: "My pet peeve is a client trying to tell me exactly how to shoe a problem horse, when I am sure it is incorrect and will not solve the problem. Yet, you have to strive to keep the client satisfied. Another one is other farriers telling my clients that I didn't shoe their horses right. If they are serious, why not tell me instead of my client? I always appreciate bits of good advice. Or, are they trying to downgrade me and hurt my business?"

Will Lent: "My most frequent criticism of clients is that they don't handle their horses enough. I absolutely hate working on ill-mannered horses, and there is no excuse for it. Regarding farriers, I don't think enough of them use the forge to fit shoes properly."

Reprinted with permission from the Autumn, 1993 issue of The Draft Horse Journal.

]]> (Cyber Farrier) General Farriery Wed, 13 May 2009 05:00:32 +0000
A Tribute to Farriers

I wanted this to be a tribute to a unique group of people, but I find that they are almost indescribable. A good farrier must hold a sharp knife in his hand work underneath a large animal that sometimes doesn't want to be worked on. The farrier must also know how to handle the person who owns the horse, sometimes the harder of the two options. He/she has to work with such diverse materials as metal, skin, and emotions. He needs the finesse of a surgeon and the strength of a wrestler with his tools, without benefit of anesthesia. Good farriers can trim all four feet to the exact angles that all match, just with the eyeball measurements. When they get out the calipers at the end, all it does is confirm a perfect job.

He is also an artist when you consider first the eye he needs to visualize a perfect hoof from one which needs sculpting to that ideal. Then he/she has to shape the correct shoe for the job when a fraction of an inch could cause lameness. I have seen 8x10 oil paintings that sell for $8,000, but to me they are not nearly as beautiful as a lame horse that went sound after the farrier visualized the inside structure of the hoof, leveled the bars, rounded the toe, and released the pressure of an abcess, all for $25. These critical jobs are usually performed outside in all sorts of weather, and on any surface that happens to be there. And much of this delicate work has do be done almost standing on his head.

I feel inadequate to express the respect I have for these people who are artists, surgeons, psychologists, blacksmiths, and contortionists all at once. Sometimes the customer is near tears with a foundered pony- farrier must rescue the pony's feet, and deal with the person in panic. Sometimes the customer only calls once a year, just before hunting season, and the farrier has to work a miracle which will last till next year. Sometimes people expect the farrier to do the training, or otherwise they would have the horse accustomed to picking up its feet. Sometimes when the horse struggles and suddenly there is blood on the scene, customer quickly asks if Old Peanut is hurt, not caring if the farrier has sliced the pad off his thumb when Old Peanut jumped.

Of course, not everyone falls into these categories, but enough of them do so that it is a recognized problem. The American Farrier's Journal gives the advice to farriers that they drop the inconsiderate customers, or charge them higher prices.

When you think about all this you wonder why anyone would want this job, and you have to feel awe at those who do.

My horses thank you, as much as I do.

]]> (Dianna Taplin) General Farriery Wed, 13 May 2009 04:50:44 +0000
Facets of the Four-point Trim

In terms of farrier technology, few recent developments have had an impact on shoeing technique like the theories Gene Ovnicek and Ric Redden have put forward lately concerning the "four-point trim." The technique is based on empirical research that utilized wild horses as the model. It was observed that feral horses on the public rangelands survived harsh terrain with minimal physiologic and pathologic complications. Conformational deficiencies, depending on the severity, often predisposed an individual to injury which subsequently rendered it susceptible to predator attacks. Some minor conformational defects mattered little. The horses in the herd experienced few-hoof related problems, despite the fact that they were never trimmed or shod. However, they had a peculiar wear to their hoofs.

The subjects had very short hooves, square, rolled toes, and broken/unloaded quarters. The only areas that had ground contact were four points, or pillars of the hoof, as Redden describes them. The pillars involve both heels and two points of hoof wall and sole at the toe, about one inch in front of the apex of the frog.

The horses had such quality hooves that it was theorized this hoof wear was physiologically and conformationally efficient, granting ease of movement and consistent soundness. This makes sense, as the shape of the hoof complies with the simple law of physics stating that moving things tend toward a path of least resistance. Application of this conformation to domestic horses is providing promising data concerning the benefits of this technique.


It is well documented that an increase in growth occurs at the coronary band in response to irritation. "Irritation" can be considered to be stimuli such as shock, compression, massage or the application of an irritant. The tissue response manifests as an increase in both hoof wall length and mass. Those areas not experiencing as much irritation produce thinner wall and less length. The traditional method is to trim the hoof by flattening the ground surface and setting the shoe so that it contacts the whole circumference of the hoof wall. In doing this, we have induced growth in areas not normally stimulated and caused regression of mass in the areas best physiologically suited to support a healthy hoof. Upon application of the four-point trim, the hoof begins to remodel tissue and repartition blood supply to those areas now stimulated to increase production of hoof mass.


Initially, the heels are trimmed and rasped down to the level that the angle of the heel is at the widest part of the frog. This causes some apprehension in most farriers, as taking away heel goes against every instinct concerning the goal to enhance heel mass. Next, the rest of the ground surface should be balanced, just as you would using traditional methods. This should be done by starting at the heel and working toward the toe, stopping at the apex of the frog. The hoof angle should be the same as the horse's pastern angle or within a 2-3 degree margin of 53°. The weight bearing points at the toe should be noted. They should lie 3/4 to 1 inch in front of the apex of the frog. The ground surface of the heel pillars should be about 3/4 of an inch from back to front. Using the rasp, starting at the cranial edge of the heel pillars, the quarters are unloaded to a depth of about 1/16 - 1/4 of an inch, tapering to ground surface as it progresses to the toe pillars. The toe is then rasped to create a rolled or squared appearance leaving a 3/4 - inch pad at the ground surface of both toe pillars. The sole is unloaded around the inner circumference of the hoof wall and between the toe pillars ever so slightly. 1/16 of an inch is enough to prevent loading in this area, yet stimulates pillar formation. As much as possible, leave the frog, bars, sole, and bridge between the toe pillars intact. Lastly, any flares, especially at the quarters, are removed to provide a straight line down the wall. The edges are then rounded to prevent peeling and chipping unless a shoe is being applied. Above all, maximum mass should be maintained at the pillars.

A shoe may be applied to the trimmed foot if needed. The toe must be forged as a rolled toe or shaped such that the toe is squared.

Once the shoe is applied, it has a somewhat startling appearance. To the farrier's eye, it elicits a concern for esthetic appearance to the trainer or owner. I have had a number of individuals initially cringe upon unveiling the shod foot, but after seeing the condition of the hoof and the horse's attitude change, it becomes their mission to make sure I don't forget to set the horse up identically the next appointment. I have had many new clients request the technique, as they have seen the results involving other horses that they knew had been real problem cases prior to the application of the four-point.

A peculiar thing happens with horses diagnosed with navicular pathology. The traditional farrier treatment for navicular problems involve increasing the dorsal-to-ground angle of the hoof by increasing heel length, thereby decreasing stress applied to the navicular bone. This is achieved by creating slack in the deep digital flexor tendon that runs over the distal sesamoid, or navicular bone. Theoretically, this is sound thinking, as Long Toe Low Heel (LTLH) conformation has been positively associated with degenerative navicular syndrome. As I explained earlier, to perform the four-point trim correctly, the heels must be taken down to a level that makes them even with the widest part of the frog. With the horse's navicular condition in mind, it takes some real faith to do this, as it goes against everything that seems right. Interestingly enough, these horses act more comfortable once they have had a day or two to adapt to their new angles. The rolled or squared toe provides good breakover and seems to offset the decrease in angle that may occur. I've treated children's lesson horses that had to be reschooled because they were too full of themselves. Post treatment, they were free from the pain that had kept them from doing much more than a slow trot previously. None acted as if they were sour due to pain for they were obviously ready to perform, and they exercised freely upon being turned out.

As with any medical therapy, this technique will have a small percentage that may not respond at all, or their response may be very subtle. It is important to realize judgment of the response is subjective to the observer and largely depends on the actual case. Quality results are definitely related to the correct application of the technique and an objective assessment of the problem at hand.

]]> (Andrew L. Dibbern) General Farriery Wed, 13 May 2009 04:37:19 +0000
Equine Asymmetrical Dexterity, or The Preferred Lead Syndrome

Over the course of my career, it has been my observation that the prevalent and popular theories which tend to rule techniques of both riding and shoeing seem to be rooted in the belief that the horse is somehow intended by nature to be symmetrical.

Proper balance, according to currently popular definition, implies symmetry in both appearance and movement, nothing less. We are encouraged, for example, to think that things are at their best when front and hind feet have the appearance of matched pairs, when opposing diagonals maintain symmetrical stride lengths or when lead changes are smooth and equal - in other words, when ambidextrous behavior is exhibited. Typically, the closer a horse comes to displaying symmetrical movement, the more he is praised as being a "natural mover."


In view of the preceding, it seems safe to suggest that those who follow this line of thinking subscribe to what may be termed the "Symmetrical Theory." This theory, simply stated, claims that the "natural" horse is born symmetrical and would tend to stay symmetrical in both movement and appearance if not for accident or association with man. The implication is that the horse that displays asymmetrical tendencies is "unnatural" and that such a horse was born symmetrical, but somehow learned or otherwise acquired any asymmetrical tendencies that he displays.


Although symmetry of function and appearance in the horse may be desirable, it is seldom the case. It is the rare horse indeed that doesn't have a "stiff side" or a "favored lead." In the typical horse, for example, many distinctive signs of asymmetry may be easily observed, such as variances of size, shape or angle which occur in the feet and legs. It is also evident that asymmetrical indications are not restricted to just the feet or legs alone. Certain left/right discrepancies have been noted when comparing various developmental and functional aspects of limbs, shoulders, withers, spine and neck, as well as an often consistent reluctance to take a particular lead while being ridden.


While a great number of professionals in the horse industry may believe in, promote and expound upon the Symmetrical Theory in one way or another, clinical research simply does not support the supposition that symmetrical behavior of the horse is natural or that asymmetrical behavior is acquired. However, an abundance of evidence does exist which suggests a premise that is profoundly contradictory. Briefly stated, this premise proposes that the "natural" horse is born with certain innate tendencies which result in naturally occurring asymmetrical movement and development. For now, this may be termed the "Asymmetrical Theory."

The following presentation of facts and information should serve to substantiate the premise as stated in the Asymmetrical Theory:


Outwardly, humans as well as horses tend to appear symmetrical with respect to left and right, but function is not always symmetrical, especially during certain phases of movement. This is the result of handedness, an asymmetrical phenomenon of the brain. The most striking and most fundamental manifestation of external asymmetry, handedness, is directly linked to brain lateralization and is described as the "physical manifestation of brain laterality."

The "split" or "dual hemisphere" type of brain is a characteristic common to vertebrates. The left and right hemispheres interact and work together to handle the complex tasks of analyzing and organizing thought processes and directing physical activities and body functions. Laterality or Lateralization is the neuropsychological term used to describe the division of labor between the two brain halves of what is commonly referred to as the "split brain."

Although brain lateralization has been thought by some to be found only in humans or primates, as early as 1906 Sir Charles Sherrington, a pioneer in research of the brain and nervous system, demonstrated that animals with two brain halves (such as the horse) are capable of brain lateralization. In more recent research, Gnter Ehret, a zoologist at the University of Constance in West Germany, has concluded from studies of the mouse that animals are capable of brain lateralization and suggests that "...left hemisphere dominance has been around since the beginnings of mammals and isn't a specialty of man."

Handedness resulting from lateralization is most commonly exhibited in bipeds as right- or left-hand dominance. In the case of certain quadrupeds, such as the horse, the tendency is referred to as sidedness or ipsilateral (same side) limb dominance.

The tendency to be handed or sided can manifest itself in varying degrees ranging from ambidexterity on one end of the scale to extreme one sidedness on the other end. Studies show, however, that while tendencies in the extreme do occur, they are rare. The vast majority of animals observed seem to tend toward the average in the degree of sidedness exhibited; average in this case meaning generally falling within a mid- range between the extremes.


Before proceeding further with describing handedness or sidedness as it relates to the equine, it is first necessary to take a closer look at the overall way that a horse achieves balance. Of particular interest is something called tripodal support.

The horse belongs to a unique group of quadrupeds as he possesses a rigid spine. The post and beam arrangement of his spine requires a remarkable set of balancing requirements to be utilized in regard to the arrangement and placement of the limbs during gait performance. In order for the horse to be properly balanced and supported during movement, alternating limbs must form a tripod of support around the center of gravity. This arrangement is achieved through a series of naturally occurring, yet remarkable reflex actions which are carried out by the central nervous system. While it is true that three limbs are used to form the tripod of support, it is not always the same three limbs. Frequent lead changes tend to allow for all four limbs to be utilized in a constantly alternating manner, so as to reduce the risk of overloading. For example, the canter, according to O.R. Adams, is a "... three-beat gait in which two diagonal legs are paired. The single beat of the paired legs falls between successive beats of the two unpaired legs." The arrangement of limbs in a canter and gallop form a triangle or three-legged support. It is referred to by Milton Hildebrand as "...the tripodal support phase."


Handedness or, in the case of the horse, sidedness (resulting from lateralization) and tripodal support are just two of several key factors needed to unlock and understand the mystery of innate asymmetrical behavior in the horse. The third factor is the inherent or naturally occurring diagonal orientation of the limbs that enables tripodal support.

In humans, the action of arms in opposition to legs or diagonal orientation, occurs in all movements and is controlled at the reflex level. The same thing is true in horses, or any vertebrates animal for that matter. Habitual movements that are reflexive in nature (inborn) are performed without direct commands from the brain. According to Dr. George Platt, "During the high-speed motion of the limbs, these characteristics are controlled by a motor program, or reflex action that is built into the animal at birth. There is no deliberate thought process going on while the horse is performing at speed. The gait comes from the spinal nerve centers." Without diagonal orientation of the limbs, tripodal support (discussed later) during gait performance could not take place. Diagonal pairs of limbs are linked together during locomotion by complex automatic reflexes originating from the autonomic system which is located in the basal ganglia area of the brain. Carried out by action of the central nervous system, these innately programmed messages are responsible for maintaining diagonal orientation of the limbs during movement; hence, the use of paired diagonal limbs in left and right leads.


Power for locomotion, maneuvering and for gait performance, such as that which is required for engagement of leads and lead changes, is initiated by the hind limbs. The relationship between diagonal limbs, in particular the tendency for the hind to be dominant over the diagonal fore limb, has been established through various research studies. In one such study, for example, when electrical stimulus similar to that of the brain was supplied to the fore limbs of various animals, the response was a simple reaction by the stimulated limb. However, when stimulus was supplied to a hind limb, the response was always the same -- a remarkable reaction occurring in both the stimulated hind limb and its diagonal fore limb mate as well -- at the same time. These reactions -- which tend to mimic gait performance -- occurred despite the fact that communication between the spine and brain had been interrupted at the base of the cerebral cortex by surgically separating the two. In other studies it has been found that the effects of both the Shiff-Sherrington Syndrome and Wobblers Syndrome are demonstrative of the inherently complex relationship established between diagonal pairs of limbs at the reflex level.

The forgoing serves to introduce the fourth key element needed to gain better understanding of innate asymmetrical movement of the horse: dominance of the hind limb over its diagonal forelimb mate. Emphasis needs to be placed not only on the inseparable integrity with which diagonal limbs are linked but also the degree of dependence with which the fore limb relies on its diagonal hind mate for direction during gait performance. For example, stride length of the forelimb as well as angle of movement of the forelimb (relative to central axis) are determined by the diagonal hind.


The last and, perhaps the single most important factor to consider, (regarding left/right diagonals) is this: While each hind limb may be the controlling factor in the diagonal that it occupies, one hind limb is the more dominant of the two by virtue of the fact that it belongs to the ipsilaterally dominant side.

In free choice situations, it is the nature of a dominant limb to be used predominately. For example, during movement, it is the dominant hind limb that will influence which lead is used and how much time is spent in that lead. While at rest or grazing, the limbs of the dominant diagonal form a lead stance and are utilized for support and balance more often and in different ways than the nondominant diagonal limbs. Quite often horses, regardless of age, will be seen to position one limb out in front of themselves while they are grazing. It is almost always the fore limb of the dominant diagonal pair which is stretched out in front and more often than not, will be the left fore, which indicates right rear left fore dominance stemming from right sidedness. Thus, the horse that favors a left lead is really righthanded (sided).


Forelimb movement is somewhat dependent on, in accordance with and proportionate (not equal) to the hind limb that it is diagonally linked to - especially while performing the trot. It seems safe to suggest, then, that forelimb development would be determined more by diagonal interplay than from independent action of the fore limb itself.

In order to illustrate the combined effects of sidedness and diagonal orientation, we'll enlist the aid of the ever useful hypothetical horse. Our hypothetical subject will be a right sided (righthanded) horse, the right fore and right hind limbs being the ipsilaterally dominant pair. (As has been shown, this would be the result of the left motor cortex causing right side dominance, due to the lateralization process). The effect of sidedness in this case would be that superior strength and dexterity would develop diagonally, extending from the right hind to the left fore, not laterally to the right fore as might be expected. Diagonal development would occur in this manner because of innate diagonal limb orientation.

If the basic rule of "Form Follows Function" applies, one can easily see that one pair of diagonal limbs -- if they were being used differently from the opposing pair -- would tend to develop differently from the opposing diagonal pair, as well. Or, to put it another way: asymmetrical function of diagonals equals asymmetrical development of diagonals.

Developmental differences occurring in the opposing diagonals would include tissue and structural elements such as hooves, muscles and bones. As time goes on, developmental differences become more pronounced, revealing differences in appearance, strength and dexterity as well as differences of flexibility, range of motion, etc., occurring in the limbs and spine. Each diagonal pair of limbs will develop its own unique method of weight bearing and movement, each tending to be slightly different from the other. In essence, the horse develops skills of asymmetrical dexterity, such as a preferred lead. As he grows and matures, these skills change, adapt and become increasingly more confirmed, much in the same way that humans grow and adapt and become confirmed in their left or right handedness.


In my own research I have observed and studied over 500 horses. My preliminary findings show that:

a) Approximately 75% of the animals studied displayed a preference for the left lead, which would indicate a dominant diagonal consisting of the right hind/left fore (right sided.)
b) The number of animals that displayed extreme ambidextrous tendencies were 3. Fewer than 1%.
c) The number of animals showing sidedness tendencies to such a degree that one or more limbs were showing obvious but tolerable signs of stress from weight bearing imbalances were over 60%.
d) In most cases, efforts to minimize imbalance and weight-bearing stress were successful.
e) Methods used to bring about improved locomotive and weight-bearing balance included shoeing techniques which considered natural asymmetrical tendencies, balanced riding techniques and therapeutic exercise.


From the outset, the purpose of this paper has been singular: to prove that asymmetrical tendencies in the horse are naturally occurring rather than acquired. Toward that end, it seems plain and simple that the horse fits all of the qualifying characteristics of innate asymmetrical behavior: i.e., lateralization, sidedness, tripodal support, diagonal orientation and hind limb dominance Hence, the preceding presentation of evidence and information should serve not only to support, but to prove the premise that asymmetrical behavior in the horse is the result of inborn attributes and comes to the horse naturally, arising from the combined effects of innate lateralization resulting in naturally occurring sidedness and diagonal orientation of limbs affected by inborn autonomic responses, as well as the demands of tripodal support. In short, asymmetrical tendencies of the horse are not the result of erudite or acquired behavior, but instead, are strictly the result of inherited tendencies.

EPILOGUE The reader may at first question the value of this information. If so, then consider this: Farrier Science, as it is taught today, largely subscribes to and promotes (either loudly or indifferently) the Symmetrical Theory in both the teaching and practice of trimming and shoeing horses. In my opinion, a great deal of energy is being wasted by too many horseshoers today who seem to be too often engaged in a sincere and honest attempt at restoring to some mythical state of symmetry a horse that they mistakenly think has somehow acquired asymmetrical behavior. This is false and misguided thinking. The horse did not acquire asymmetrical behavior; the horse is born with it. It would be a classic exercise in futility to attempt to restore a horse to a state of being that never existed to start with.

The preponderance of evidence seems to weigh heavily in favor of the Asymmetrical Theory being correct. If that is the case, then the evidence profoundly implies that horseshoeing theory as it is taught today may be incorrect in its most fundamental of teachings regarding the source, cause and treatment of asymmetrical characteristics and behavior in the horse. That, in my opinion, is important enough to warrant serious consideration for change in both thinking and practice, as well as further research!

Author's Note: This article first appeared in January 1989 issue of The American Farriers Journal. Since then personal research has been ongoing, particularly in the area of how this information and knowledge can be utilized by farriers in their approach to shoeing horses. An updated article describing in greater detail the effects of asymmetrical behavior on the horse as well as practical shoeing applications which consider natural asymmetrical tendencies is in the works and forthcoming.




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  1. Adams, O.R., Lameness in Horses (reprint 1977) 3rd ed.
    Philadelphia, Lea and Febiger. 1962.
  2. Butler, Doug, The Principles of Horseshoeing.
    Alpine, Texas, Doug Butler. 1976.
  3. Crotts, Leonard S., Shoeing to Win.
    Centurion Press/Atlanta Tucson. 1985.
  4. Emery, Leslie, Miller J. and Van Hoosen N., Horseshoeing Theory and Hoof Care.
    Philadelphia, Lea and Febiger. 1977.
  5. Green, Ben K., Horse Conformation as to Soundness and Performance.
    Northland Press. 1977. (2nd ed.)
  6. Harrison, James C., Care and Training of the Trotter and Pacer.
    Colombus, Ohio. The United States Trotting Association. 1968.
  7. Hickman, John, Farriery (Reprint 1980).
    London, J. Allen and Co. LTD. 1977.
  8. Lungwitz, A. and Adams, C.F., The Complete Guide to Blacksmithing, Horseshoing, Carriage and Wagon Building and Painting. (reprint 1981).
    New York, Crown Publishers. 1845.
  9. Rooney, James R., Biomechanics of Lameness in Horses.
    Huntington, New York, Robert E. Kreiger Publishing Co. 1977.
  10. Rooney, James R., The Lame Horse: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.
    Hollywood, California, Wilshire Book Co., Melvin Powers. 1974.
  11. Rooney, James R., The Mechanics of the Horse.
    Huntington, New York, Robert E. Kreiger Publishing Co. 1981.
  12. Rossdale, Peter D., The Horse from Conception to Maturity.
    Arcadia, California. The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. 1972.
  13. Simpson, J. Scott, The Mechanics of Shoeing Gaited Horses.
    J. Scott Simpson. 1979.
  14. Smythe, R.H. and Goody, P.C., The Horse, Structure and Movement. (2nd ed.)
    London, J. Allen and Co. LTD. 1967.
  15. War Dept. Technical Manual No. 2-220 , The Horseshoer.
    Washington D.C. War Department. March 11, 1941.
  16. American Farriers Journal vol.12 no. 4. July 1986.


  1. Davidson, J.B., Horseman's Veterinary Advisor.
    Canton, Ohio, Horse Publications. 1971.
  2. Hayes, M.H., Friedberger and Frohner's Veterinary Pathology Vol. 2 (6th ed.)
    Chicago, Chicago Medical Book Co. 1909.
  3. Hayes, M.H., Friedberger and Frohner's Veterinary Pathology Vol. 1 (6th ed.)
    Chicago, Chicago Medical Book Co. 1909.
  4. Hayes, M. Horace, Veterinary Notes for Horseowners (16th ed.)
    New York. Arco Publishing Co. 1976.
  5. Prendergast, Alice, Medical Terminology A Text/Workbook.
    Menlo Park, California. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. 1977.
  6. Roper, Nancy, New American Pocket Medical Dictionary.
    New York, Charles Scribner's and Sons.
  7. Smith, Genevieve Love and Davis, Phyllis E., Medical Terminology. (4th ed.)
    New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1981
  8. Winslow, Kenelm, Veterinary Materia Medica and Therapeutics (8th ed.)
    Chicago, American Veterinary Publishing Co. 1919.
First published in the American Farriers Journal, January/February 1989.
Reprinted here with permission of the author.]]> (Ernie Gray) General Farriery Wed, 13 May 2009 04:15:19 +0000
Buzz Words and Brainstorms to Decode Duckett's Dot

In his lectures, David Duckett FWCF provides a more detailed, accurate, and logical guide to horseshoeing evaluation than the traditional textbook guidelines because he identifies visible external reference points to use as locators of non-visible internal structures.

The internal structures of the horse's foot enable it to function and maintain balance. If the foot is not trimmed according to a plan that will coordinate the external reference points as defined by Duckett, the internal structures cannot function properly. When this happens, or when a shoe is placed improperly on the foot, the horse must compensate by compromising various anatomical structures, resulting in condition like underrun heels, sore suspensory ligaments, and injuries to the hindquarters or neck or other lameness problems.

Duckett opens a seminar by asking "What is a well-shod horse"? His answer to his own question was that we must understand the relationship of internal to external structures, and how shoe size, shape, and location on the hoof may be determined and the hoof trimmed. He carefully appraised a donated horse, videotaped it as presented, explained his procedure and terms, applied them to the horse and then re-videotaped the horse for a final evaluation with his students.

Duckett's "word association" terms for his system of external points on a horses's foot are the dot, the bridge, the dimples and the pillars.

"The Dot"

decoding duckets dot 5"Duckett's Dot" is a point located approximately 3/8" back from the apex of the horny frog on the average riding horse and is directly below the center of P-3. This measurement is proportionately greater or smaller as the horse's size varies, from a Shetland pony to a Shire. The Dot is a reference for determining the normal position of the wall at the toe, and gives an accurate indication of how long a "long toe" on a long-toed, low-heeled horse really is (See Figure 1, above).

In order to use the Dot to determine the natural position of the wall at the toe, Duckett's first pass at hoof trimming consisted of removing only the deadsole and trimming the wall level with the living sole.

Using dividers, Duckett placed one divider arm on the Dot and the other arm on the medial side of the wall using this distance from the surface Dot. He then scribed a mark across the toe (See Figure 2) and removed the dorsal surface of the wall down to the mark.

A vertical line through the Dot and perpendicular to the ground surface would exit the extensor process of P-3 and represent the center of P-3. (See Figure 3, below.).

The vertical line would also intersect and be central to the following internal structures and functions:

  1. Insertion points for flexor and extensor tendons;
  2. Joint capsule nervous system functions related to motion and stability;
  3. Terminal arch and circumflex artery.

"The Bridge"

decoding duckets dot 5The Bridge is also visible from the ground surface of the hoof and is located halfway between the toe and the bulbs of the heel. On the normal riding horse, it is approximately 3/4 to one inch back from the Dot. (See Figure 1).

  • The Bridge is directly below the center of rotation of the distal end of P-2.
  • The Bridge is directly below the junction of the navicular bone and P-3.
  • The Bridge is the balance point between the anterior and posterior halves of the well-shod foot.
  • Inside the foot, the Bridge bonds the bars to the frog and attaches to the "wings" of P-3, acting as a hammock or spring.
  • After trimming, toe length was measured from the junction of the coronary band and hoof wall, to the ground surface. (See Figure 3).
  • When the foot is balanced, the toe length will measure equally from the Bridge to the toe, and from the Bridge to the heel bulbs.
  • Toe length, in turn, should measure half the length of the base. (See Figure 3 below).

"The Dimples" and "The Pillars"

The Dimples are located in the coronary band, inside the Pillars. The two Pillars run the entire height of the dorsal hoof wall and are points of weightbearing.

  • On the ground surface, the Pillars determine optimum lateral and medial points of breakover. (See Figure 4 to the right, below).
  • The Pillars may be seen as the optimum point of breakover, and used as a guideline for farriers to determine the amount needed for trimming a "rockered" toe.
  • From a lateral view, the Pillars are in line with the doral face of P-3. (See figure 3)To illustrate how to use these external reference points, Duckett worked on a Thoroughbred gelding with underrun heels, sore suspensories, a sore neck, and sore hindquarters. (See Photo 1 at the end of this article). The gelding was uncomfortable and would not stand squarely, no matter how many attempts were made to stand him up. He was also reluctant to extend at the trot.

Practical application of theoretical terminology.

decoding duckets dot 9Duckett's evaluation of the current shoeing made note of the application of traditional trimming and shoeing guidelines followed by most farriers. He then voiced his opinion that the horse lacked heel support, would benefit from improved breakover, and that anterior-posterior hoof balance according to Duckett's guidelines was needed.

Since the previous trimming and shoeing had failed to provide the biomechanical support the horses's injury or lameness required, the horse had altered its natural posture as a compensation. The gelding's altered weightbearing and stance affected various parts of his anatomy, from his head to his tail, and made him uncomfortable.

Duckett set out to return the feet to their normal function. He trimmed the front feet and, measuring from the medial side, placed the dividers on the dot, scribed a mark across the toe to determine the natural position of the wall at the toe. (See Figure 2).decoding duckets dot 7

Duckett then pulled the foot forward and trimmed the toe down to the mark.

Measuring the newly trimmed toe, Dave then transferred that distance to the bridge, so that the distance from the bridge to the toe was equal to the distance from the bridge to the bulbs of the heels (See photos 2 & 2A at the end of this article).

According to Duckett's technique, the horse was not in anterior-posterior balance, and ready to be shod.

Reference Points and Shoeing

Duckett's technique of shoeing provides plenty of heel support. He fits the heels of the shoe approximately 1/8" wider than the wall. (See Photo 3 at the end of this article). He also leaves plenty of heel length to support the foot and legs as ?

Duckett feels that fitting the heels of the shoe fully is a very important feature in any farrier's attempt to support the foot's weightbearing structures. The amount of heel support needed is determined by measuring the distance from the point of breakover to the bridge, which should in turn equal the shoe's heel's distance from the bridge. (See Figure 5 below)decoding duckets dot 5.

Duckett rockers the toes of the front shoes to maintain the natural point of breakover, but does not rocker the toes of the hind shoes, since the hind feet are not naturally rockered.

Naturally, several shoeings and adjustments would be needed to help the gelding's feet recover, but there were some immediate and profound changes. Once shod by Duckett's method, the gelding was comfortable enough to stand squarely and was willing to move out at the trot. On videotape, the horse's strides were compared before and after the shoeing, and found to be longer, freer, and more even.

Author's note: In my own shoeing work, I have consistently seen similar positive results when using these principles.

Posted here with the permission of the author.
First published in slightly different form in Hoofcare & Lameness, Summer 1992.

Author Sue Bumbaugh is an AFA Certified farrier from Cashtown, Pennsylvania.

]]> (Sue Bumbaugh) General Farriery Tue, 12 May 2009 07:09:33 +0000
Consequent or Secondary Lameness

It has long been known that lameness, pain in a leg, can and often does lead to lameness and pain in another leg. As an adage: lameness is a cause of lameness. In the 1960s I called this second site of pain "complementary" lameness1. That was not original with me, I'm sure, and is not really correct in any case. Perhaps secondary or consequent lameness would be better; at any rate I shall choose consequent

Of more importance, however, is defining what we are talking about, systematizing the observations, and seeing if the system we develop stands up to empirical test.

  1. 1. If a horse is lame in one foreleg, it tends to shift weight bearing to the other foreleg and to the contralateral (diagonal) hindleg. A clinical sign of lameness of, say, the left foreleg (LF) is that the head and neck move up when that lame left leg is bearing weight and move down when the right foreleg (RF) is bearing weight. This is known as nodding.

  2. The reason for the nodding is as follows: When the neck is raised (dorsiflexes) there is reflex extension of the leg in support at that time. Thus, with the LF lame and in support - bearing weight - the horse raises the neck, which induces extension of the LF. With extension there is less movement of the joints of the leg and, so, less pain since much of the pain of most lameness is caused by movement. In your own case, if you hurt an arm or leg, you try not to move it because that causes greater pain. Simply put: if it hurts don't move it.An additional sign, usually less obvious, is that the horse will carry the head and neck slightly curved around toward the lame leg.

  3. The neck is curved around toward the lame foreleg because, again, this induces reflex extension of that foreleg and, so, reduces pain. I hasten to note that these reflex extensions (and many more) are all part of the normal locomotion of the horse2 . We are here considering them only in relation to lameness.

  4. As mentioned above, if a foreleg is painful enough, the horse shifts some of the weight-bearing to the contralateral (diagonal) hindleg as well as to the contralateral foreleg. Say the horse is lame in the left fore (LF). We start the horse walking with movement of the LH. The LF moves next, then RH, then RF and back to LH again, Fig.1. Thus, RH is always the next leg to bear weight and move after LF. (Start with RH and you will see the same thing.) One may propose that since RH is next after LF and LH after RF, that when either fore comes to the ground and pain is experienced, the horse shifts weight as quickly as possible to the next leg in the normal sequence - the contralateral hind.

That sequence is, of course, true for the walk and related slow gaits. At the trot if the LF is sore, weight can only be shifted to the RH since that is the only other foot on the ground. Similarly for RF sore and shift of weight to the LH. The gallop sequence, diagonal or round, is different, and we shall try to deal with that later. In any case lameness is evaluated at the walk and trot, and we concentrate on those gaits.

I must, however, take a moment to consider the lateral gaits, so-called: rack, pace, single-foot, etc. At the pace, for example, if LF is sore, the next leg in sequence is not LH but RH, and the contralateral principle holds.

It would be nice, very nice, to be able to extend these observations to primary lameness of the hindleg and secondary or consequent lameness of a foreleg(s). Going back to 1. we saw that reflex extension helps to alleviate pain in a leg. If LH is sore, reflex extension should help, and such reflex extension is achieved by the horse lowering the neck (ventroflexion). In the real world, unfortunately, it is difficult and usually impossible to perceive such movement. There is no real and easy explanation for that. One factor is that lameness of the hindleg (e.g., spavin, sacroiliac arthrosis) is almost invariably bilateral - both hindlegs affected. With pain shifting back and forth between the two hindlegs it is virtually impossible to distinguish significant ventroflexion of the head and neck related to one leg or the other. It is generally true that horses lame behind tend to carry the head and neck lower than usual but, again, that is very difficult to appreciate in most cases.

We have been considering this from the viewpoint of diagnosing the site of lameness. Of equal, and perhaps greater importance, is understanding why a horse lame in one leg becomes lame in another leg. In brief, in summary, all one has to do is to examine the gait sequence for walk and trot as in Fig.1; the next leg in the sequence after the lame leg will be the site of consequent lameness.


The gait sequence for the diagonal gallop is shown in Fig. 2. We take the horse on the left (LF) lead with LF sore. The sequence is: RH-LH-RF-LF. That is obviously not a good situation for alleviating pain, the lame LF being in sole support. The horse shifts to the RF lead with the sequence: LH-RH-LF-RF. LF is now in the diagonal with RH and, therefore, sharing the weight with RH rather than being in sole support. IF there is to be a consequent lameness, it should be in RF and/or contralateral in the RH. In the real world, once again, one more often sees consequent lameness in the contralateral foreleg and not (apparently) in the contralateral hindleg. Consequent lameness of RF occurs because RH leaves the ground a bit before LF, so that alleviating pain in LF requires a quick shift of body weight to RF - the next in line in the gait sequence just as at the slow gaits.

All these bets are off, of course, if one considers the round gallop. I shall leave that to the reader, if interested, since it is an uncommon situation but can be worked out using the gait diagram.


Figure 1: The walk and related slow gait sequence.



Figure 2: Right Front gallop sequence.









1 Rooney J R 1969 Biomechanics of Lameness in Horses. Williams and Wilkins. Baltimore. This book is no longer in print, and I do not know of any used copies available.

2 For more information on the role of reflexes in normal locomotion, please see chaps. 9 and 10 in: Rooney J R 1998 The Lame Horse. Meerdink. Neenah, WI. (

]]> (James Rooney, D.V.M.) General Farriery Sun, 25 Jan 2009 09:27:27 +0000

breningstall anvilThose of us who work with our hands can never have too many tools. Just as it takes eggs to make chickens and chickens to make eggs, it takes tools to make tools. One of the most important tools for any blacksmith or farrier is the anvil.

An anvil is a heavy block of steel or iron on which metal is shaped or forged (formed by heating and hammering). Starting from the bottom and working up, here are the names and uses of an anvil's parts:

The base and feetform the foundation that supports the anvil. Next is the waist, or throat, which allows room under the horn and heel to readily work stock or horseshoes on top of the anvil without interference.

The horn, or beak, is a cone-shaped projection on which the blacksmith shapes round or bent designs on or into the piece of stock being forged. Stock, or bar stock, is the piece of metal being worked or forged.

At the base of the horn is the table, used more by blacksmiths than by farriers. The table is made of non-tempered iron and is therefore softer than the anvil's face which is tempered. On farrier anvils, the table may have a clip horn, used mostly to draw toe and side clips on horseshoes.

The step is, well, a step up to the face of the anvil. The face is the hardened, flat, top surface of the anvil. It is the work surface where most of the hammering is done. In some anvils the face is made of a tempered plate welded to the base of the anvil; in others, the whole anvil is one piece, with the face hardened to Rockwell 1085, 1095, or 1930 -- if you're an engineer, you know what those numbers mean.

At the opposite end of the anvil from the horn is the heel. Most heels are as wide as the face and square on the end, but some are tapered,depending on the user's preference. In the heel is a square hole called the hardy hole, which (would you believe?) holds the hardy. Hardies are a group of tools used to cut, swage, fuller, flatten, or shape bar stock. The blacksmith puts the hardy tool on top of the hardy, heats the stock in the forge, places the hot stock on top of the hardy, and strikes it with the hammer to forge it into the desired shape.

Also in the heel are one or two smaller round holes called pritchel holes, used for punching holes through bar stock or horseshoes with a (pritchel,) or punch, without damaging either the face of the anvil or the pritchel.

Anvils range in weight from 5 to 1,000 pounds. Some have built-in modifications like turning cams, clip horns, nailing grooves, and other odds and ends custom made to the smith's liking.

If you enjoy the challenge of making your own tools, you can fashion an anvil from a variety of different materials. One of the most common is a piece of rail from a railroad track. With patience you can turn it into a useful anvil with horn, face, and heel. A block of hardwood faced with a flat piece of1/4" to 1/2" steel also makes a useful anvil. I wouldn't recommend using a rock as an anvil, due to the hazard of flying chips, but in a pinch you might use a board on hard ground. When nothing else was handy, I've seen a trailer hitch and ball used as an anvil.

Whether you make your own anvil, find a used one, or buy one new, try not toabuse the face, horn, or heel by:

  • working cold stock on top of the anvil;
  • striking the top of the anvil directly with a hammer or any other hard object;
  • cutting steel on top of the anvil with a hammer and chisel, without using aprotection plate between the face and chisel;
  • using the anvil for anything other than what it was designed for--it is not a tractor weight, it is not a scraper blade weight, it is not a boat anchor;
  • grind smooth any nicks and gouges as soon as they happen;
  • sand off rust and don't allow it to accumulate. If you won't be using your anvil for a long period of time, sand it shiny and give it a good coat of oil so it won't rust.

For those of us who make our living from its use, an anvil is a precioustool. Care for yours well and it will never wear out.

© F. Thomas Breningstall
first published in Rural Heritage draft-animal magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

]]> (F. Thomas Breningstall) General Farriery Sat, 10 Jan 2009 01:31:28 +0000