Hoof Angles

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Hoof Angles

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Q: How long does bruising take to heal?  The bruising is at toe because of poor trimming.  My TB eventer wears 4 shoes.  We've had difficulty finding a good farrier in our area.  He has 2 odd front feet - one underrun heal which never grows and one heal that grows well.  Last trim his toes were too long and heals too low, so the farrier tells me the toes were bruised by the breakover.  The white line was pink at toe when trimmed - does color indicate how fresh the bruise is?  We now have a 3/8 wedge on the underrun heal which brings him up to the correct angle.  Is this too much to start with on the first change?  Other farriers have only extended shoe behind hoof slightly, saying that would help grow more heal, which it doesn't.  Right now the horse is also lame from a strain on the front leg (when he threw a shoe) so it's hard to tell when the bruising is better.  Any advice on proper angles and wedges would be welcomed or I could send pictures of his feet at present time.  Thanks.

A: Because the time it takes for a bruise to heal depends on a number of factors, it is not really possible to be very specific. The cause, location, severity and treatment of the bruise can all affect the recovery time needed. The first thing is to determine the cause of the bruise, so that it may be eliminated, thereby preventing the situation from continuing/worsening as well as interfering with the healing process.

It sounds like you have identified the cause as being directly related to the quality of hoof care provided by the last farrier to work on your horse. You may wish to consider using the American Farrier’s Association “Find a Farrier” resource to locate a farrier in your area: http://www.americanfarriers.org/find_a_farrier/index.php

There may be a state farrier association that could provide a recommendation as well as your vet may be able to suggest someone whose work they recommend. You may wish to explore the possibility of using the Internet to locate a Thoroughbred Association near you that you could query for the name of a qualified farrier. I used the search term Thoroughbred Association and found numerous links to chapters in both Canada and the United States.

A description of, “one underrun heal which never grows and one heal that grows well” may indicate either a really poor trimming job by a farrier and/or a horse with particular hoof problems that prevent the feet from ever looking identical. A farrier should be able to tell you if the feet are just not being trimmed correctly or if there is another problem that needs to be addressed.

Last trim his toes were too long and heals too low, so the farrier tells me the toes were bruised by the breakover.  The white line was pink at toe when trimmed - does color indicate how fresh the bruise is?

Color is not always the best way to determine the “freshness” of a bruise, especially one in the white line. An examination that may include the use of hoof testers may be a better indication as to the severity and degree to which the bruise has healed. Treatment should always begin at the first sign of soreness and continue long enough for the bruise to completely heal. The color will not be absorbed back into the hoof wall or white line and will remain until it is trimmed out as the hoof grows out.

We now have a 3/8 wedge on the underrun heal which brings him up to the correct angle.  Is this too much to start with on the first change? Not in my opinion. I would return him to his correct angles as fast as possible.

It sounds like you have identified the main problem, which is the need for quality hoof care. The long toe/low heel situation when caused by improper trimming should be avoided at all costs. If the cause of the mismatched front feet is due to human error, then the problem should go away once the horse’s feet are brought back into balance. If the problem is related to a physical or conformation problem, then a farrier should be able to trim/shoe the horse accordingly.

I would suggest if you have not already done so, that you keep a shoeing record of some type so that you will know exactly hoof lengths and angles will keep your horse sound. Once your horse has been trimmed/shod correctly, this information will allow you to tell any farrier exactly how you want your horse’s feet trimmed and/or shod as well as help you identify if he is not being trimmed to your specifications. There is some information on this webpage that you may find helpful. http://www.antelopepress.com/hs_record.htm

Other farriers have only extended shoe behind hoof slightly, saying that would help grow more heal, which it doesn't.  It is much easier to remove too much heel from a hoof than it is to bring the heel back to its correct angle. There are a number of different techniques used to help bring a horse’s heels back into their proper state. Each case has to be evaluated according to the individual situation. This is something that requires an examination of the horse and consulting with the owner in order to develop a workable plan to return the horse to a sound condition.

Right now the horse is also lame from a strain on the front leg (when he threw a shoe) so it's hard to tell when the bruising is better. I would think that it would be prudent to treat the bruise until it no longer bothers the horse. As I mentioned earlier, the color will not be absorbed back into the hoof wall or white line and will remain until it is trimmed out as the hoof grows out.

Proper angles and wedges. These will have to be determined by a farrier after an examination of the horse. They are dependant on the horse’s conformation and will vary from horse to horse.

I could send pictures of his feet at present time. I'll be happy to look at pictures of your horse’s feet: My email address is: farrier@antelopepress.com

I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions satisfactorily. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: We recently lost our farrier. He was a very good friend and an outstanding farrier! He taught us to trim our own horses because we have so many and often commended us on the good job we were doing. Just before he died he joked with us about “losing business” because our horses feet looked so good! His wife has given us lots of his tools because she felt he'd want us to have them. She also gave us lots of books and videos on shoeing. What I'm not completely clear on, however, is how to properly measure a hoof to determine the size shoe to start with. Can you give us some guidance?

 A: Hello,

Choosing the correct horseshoe for a horse can be a bit trying at times. One has to consider everything from the condition of the hoof to how it is going to be used as well as how each leg travels in relation to the others.

An ideal fit takes all of this into consideration and then allows room for expansion and growth which may leave you with a shoe that extends beyond the hoof wall to a certain degree as well as beyond the heel for additional support.

Unfortunately, if the horse is going to be traveling in muddy conditions, this extra exposed shoe may result in the shoes coming of prematurely. If the horse overreaches a shoe fitted “full” may result in an injury to the horse and rider.

However, I’m going to assume that you are familiar with these little nuances that go into choosing how to fit the shoe. I found a couple “sizing” charts that you may find useful in determining the proper size shoes for your horse.

You will want to take your measurements after the hoof has been trimmed, of course. If you have some old shoes you might still be able to read the shoe size on them and this should give you a place to start.

http://www.stcroixforge.com/products/specifications/fhspec.html This page allows you to see how to take the measurements of the different kinds of shoes they make in order to determine the correct size.

http://www.slypner.com/aboutshoe/sizing.html This chart allows you to print out the actual size for comparison and as a matter of fact, I believe they say that it is necessary to print the examples in order to be viewed correctly.

I hope this will help you out. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q: I’m doing my nvq2 and need to know how to recognize when a horse needs re-shoeing.  Have you any information or pictures or do you know of any sights I could use.

A: When to trim/re-shoe a horse depends primarily on how fast the horse grows hoof. The average domesticated horse gets neither the exercise nor experiences the lifestyle necessary for their feet to maintain the proper conditions without regular hoof care. When you put a horseshoe on a foot you further reduce the wearing off of the hoof that would occur if allowed to be barefoot; however, even barefoot horses need regular trimming to keep them in balance.

A horse owner should always keep a written record of their horse’s ideal hoof lengths and hoof angles so that they can tell with a few simple measurements if their horse’s feet are getting too long in the toe and if the hoof angle is not within the horse’s tolerable range. A record will also establish a time frame that allows the horse owner to schedule farrier appointments that keep the horse trimmed/shod on a regular basis.

Additional signs that a call to the farrier is warranted include the hoof wall beginning to overgrow the outside edge of the shoe, the nail clinches appear loose as well as the shoe itself being loose on the foot. Horseshoes do not last forever, so when they show signs of developing a heavy wear pattern, it is another sign that it may be time to re-shoe the horse.

This website has  a good bit of information relating to hoof care and most everything equine related. http://www.equisearch.com/searchresults/?terms=hoof+care You may wish to check it out.

Good luck.

Q: Hello, I have a quarter horse gelding. His front hoofs are angled differently. The right front almost has no heel, the left front has a good heel, and he looks good on it. How can I get him shod to grow heel on the other foot.  He is way down on one side and sits up correctly on the other.

A: Hi. I think the first thing to do would be to determine exactly why your horse’s feet have arrived at this condition.

In this same vein, you will want to be sure that you are not dealing with a conformation situation such as an “upright hoof” or “club foot” as it is sometimes called. This condition is totally different than a case where one hoof has been trimmed out of balance, broken off heel, or left too long between trimmings resulting in a long toe/low heel configuration. A horse with a “club foot” can lead a perfectly normal life and requires only that the farrier recognize the situation and be knowledgeable about the correct trimming methods to use. It is no big deal.

However, if a horse’s heels are incorrectly trimmed, broken off or allowed to grow out of balance to the point you have described, then every effort should be made to bring the horse back into balance as soon as possible.

First off, you need to find someone to trim and/or shoe your horse who is capable of recognizing the problem and comfortable with his or her ability to fix it.

The easiest way to fix an imbalance is by trimming. If that is not feasible or practical because of the amount of heel that has been lost and now needs to be replaced, then I would most likely use a plastic wedge pad to raise the angle of the hoof while allowing the heel to grow out.

Wedge pads come in a variety of types, sizes, degrees and hardness that can be further modified if necessary, by the farrier to suit a particular situation. Once you determine what the correct angle is for the hoof, a corresponding wedge pad can be used to make up the difference between what is there and what you are aiming for. In a case where a lot of heel is missing, it may be necessary to start with a 5° wedge pad (or more) and over a period of trimmings, use smaller angled pads until you reach the optimum angle for the hoof.

Heel can be removed in the blink of an eye … it takes quite a bit longer to grow it back. It is important that you maintain a regular schedule of trimming and shoeing until your horse is back to normal and thereafter, of course. I would suggest keeping a written shoeing record so you will have some way of knowing how fast the hoof grows as well as knowing what angles/lengths are necessary to keep your horse balanced. If you or your farrier is unable to determine the actual angle, then a (bulb) heel-to-ground measurement can be substituted. The idea is to have a way to determine that the hoof is being trimmed the same way, every time to a known toe-length and corresponding heel angle.

One thing to consider is the additional weight a wedge pad will add to the one hoof. If it is determined that this may cause a problem due to the type of activity the horse will be engaged in, one simple way to balance this out is to use a “light” shoe with the pad and a “regular” weight shoe on the other hoof. Horseshoes vary in weight by manufacturer and you just have to work with the types available to you to achieve a balance.

While a low heel situation is not one you ever hope to have to deal with, it is fairly common, and with the proper care, most horses are able to recover with the combined efforts of the owner and farrier (who may be one and the same).

Good luck and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

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