Wow are we finally getting some weather or what ? supposto be almost 80* in Woodside California Sunday 2nd of May.
Clodhopper feet right ? Pretty self explanatory, very large heavy feet on your horse. Is that what you'd want for your horse , the pros and cons. The following is my opinion after 19 years shoeing horses.
For the most part i don't want my horse's having big heavy feet , if the shoeing is done correctly and your horse's feet are balanced there's really no need for the big feet. Ask yourself if you'd like to run a marathon in Army combat boots - i know i don't want to even run a marathon in the first place ( haha ). Think of this for a minute , your horse's leg is quite long from shoulder to foot , if you imagine standing with a broom stick in your hand with your arm outstretched holding the stick parallel to the ground and someone were to add just a few ounces at the end of the stick the weight would be quite noticable. That little bit of weight at the end adds up quickly. Imagine adding that extra weight to your horse's foot and then asking those feet to move very quickly as your horse is running and extra weight could be a hassle.
Maybe big feet is ok if you had a Clydesdale right , but for most other horses i'm not in favor of clodhoppers. When you look at shoeing Saddlebreds or National Show horses , Fox Trotters , Morgan's for showing adding weight to their feet is done to deliberately gain and accentuate a certain type of gait . Weight typically will cause the feet to travel farther forward for those type of gaits in those show circuits. If that's what you're doing with your horse then the extra weight is required . For that type of shoeing lead weights are actually screwed into the pads on the feet getting just the desired amount of extra weight so the horse's legs fly just as wanted. You would even add the weight after having a custom shoe made that can be 3 maybe 4 times as heavy as a normal shoe.
Then looking at race horses you find they're all shod for the race with aluminum shoes which are the lightest shoe mostly available and there's a reason for going light - "It's performance enhancing". Your horse's legs are simply going to have less trouble overcoming extra weight on it's feet and that translates into more freedom of movement for your horse. And if you actually have a horse that can go barefoot congratulations . So i think you can see how big heavy feet ( clodhopper ) feet might be a drag on your animal. Not cleaning out the sole of your horse's feet will add weight - letting the feet get longer and longer adds weight - getting the long toe syndrome (bozo the clown feet) adds weight - and having way too much flares to the hoofwall and it all adds up and before you know it your horse is laboring unnecessarily.
On the other hand there is one benefit to a big foot . Not to get too technical here but if your horse is out of balance a big foot can compensate for poor shoeing .. So quickly here's the jist of it - if you've been following this blog you've already read that nearly 100% of horse's knees point outward. Forget about what the textbooks or artist drawings conceptions look like on "Perfect Conformation feet point straight ahead" , you'll just not achieve that . Since 100% of the horse's i've seen have knees point outward you're going to want your horse's feet to point where the knees do. The reason for this is wherever the knees point is where the foot is going to break over. So if the knee points outward as 99-9/10ths of horse's do to achieve basic balance the feet should point the same direction so the foot breaks over dead center in a balanced way.
When looking at the above facts ( knees point outward ) you'll notice most horse's feet just don't point outward to match the knee. By the way - there's always a wear pattern on your horse's feet which is dictated by where the knee points - you'll find a wear pattern on the shoe where the metal will be worn down and it will line up exactly with where the knee points - and the same holds true for barefoot horses - the hoof wall will wear exactly where the knee points. What this means is most host horse's are inherently Pigeon toed , which means the horse is breaking over the outside of it's foot and balance is lost and risk of lameness is present along with traveling problems associated with pigeon toed horses. I almost forgot , add to this the fact that most farriers are using "Old School" methods to correct the issues above which puts more stress on joints and ligaments and you're asking for problems. I won't go into all the nuances of proper shoeing at this point as it's a much too lengthy discussion - the reason i've written a book on the subject " Inside Horseshoeing Secrets of Lameness Prevention". You can take a quick look at www.Care4Horses.com or visit my personal blog as well at the following address. http://Farrieritis.Care4Horses.com .
So to back up one more time here and put this all together , basically most farriers will put the shoes on the horse's they're working on directly in line with the frog of the foot , which also points pigeon toed , so most shoers are going to be encouraging the foot to be more pigeon toed. Again , there's ways to do things differently that encourage balance , but here's the point on wide feet here - the one benefit as i see it. If your farrier falls into the catagory of one of those who doesn't quite get this whole balance / pigeon toed / level foot thing yet then having a big wide foot is a good thing. It's good from the standpoint that since pigeon toed horse's break over the outside of their foot ( that side of the foot is usually too small - as most horse's are and have pigeon toed flares running toward the inside of the foot - the medial side )...... Having that wide foot , that BIG WIDE FOOT is going to give your horse some support to that outside of it's foot , the support means less twisting of the joints and less stress on the ligaments and muscle tissue. You'll sacrafice a little performance with those big clodhopper feet but at least you're reducing risk of lameness. If your farrier doesn't quite know what he's doing then at least big feet is a plus.
I end up trodding on touchy ground when i talk about these things with regard to "Other Shoers". I try to tread this ground lightly , but the facts are there's a huge percentage of farriers that just "DON'T GET IT", balance is still a mystery to them. They don't trim feet level so the joint is being stressed , medial flare is being allowed to grow pulling the foot out of balance because they're putting the shoe on inline with the frog ( a NO NO ) , they're letting toes get way too far forward which pulls the heels into a sheared state ( Navicular risk ) , and it's just not good. Horse's are coming up lame all the time. If you're one of the lucky ones that have not experienced lameness good for you. I always say "It only takes ONCE to have a permanently lame horse".
So without beating up the farriers here that's about all of what i wanted to say this time. If you have any questions please feel free to email me personally at John@Care4Horses.com i'm happy to respond. And while you're at it you'll be put on my priority list to be notified as soon as my book comes out "The Horseshoeing Secrets" as it's first in a series of two and guess what , it's FREE , so just leave me your email address requesting it and you'll be good to go.
Thank you. Have fun out there . Great riding's on it's way.
John "TheFootDoctor" Silveira
as usual , happy and safe riding and always remember to www.Care4Horses.com