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How to Qualify your Farrier
Qualifying your Farrier
Wednesday 30th of June 2010 10:44 PM

Hello. Hope things are going well and riding season is in full swing .

     You know we've all heard the "How to treat your farrier" stuff right ? Make sure you're there while the shoeing is being done - Catch the horse - Teach your horse to stand quietly - Offer your farrier something to drink , etc etc etc. Right ?    Well what about you ?  How can you protect yourself from a poor job or poor workmanship , Poor shoeing. If you don't know horseshoeing inside and out there's a strong chance your farrier is putting your horse at risk of lameness. So instead of what you can do for your farrier lets see how you can do "For You" and your horse. 

     Ready ?    (-:      Here's a list of questions to ask your farrier - if he can't give you the answers or gives you the wrong answers you should have some red flags popping. You can either educate himself if your skill and experience / knowledge is high enough or you can find another farrier who can answer the questions correctly.

1- Ask : Should horse's feet point straight ahead ? is that considered perfect conformation ?  If he answers yes - start paying attention , because that's a red flag for me.

       You see in my 19 years experience i've yet to see horse's with knees that point straight ahead - if you go to my personal blog Http:// you'll notice all the photos there are taken of the horse's front legs while the camera is OFF TO ONE SIDE and NOT straight ahead of the horse. The reason is i line the camera shot up with where the knee of the horse points. Since 99-9/10ths horse's knees point outward then that's where my photos are taken from. If / Your horse's knees point outward , where your horse's knee points is where the foot should point. Every and i say that with a capital E - Every horse has a wear pattern on it's foot - that wear pattern is dictated exactly by where the knee points . Without Fail. Correct balance can only be achieved when the foot is in line with the breakover ( where the knee points ) ...  So if your farrier is saying anything like "Yes i trim the feet of the horse so the feet point straight ahead BE CAREFUL....

2- Ask: Do you shorten one side of the foot or the other to make the foot point straight ahead - OR - Do you correct a pigeon toed horse by shortening the inside(Medial) side of the foot ?  Conversely - do you correct a toed out horse by shortening the hoofwall on the lateral (outside) of the foot ?  If the answers are yes or anything remotely related to the above BE CAREFUL !!

     Joints of the horse are not designed to be rotated to correct toeing issues. The bones/joint , coffin/navicular joint in particular don't tolerate anything but a "LEVEL" balance to the joint. When the farrier shortens one side of the foot more than the other to correct toeing problems he'll be FORCING the joint into positions that put much too much stress on the horse.  

     I've written a book explaining all these things in detail - in layman terms , i recommend you get it - Just email me at and request it. This way you'll know exactly what i'm talking about here. All this article is the abbreviated version and i don't expect you to grasp the deeper understanding of it all in just this short post.

3- Ask: When you put the shoe on are you lineing up the toe of the shoe with the tip of the frog ? if the answer is yes BE CAREFUL !!!   The frog has nothing to do with breakover / center of balance and putting the shoe on in line with the frog 97% of the time will be encouraging the foot to grow pigeon toed. Remember breakover and center of breakover is absolutely DICTATED by where the knee points - where the frog points is completely irrevelant. There's a proper way to locate the center of breakover ( nothing to do with the frog ) and the toe of the shoe should be in line with the center of breakover. 

4- Ask: When you trim the horse's feet are you using the Hairline or Coronary band ( both one and the same ) to level the foot correctly ?  If the answer is yes BE CAREFUL - RED FLAG !!! The coronary band is not fixed with steel cables so is capable of movement. The only true way to LEVEL a foot is to go to the source The Bones , particularly the coffin/navicular bones JOINT !  I've trimmed feet using the bones as the guide and have the hairline be far from level , but anything else will be ruining the integrity of the joint.  The hairline method is simply just not accurate.  On my blog i've posted videos of how to correctly level a joint by using the bones as the guide. Let me just say this : if the hairline is used and the foot is trimmed so the hairline is horizontal and parallel to the ground while the horse stands on it the chances your horse's JOINTS are twisted is very very high. That's a risk you don't want to take.

5- Ask: Are you familiar with the "Even Sole Pressure" method of shoeing and if he uses it. If he says yes then you should - you guessed it - BE CAREFUL.   Even sole pressure is a recent idea in horseshoeing - the whole basis of the concept is that the hoof wall be trimmed so the hoof wall is the same distance from the sole of the foot all the way around the foot.  Trimming the hoof wall correctly as far as length medial to lateral is very important and relates to the above "LEVEL" foot .  Triming for even sole pressure ignores how to trim the foot/hoof wall so the bones are level as stated previously. Just by using only the sole as the rule is putting the horse at risk. Many many horse's have a condition what i call "Hanging" the outside of the foot. In that case the outside of the foot needs to be rasped until ( again ) the bones in the foot , particularly the coffin/navicular bones are in their most healthy position - if they're NOT it's a risk.

     On a side note to the above - it's assumed that using the even sole pressure method puts the coffin bone ANGLE ( from toe to heel ) in the correct position. Again that leaves out and ignores "LEVEL" - using even sole pressure concept is an incomplete practice - it helps with getting the coffin bone ANGLE close to correct - but really there's another way .  

6- Ask: Do you use hoof guages to set up the pastern coffin bone angles. You got it !!  BE CAREFUL.... I haven't used a hoof guage for 19 years. I take each foot as an individual condition - I use the hoof wall itself as a guide for setting up angles - i look directly from the side of the hoof - i use MID POINT between toe and heel and i look at the grain ( natural lines ) in the hoof and i trim the foot so those lines line up with the pastern angles. Any time i've had vets look at my work being done that way it's always the same response " Who's doing your work - i like what he's doing - it's correct " - i've even had X-Rays that show the results.  Plenty of pictures on my personal blog depicting how i set up angles. 

7- Ask: How long do you let the toe grow out - as in FORWARD ( like bozo the clown feet ) i call it Long toe syndrome. Really what you want to ask is " Do you rasp the extra hoof wall at the toe back " , if the answer is something like "It's not a good practice to rasp that extra hoof wall " or "i'm alittle bit afraid to rasp that hoof wall" there's another red flag. 

8- Ask: What do you feel about moving the shoe to the rear of the foot to ease or balance the breakover and rasping Xtra toe back ....   If there's reluctance to move the shoe rearward and rasping that extra toe off - the chances of ending up with long toe syndrome and stressed and possible ruined joints is high. Setting the shoe back is one of the most important practices along with foot being level.  Make sure the farrier is on top of that one too.

9- Ask: if the farrier believes in heel support. Many times farriers while leaving the toe grow forward encourage a condition called sheered heels. Sheered heels by themselves are not beneficial to relieving stress to the navicular joint/bone. The heels sink or are too low and stretch the deep flexor tendon which wraps right over the navicular bone over stressing the joint.  Not only is the sheered heel a negative but combined with the long toe makes things even worse. The long toe prevents breakover and with the heels slammed down to the ground the stretch on that deep flexor tendon is exaggerated yet again.

     What happens or what causes the sheered heels us predominantly this : when the toe grows forward or is allowed to grow forward the growth actually stretches the whole hoof wall forward with it - in essence pulling the heels forward as the toe grows out of control hence the sheered heel. Sheered heels happen to be one of the hardest conditions to fix when it comes to hoof wall generation and correction. 

10- Ask: ------- Finally , for now , there are other things to discuss of course but Ask: if your farrier removes sole while shoeing , a certain amount of sole in the majority of cases is necessary to trim hoof. In the past decade of shoeing/trimming the "Barefoot Movement" came about. Many of these proponents suggest the horse should stand on it's sole mostly , as a result they don't advocate taking any sole out of the foot. And these people hemm and haww and scream bloody murder if you violate this rule.  I just have to stand back for a minute and say to myself - "Horse's SHED their soles" "They shed their soles for a reason" "Nature doesn't want the horse standing on it's sole"....  Why else do they shed for heaven sake.  Not only does the sole shed but so does the frog - It's a continual natural process of a healthy foot to shed and replenish itself. Triming sole away carefully to trim the hoof wall to the correct length is one of those necessary processes.

    I could go on and on and on. These are BASICS. I've been shoeing for just about 20 years now. I've poured my mind and brain into every move i make while shoeing horse's - i analyze things from the inside out over and over and over again - i talk with other farriers - vets - clients . Believe me i've checked this stuff out. I've had clients tell me their trainer for a specific horse that i started shoeing for the client had come back after a couple years and ask "What did you do to Rosie - she's tracking so even and true" - the clients response to the trainer was "I changed farriers"...  I've not had a horse come up lame from these methods for 19 years now.

     The discussions about shoeing go round and round and some of these farriers won't be argued with - you can tell by their attitude they won't listen to you.  i was talking to a farrier a couple months ago who uses the Even sole pressure method - he explained things to me - and he was talking so fast and never really giving me a chance to add my input as he went from one thing to another - i grasped what he said completely but his manner of speaking was like a smoke screen ( Throw so many concepts at you and talk fast to overwhelm the person ).... But i've been around this business for quite a while now - and i found the flaws in what he was saying. What i've talked about here is BASICS -  but there's much more to this shoeing puzzle.  I mean i've talked about 1/5 maybe , or maybe less than that. Can you imagine how long this post would be if i just kept going and going - Soooooo - sigh - it's all in book form.  In fact it's a free ebook.   It's not transcribed into the right format yet but it's written -   If you want a copy - just email me - and ask for it. Easy !

      In the mean time - yes i still have time for free consultation . I admit i'm damn busy and free consultation isn't something i'll be able to continue forever - so - i don't know - i guess time's runnin out on the opportunity.

So - i gotta go - it's been a pleasure as usual - really.  I know horse's need help - i hear too many horror stories - and i'm just happy i can help get this out for the benefit of all....

Thank you for being here.

John "TheFootDoctor" Silveira  ---------------> and follow me on Twitter by my name @Care4Horsescom    see you there

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