Riding Rough-shod

... and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Shoe the little stud,

Shoe the little mare,

but let the little colt go bare, bare, bare (1)

A reminder to Horsemen that Autumn is the time of year for grass to put forth small growth spurts that are high in nutrients, and this can cause problems in the feet of equine.

The lushness that appears is responsible for founder, an inflammation of the laminae of foot.

Founder is a Veterinary emergency; it is very serious and the life of your horse is at stake.

The inflammation of the laminae is characterized by passive congestion of blood. Severe pain results from this inflammation, which presses on the sensitive laminae. The sensitive and insensitive laminae interlock and intermesh to help hold the hoof wall together.

The weight of the horse is not on the sole surface of the hoof, but on the hoof wall.

Like your fingernails grow, so do a horse’s hooves grow.

Horse hooves grow 1/4 -1/2 inches per month and must be trimmed every 8 to 12 weeks, sometimes sooner, depending on the animal.

Hooves that grow unusually fast, such as in foundered horses, must be trimmed more frequently. Horses with crooked feet and legs will show uneven wear on their hooves, and they must be trimmed or shod more often, also.

Uneven wear of the hoof wall accentuates faulty conformation and way of going.

Failure to trim hooves regularly often leads to faulty gaits, contracted heels and limb interference.

During the last two hundred years farrier science has developed steel, urethane, rubber, plastic and aluminum shoes. There are also rubber and plastic outer shoes that slip on or glue on, for temporary or therapeutic use.

Horses have been shod for centuries for various reasons, mostly to protect the hoof wall from damage and excessive wear.

Shoes can help increase traction or help the horse’s way of going. Shoeing must be done correctly if the horse’s foot is to function as it should.

A good Horseman will study the physiology and anatomy of the hoof in books and drawings and will have a good relationship with a competent Blacksmith.

A horseshoe is selected primarily on the intended use for the horse. Other factors can be a need for traction, types of terrain, horse’s build, conformation and way of going.

Horseshoes can be custom-made to fit by a Blacksmith, but a lot of shoes are “keg” or pre-made machine shoes.

Ready-made cold shoes are pre-shaped and are nailed on without much alteration for a relatively good fit. A hot forge is not used.

Shoes are made in front and hind hoof patterns. Racehorses are shod with aluminum or steel plates. The aluminum racing plates weigh 2-3 ounces.

Hunter-jumpers have caulks or toe grabs that look like bolts to improve traction on soft, slick or rough terrain.

Road horses get borium on the front of their shoes to prevent slippage on ice and pavement. Trail horses may get borium for traction on mountain sides and slopes. It is a metal alloy and is almost as strong as diamonds; it looks like little rocks all glued together.

Reining horses have extended heels (trailers) on their hind shoes to help make those long, sliding stops. Gaited and Park horses have heavy-weighted steel shoes with toe clips on the front to accentuate high knee action.

Mule shoes are a variation of keg shoes but their shoe sizes are a bit different and they are shaped to fit a mule’s foot.

Blacksmiths or farriers can modify horseshoes with help from a hot forge. These horseshoes are literally custom-made-to-fit.

It is a very pleasing sound indeed to hear the high-pitched clang, clang, clang of the Blacksmith as he pounds out a beautiful work of art on his anvil.

Did you know that the 1874 edition of the Crawford County Gazetteer and Business Directory lists approximately 190 Blacksmiths located in various hamlets therein?

The Blacksmith may encounter horses with pathological conditions that require therapeutic shoeing. The most common conditions are founder, toe cracks and quarter cracks, sidebone, ring- bone, navicular disease or contracted heels.

Conformation faults, such as toe-in or out, cow-hock or sickle-hock, too short of back, camped-under, bucked shins, etc., may cause cross-firing, scalping, forging or winging.

Good Blacksmiths are trained, whether at school or from an old master, on corrective principles and the objectives are applied for each horse’s condition, to ease pain or restore the ability of the hoof to perform properly and horse to travel in a better way.

They work closely with Veterinarians using X-rays and medical advice to help horse owners who have animals with hoof problems.

Terms such as “Corrective Shoeing,” are applied to these pathological conditions and the smith must know hoof anatomy and conformation faults in the horse in order to properly help the animal move more comfortably.

Your Blacksmith should be polite, knowledgeable, open-minded, and patient and kind to your animals. He should also be on time, or call if he is going to be late.

He should not talk about other clients with you or his fellow Blacksmiths.

He is not the “All-Knowing Seer of the Horsey Feet,” whose work and attitude must never be questioned, but always obeyed- - if you don’t like him, his work or his attitude, dismiss him. I have.

There are many, many Blacksmiths out there, and new ones graduating school all the time.

You and your animals must, in turn, be polite to the Blacksmith. That is, if it is raining, stable the animals indoors overnight to keep the wet and mud off the hooves.

Brush the animal before the Blacksmith arrives and have it haltered, ready to be put on the crossties. No one should have to be chasing horses through pastures or picking up wet, muddy hooves.

Have plenty of lighting and try to understand the Blacksmith’s point of view: When he says your horse is the Spawn of Satan and he doesn’t want to work with her anymore, it’s because it has become too dangerous and he could get hurt.

If the Blacksmith gets hurt, he can’t work; if he can’t work, he can’t pay his bills. You get the picture.

Take care of your horse’s hooves by cleaning them regularly with a hoof pick. This avoids thrush and keeps the horse in the practice of picking up its feet.

Have some fly spray or wipe; flies are irritating to the horse and foot stomping and fussing make it hard on the Blacksmith to try to work.

A fan is nice on hot summer days, and a cold drink of Coca-Cola or water is always appreciated by anyone who is working hard.

Above all, see to it that your horse will pick up its feet quietly and willingly when asked. It should not switch its tail or pin its ears, and should never kick, bite or attempt to hurt the Blacksmith.

Horses must be trained to pick up their feet and this is your job as a good Horseman to see to it that they do it quietly.

And pay your bill, too. Everyone wants paid on time; you don’t like it when someone owes you money and it’s nicer for you to have a reputation as a client who pays on time.

If you feel the rates of the certified Blacksmiths are too high, go out to Amish Country and find one there. They are good and have very reasonable rates, but they don’t have phones and you have to go and pick them up. Expect to pay $15-$20 dollars per trim.

By taking proper care of your horse’s feet and having a happy working relationship with your Blacksmith, you will insure many wonderful years to come with riding and driving your horse.

On that happy note, I will go clip-clopping off into the autumn sunset to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.’

The information contained herein is meant as a guideline and not professional Farrier counsel or Veterinary advice. Always seek the opinion of a qualified industry professional for proper equine hoof guideline and not professional Farrier counsel or Veterinary advice. Always seek the opinion of a qualified industry professional for proper equine hoof care or if your horse should founder or become lame.

(1) : A Mother Goose nursery rhyme