Monday, June 4, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Default Horseshoeing...

   Okay.  Obviously no real farrier shoes every horse the same way.  Each animal is an individual with different conformation, soundness issues, and performance needs.  But most farriers do evolve a baseline shoeing approach, then adapt from there to suit the case at hand.

   I developed a preference for rim (full swedged) shoes early-on.  They provide good traction on a wide array of surfaces without the ligament and joint punishing effects of calks.  When the St. Croix Rim Lite came onto the market, it soon became my 'go-to' keg shoe, and remains so despite about a zillion fancy new shoes that have been introduced since. (Although I do use some of these on occasion.)

   The St. Croix Rim Lite has some pretty handy features.  One of which is that it is... well... light.  I've always tried to keep shoes as light as would get the job done in a practical manner, and this shoe is just about right.  Thick enough to last for one reset on most horses who actually need shoes.

   The shoe also has a sort of rolled outer edge, especially at the toe.  This makes it work like a hybrid of rim and half-round shoes.

St. Croix Rim Lite horseshoes...
Center = Fresh out of box.
Left = Shaped for typical fore w/ rockered toe.     Right = Hind shaped.

   Something most don't notice is that the St. Croix Rim Lite isn't a true rim shoe out of the box... It's a barrel shoe, with the outer edge being more pronounced than the inner.  But, if one hammers the hoof-facing side of the shoe while leveling, the inner edge gets pushed down to the anvil face, level with the outer.  This leaves the hoof side of the shoe sloped away from the sole, making it easier to apply the shoe without needing to trim away extra horn to prevent sole pressure.

   Front shoes I usually fit plenty full from the heel quarters back, well-boxed to prevent being stepped-off.  Unless there is a particular reason not to do so, I like to fit front shoes on riding horses* with rockered toes.  This improves efficiency of movement, decreasing stress on the hoof capsule, as well as the tendons and ligaments of the foot and limb.  It also provides much the same utility as a clip, keeping the shoe from being driven-back on the hoof.

   One complaint about keg shoes in general is that most of them are designed so that the fourth nails back are behind the widest point of the hoof, especially when the shoe is shaped for a front foot...  Fortunately, there's no rule requiring farriers to use every nail hole.  I often go with six (on riding-size horses), and omit the rear holes.  In other cases, I'll use seven nails, including the medial fourth hole.  The way I shoe, few horses will pull shoes while going forward.  But they will sometimes step on the medial heel quarter of one front shoe with the other front hoof while stomping or shuffling around.

   On most horses I apply the Rim Lite more-or-less with a flat perimeter fit to the rear hooves.  Usually rather long at the heels for extra support, like a more subtle form of extended heels.  Horses produce their forward impulsion by driving off the toes of the rear hooves, so it is generally counterproductive to ease breakover too much in the hinds, especially in performance horses.  But for animals with short-body, long-legged conformation, it may sometimes be wise to fit a squared and/or set-back toe, sacrificing a little drive power to avoid damage to the front feet from forging or overreaching.

   As with fores, I often go with just the front six nails in hind riding horseshoes.  When I opt for seventh, it's usually the lateral heel nail.  This seems to counter most problems with horses who tend to torque the foot and shift the shoe side-to-side.  I rarely find clips necessary with flat Rim Lites on horses with reasonably normal limb conformation.

   * Draft horses working in harness are a different story in both the way they move and shoeing needs.

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