General Horse Foot Care
"Farrier-Friendly"™ series By Bryan S. Farcus, BS, CF

The old saying "No Foot, No Horse" is one horse people like to recite all the time. What constitutes a healthy foot? As equine experts, you will have to be familiar with and responsible for the "Life-Line" of your horse – his feet.

A Healthy Foot:

Includes hard, solid soles and soft, flexible frog bands with a triangular center. The outer hoof wall should be at least two times greater than the width of the white line, and the white line should bond with no deep cracks between the connecting sole.

Common Problems:

  1. A "Frog-eating" bacteria called Thrush can cause bleeding, soreness, or even death if not attended to.
  2. Weak cracking of outside wall due to extremely wet or dry conditions. Horses have a great capacity to adapt to environmental changes. However, it must be gradual. Sometimes horses need a little help.
  3. Sole bruising often results from constant, abusive use of horses on rocky uneven surfaces. If soles are tender, find out whether the cause is heredity (flat-soled) or environmental (too wet, which softens soles or too rough and rocky).
  4. Limb interference or hitting may result from unbalanced riding, lack of shoeing and trimming, and / or fatigue of horse.

Common Solutions:

  1. Thrush is totally treated by practicing good "hoof hygiene." A pick a day will be a very small price to pay. Advance cases of thrush are life threatening to your horse.
  2. Weak, "brittle" foot cracking can be helped by adding a water-based hoof dressing. Weak, "soft" feet can be improved by using hoof hardening conditioners. Some cases may benefit from on oil-based hoof dressing that acts as a repellent of water.
  3. Sole bruising is a remedy for "Father Time." Rest is its only cure. Hoof padding under shoes is not a cure, but a prevention. Pads provide protection against potential bruising. Pads may have extreme negative effects if put on an existing bruised horse.
  4. Interfering limbs can be helped with improved riding skill, conditioning of horse, and routine farrier work. Protective boots are recommended during these times of need.

When to Call A Farrier:

Generally, most horses, whether shod or not, should have the farrier call on them routinely. Most farriers recommend anywhere from 6-8 weeks varying among each horse each season. Most healthy horses can be barefoot if they are in a controlled environment. Some may need shoes for any of these reasons:

  1. weak hooves (protection)
  2. weak hoof / pastern angles (support)
  3. the job of the horse (performance).

A good farrier should also consider this:

  1. what science wants (for soundness)
  2. what the rider wants (for performance)
  3. what the horse wants (for a lifetime of humane horseshoeing and handling in general).

Finally, the farrier you choose should have a professional level of National Certification (i.e. AFA, BWFA, GPF). This choice can be hard. I suggest you listen to the horses of your friends and not solely on comments from your "horse-friends." A consistently sound horse is a Farrier’s walking billboard.

© 2000 Bryan Farcus. All rights reserved.
Bryan Farcus, certified farrier and head of the Department of Farrier Science at Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre, has been combining the skills of horseshoeing, teaching and riding for the past ten years. He has also achieved a BS in Business Management. Bryan is the creator of "Farrier-Friendly"™ articles and products aimed at improving the general understanding of horseshoeing through horsemanship. For a complete collection of "Farrier-Friendly"™ articles click here.

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Updated: October 2005.