Study: Farrier Selection Impacts More Than Hoof Shape

Choice of farrier might have a significant influence not only on the shape of a horse's hoof, but its soundness and athletic ability, according to research carried out by veterinarians in Switzerland.

Forty dressage and show jumping horses, divided into six groups, were trimmed and shod by one of six selected farriers over a period of one year. Their hooves were periodically evaluated and compared by radiographic exam. Of 15 variable parameters evaluated, 14 differed significantly among farriers, according to an article based on the study and forthcoming in The Veterinary Journal. Parameters included dorsal wall length, hoof angle, sole thickness, the distance from the cannon bone to the toe and wall, and other lengths and angles measured from front and side views.

Although all the parameters can affect the hoof's shape, toe length and mediolateral (side-to-side) hoof balance are most important for the horse's overall soundness, said Martin Kummer, DVM, Dipl. ECVS, chief assistant in the Equine Hospital at the University of Zurich and primary author of the study. "The length of toe influences the point of break-over, (and) the mediolateral hoof balance could influence the loading pattern of the joint surfaces," he noted.


Of 15 variable parameters evaluated, 14 differed significantly among farriers...

To counter this variation between individual farriers, some form of trimming guidelines need to be established in order to create "some form of standardization" to make this study meaningful and practical, according to Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS, of Northern Virginia Equine, who commented on the study. This study uses a randomization of farrier techniques with individual farriers having their own style or method of trimming. As changes in hoof parameters could also be affected by exercise, footing, time of year, and other variables, farriers should take advantage of using "landmarks" for trimming and shoeing the hoof such as the hoof-pastern axis, the center of articulation (widest part of the foot) and trimming to the widest part of the frog, he said.

Owners should keep in mind that veterinary researchers used advanced techniques and specialized equipment to make these measurements in a university setting. "Do it yourself" measurements cannot give an owner an accurate idea about their farrier's trimming abilities, advised Kummer. When selecting a new farrier, Kummer suggested owners have "good conversations" with prospects and talk with some of the potential farrier's other clients before making a selection.

Although the study was performed on jumpers and dressage horses, Kummer said he strongly believes that all horses need optimum hoof care, not just sport horses.

Kummer, M., et al., Comparison of the trimming procedure of six different farriers; The Veterinary Journal (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2007.10.029

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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