Part 2: Everything You Need to Know About Your Horse’s Feet

So they made me do a little work between blogs but here is Part 2 of my exclusive report from the All You Need to Know About Your Horse’s Foot Seminar.

When you hear ‘break-over’ you should think of thunderclouds parting and the sun coming out, angels singing, a drink of water when you are really thirsty.  It’s that important.  Horses have multiple break-overs, but we are going to concentrate on the one at the front of the foot for now.  A break-over is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s the point at which the hoof comes off the ground during movement.  The moment of break over is the hardest on the hoof structures.  Every bit of that force is trying to tear the foot apart.

A good trim, according to the guidelines I talked about in Part I, will set up a good break-over.  This point should be about ½” to ¾” in front of the tip of the coffin bone.  Wait a minute… how is my farrier supposed to know where the tip of the coffin bone is located?? I don’t think they come equipped with x-ray vision!  Most of the time your farrier will set the break-over at a point about ½” to ¾” in front of the tip of the frog.  Sometimes the foot doesn’t seem to be doing what your farrier expects.  X-rays of the foot will help your farrier see what the bones are doing inside the hoof.  X-rays let us see if there is arthritis, injuries, or laminitis going on which may require special shoeing.

Visual Aids!

Let’s look at some feet and see if you can spot the problem.  First up:

Bad Shoeing 1

This guy definitely doesn’t have his heels back to the widest part of his frog and that’s with the shoe on.  And if you look at the branches of the shoe you will see they aren’t even.  The shoe is twisted on the foot. His break-over is also too far forward.

Next up:

bad shoeing 2

A line drawn down the center of this foot definitely won’t give you half inside and half outside.

This shoe…..Unless half this shoe was on one foot and half was on another foot it doesn’t make sense.

bad shoeing 3

Now for the fun stuff.  What happens when the foot has been trimmed and we can’t get the alignment the way we want it? We put a shoe on it!! So in answer to the barefoot question.  Your horse can go barefoot if two things can happen: the foot can be balanced with a trim, and the work the horse is doing doesn’t unbalance the foot faster than it can grow to compensate.

breakover shoe

This shoe is an extreme example of break-over manipulation.  It starts with a regular shoe.  Bar stock is then welded to the inside.  Then the shoe is nailed to the foot.  The end result is a shoe that allows this horse to break-over anywhere he wants.

arab shoeing

This horse is an example of the opposite end of the spectrum.  This foot has been allowed to grow long to bring the break-over forward but notice the principles have still been applied.  Now this foot is extra long since this horse is due to be shod but notice the foot is balanced and well supported.  We can manipulate feet to make gaits we find appealing but it must be done correctly or we jeopardize the horse.

flip flop

Ever get tired of your young horse pulling shoes? Or have a horse with really sore heels?  This shoe, affectionately called the flip flop, fully supports the foot but is very forgiving of the hind foot grab.  Most short coupled young horses go through a shoe pulling phase until they learn to wear shoes.  It’s normal and should not be blamed on your farrier.  Sore-heeled horses need some support since they hurt too bad to not have a shoe underneath them, but metal shoes can be too hard on them.  The heels on these shoes offer them soft support.

tendon support

This shoe is an example of the compromises we have to make sometimes.  This horse has a torn deep digital flexor tendon.  This injury will heal best if we can take some of the tension off the tendon.  A shoe like this helps reduce that tension but it has moved that pressure to the heels.  Notice how the heel is curving under.  This shoe can’t be used long term without causing significant hoof problems.

A quick note on some common Florida problems.  This beautiful abscess is secondary to all the very wet weather we have been having.  Using durasole, thrush buster, keratex hoof hardener or something similar on the foot will help it handle all that excess moisture.  Sometimes no matter what we use on the foot they just stay way too wet.  In that situation shoes may be the answer if only temporarily.


Along with abscesses, thrush is a common problem.  The cattle mastitis ointment Today applied to the affected areas daily for a week and then every few days for three weeks will help clear it up.  We have also recently started using a product called Keramend on some really really really bad thrush horses and have been very pleased with the results.

Our horses rely on a good foundation to stay happy and comfortable.  I know I learned a lot about feet at this seminar, but Dr. Lacher and the entire Springhill Equine crew are happy to talk feet anytime!  This is Tony saying may your food bowl be full and your litter box clean!!