Shoe Clues

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Don’t toss away your horse’s old shoes, label them by foot — right hind, left front etc. — and save them for future use. We’re not talking about keeping them for “spares,” we’re talking about their value in lameness detective work.

Before a horse becomes obviously lame, he’ll make adaptations in his weight bearing and movement. These changes compensate for levels of discomfort that aren’t easily seen, but they usually show up on the horse’s shoes as different wear-mark patterns.

If the feet have been correctly balanced (see sidebar), the shoe should show wear at the toe directly in line with the tip of the frog, and should wear evenly on the inside and outside. If wear is off center at the toe, or one side of the foot shows more wear than the other, there’s a problem somewhere.

The horse may also crush down the heel of the shoe more on one side than the other. If the heels are becoming contracted over time, it means either the toe is being left too long, or the horse has pain in the foot, ankle or tendons/ligaments. Horses with long-term pain in a leg for any reason often develop a smaller foot on that leg. Make it a habit to watch how the shoes wear after your horse is shod. You’ll likely note differences in wear of the nail holes long before the shoe itself comes into wear.

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”Balance Issues”