Stand Him Up

Every farrier runs into the same problems over the course of a shoeing career. One of the most annoying for me, without a doubt, is the old, “stand him up”  misconception. How many times are we as farriers going to have to hear, “I need you to really back up his toes and leave all the heel you can.” Just the sound of the words makes me sick to my stomach. It’s time horse owners and farriers alike learn what happens when you “really back up the toe and leave all the heel you can.”

First,  I think it’s important that we talk about how heels grow. The hoof capsule in general is very circular in shape. Some shapes are boxier and others are more oval like, but in general they are, for the most part, circular in nature. It’s also important to know that heels grow in the same direction as the toe. In order to accommodate this, there is a “fold”, if you will, at the widest part of the hoof. So, while the wall in front of the fold grows forward and out, the wall behind the fold must grow IN and forward.

The Second factor we must discuss is toe growth vs. heel growth. The toe wall grows at the same rate as heel growth. Given the proportions of the hoof capsule, however, it takes 3 times as long for the toe to grow from the hairline to ground, than it does to grow heel from hair line to the ground. So if it takes three times as long to grow a whole new toe than heel, why do we always abuse the one that takes the longest to repair?

Next we have to talk about weight bearing in relation to the cannon bone. It’s safe to say the more foot under the cannon bone, the better. By doing this we even the weight bearing distribution over the entire hoof. The more in front of the cannon bone you move the foot, the stronger the strain on the stay apparatus becomes (especially the suspensory ligament) and the more pressure you place on the heels. The foot is designed to be under the limb and not in front of the limb, this is known as a “basis of support.”  A short upright pastern usually means more of the hoof is under the cannon bone and and a long pastern means the opposite.

Finally, we know that heels grow two ways, in and forward. We also know that the longer we leave the heels, the further forward and rolled under they become (crushed heels). Thus, moving the weight bearing even further in front of the cannon bone and putting more pressure on the heels and stay apparatus. Now, having said all that, I know that you’re now wondering: “Where do I trim the heels to?”. The answer is the highest and widest part of the frog. If this does not move the foot under the cannon bone then you must use a shoe to move your basis of support under the leg.

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