Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Shoeing in the Fast Lane:
Jumpers, the Accessories and Always...
 Pet Peeves
From the Archives:
[Note: Never did like hunters much, but in this business they are the tail that wags the dog.  The hunter/jumper world, unlike other disciplines, is founded on the principles of 'development;' both riders and horses.  This is the core of show jumping, which begins with a kid and a pony and may end at the Olympics.  Hunters are what teach jumping, equitation...hopefully sportsmanship and a love and appreciation that lasts far beyond the applause of the show ring.  And too, jumpers are an objective kind of animal. They might be a bit ugly, happily unorthodox...maybe either fearless or not that bright.  But, when the horn blows and they challenge that first gotta love them for simply showing up for that rare moment under the sun.]   
From the previous discussion:  (From 1988): "Reducing the heel elevation on a jumping horse is subjectively controversial."  No kidding.  "This due to a broad-based condemnation based on personal prejudice, disinformation and what could be termed: structured or textbook shoeing.  (Farrier and vet combined).  In many ways, the idea that a lower heel length might be better for the horse was received with the same enthusiasm a French waiter might exhibit -- shortly after you ordered that Bud Lite.  A disconnect seemed to exist among professionals of both camps that a jumper is an athlete; thusly, you wouldn't find Jesse Owens running in loafers anymore than me playing tennis in cowboy boots. (Yeah, tried that with really uneven results.)  And further, no one was making the connection between chronic suspensory and check ligament issues or what was casually written off as wear and tear; the cost of doing business -- granting that jumpers and NFL types do share some common difficulties with longevity in a hard business.  But hunters too? 
The fun thing about jumpers is that the rule book can be tossed out the window.  These horses are not conformation ideals, necessarily pretty or concerned about smiling for the camera. They are really just hairy freaks in an odd business, which is why I often wonder if they are incredibly stupid or fabulously gifted with both talent and a deep sort of compassion -- for actually agreeing with the rider on such an absurd adventure.  Or maybe it is that these horses have an advanced sense of humor we humans fail to understand.  I've seen a jumper come out of a triple combination, take a stride or two, kind of half-snort and offer an expression like, "Boy, how did I do that?"  Yes, watch them carefully sometimes, because they too are learning just what their own body can really accomplish.  And often, they seem genuinely surprised at the results.
(From 1988):  "Jumpers will not necessarily work off either end.  They are highly stylistic in their approach and often training regimens may have to take a back seat to personality issues."  (I'm reminded here of a grand prix horse from a couple of decades ago -- Balbuco -- a horse who seemed to have invented the term: unorthodox jumper.  Trouble is, he won consistently.)   And remember too, this is a game about clocks and standing lumber...getting it done on time and worrying about pretty later.
Jumpers are shod for stoutness, protection and traction.  Besides keeping the horse on his leg, you need to keep the horse on the course.  Absolutely nothing should deviate from that criteria...meaning that soundness issues, the vet's creative shoeing prescription or the latest astrology projections don't count here.  All must either fit into the horse's job description or be cast aside.  There is no difference between an unsound jumper and a jumper compromised by shoeing that hinders his work.  Either way, the horse is non-competitive or unemployed.  Yes, some middle ground can exist, but it will be a narrow discussion. 
Shoes are an end to the means.
[image: Sandra Mesrine]
Actually, I could care less.  Why?  Because there are horses for courses and I'll look at that later.  What is more important is that aside from heel-length considerations, jumpers need some extra foot length.  Forget the 6-week, 8-week schedule...all that self-selling crap that is both unrealistic and just plain ludicrous.  On an average shoeing cycle, at half to two-thirds -- say 30+ days, the shoeing has gone from supportive to destructive.  Certainly not all horses -- variables abound -- but with a high performance horse you want 25% maximum deviation from your ideal.  Think of it like driving that BMW that is out of alignment.  Yeah, there go the tires shocks...maybe a ball joint. For jumpers, the shoes merely need adequate width and strength for the job...pretty is secondary to utility. Which doesn't mean a person does not take pride in their work -- just that the pride must not get in the way of the purpose. And this happens a lot in this business.
Good example of leaving ample foot.
Note, the toe treatment. More on that
Wide-web aluminum.  In this case,
manufactured by Delta.
[Note:  Needless to say, the options in shoe style and type has changed dramatically over the last two decades.  Of particular note, the wide-web aluminum shoe released by Dutchtown Forge in the late 70's.  Excellent shoe, but often misunderstood.  The shoe was actually developed for jumpers as a way to gain better floatation on indoor courses -- how the majority of American shows were conducted in the past.  Culprit was deep footing and the shoe was designed to keep the foot more on the surface without adding weight.  Course, then the hunters got hold of them...superstitious bunch when it comes to weight considerations.  Chief drawback: some fatigue issues, difficult to maintain stud holes, but overall an excellent shoe for protection.
Hinds: Shoe on the right is one of my favorites, with or without the pad.  The shoe adds length, support and the sulci spaces are opened, allowing the foot to clean itself over a course.  The shoe on the left shows that jumpers need not be complicated behind...just clean and straightforward.

[Minor pet peeve here though: Why are so many farriers today making either clunky heels, or adding good lateral support, but leaving all that metal to the inside, over the lateral sulcus?  Yes, that question is somewhat rhetorical.]   
Defending the Coffin Bone:
Sounds like something from Mission Impossible.  Yet, that is the purpose of allowing some extra foot as protection.  Everyone knows that the coffin bone sits in a bucket of blood, further that the bone does not remain static under load.  A horse coming off a 4-5' fence will send the bone downward AND forward within the confines of that hoof capsule.  It is bad idea to have it bouncing off anything more than the natural blood pressure within the surrounding laminae.  Don't believe that?  Not sure I care to explore the issue in real time.  However, the incidence of  degenerative changes in P-3 among jumpers, dropped dramatically after this notion was accepted in the early 1980's.  And no, external concussion is NOT a factor.  A horses leg and hoof are remarkable at absorbing concussion without the aid of additional shock-absorbing materials.  Sure, pads and packing are fine, both as a preventative and a palliative -- however, they have no influence on what is occurring inside the hoof capsule.  
[Note: I'm reminded of Sorbothane here...a technology transfer from running shoes.  It was an extreme example of A + B = F.  I asked the representative at the time:  "You ever tried to nail Jell-O to a fence post?"  And that is the end-point argument on external shock absorbing notions, at least by my experience.  Anything thicker than about 1/8 inch or so, and soft, is going to wobble so much that it will turn the nails into drill bits.  Human dynamics; issues that do not transfer well to horses.]    
Contrary to many assumptions, horses do not need traction to jump -- however, they do require a great deal for the preliminaries of jumping; notably to set for a fence and to navigate the turns.  Three-fourths of the time when a hunter or jumper stops on course...there is a good reason and confidence heads the list.  As in, "Momma didn't raise no fools!"  Second reason is pain -- negative reinforcement; on an experienced jumper, pilot-error falls somewhere down the list.  Sure, good riders on great horses screw up occasionally.  But if a horse isn't comfortable with his ability to check his distance, he will stop.  And rightly so.
Courses have changed dramatically over the last decade or so.  More and more shows are held on the lawn, rather than the arena.  And grass is not only slippery, but comes in a lot of different forms.  So today, most jumpers are drilled and tapped year-round.  And the addition of these caulks should not be a case of random physics.  They need to be part of the plan -- an accessory that is both necessary AND somewhat dangerous for the horse.  Well, the farrier too if your tennis shoe happens to end up under the foot.

Hinds: I position them in support of the trimming/shoe. Outside further down the shoe than the inside hole. This also helps to avoid treading injuries.
Fronts: the same, but for different reasons.  1)  First is to avoid a horse catching an inside caulk or wedging a hind shoe between the caulks, ripping off the shoe.  2)  Belly stabbers.  Sometimes this doesn't even help. 3)  Again, avoiding a caulking injury to the opposing hoof.
Nature of caulks:  Caulks should be varied according to position on the feet.  Example: Sharp to the outside holes, blunt inside.  Same with using square caulks on outside, round on inside. This is to avoid anchoring the horse in a turn.  Good example is the Polo Horse.  In this job, the horse needs to be able to slide a bit and turn freely.  If the foot is anchored in the ground and the body pivots around the anchored leg...well, ever heard of a spiral fracture?  Not pretty.  So some thinking needs to take place here and caulks should fit the minimum need for a particular course. That means go and find out what the footing is like.  Same considerations apply if the weather suddenly changes. Some caulks are better for mud, others for hard, dry ground, and of course, whether the horse is a hunter, jumper or a CT horse. Needs vary. It is also not uncommon to three-dot the toes (borium, drill-tech), on a hind shoe of a jumper that seems to need the grip there.
My scientific course evaluation tool!
So-called Olympic stud
     [Note:  Oddly, the well-maintained courses turn out to be the most treacherous. Why? Maintenance encourages root growth -- to the point of almost being impenetrable.  When Spruce Meadows opened in about 1976 or so, it was one of the first grass courses for many horses and riders on the west coast.  I was fortunate to get up there often, particularly to get a look at some of the best US horses, as well as the European teams.  And of course, what was going on with their shoeing. Invaluable education.  However, I did notice that the UK horses were drilled in the center of the shoe (between the third and fourth nail hole -- and at this tournament, they were packing Olympic caulks -- so named for their size -- on top of one inch extenders. Walking the course with my probe explained why.  It was the only way to penetrate that particular turf.  Now oddly, I noticed that this past year, Spruce Meadows tore out and replaced the entire Grand Prix ring turf.  Could be one of the reasons.  However, aside from that observation and with the influx of European horses in America, I took the nod from the English and began 3-holing my jumpers -- the third hole placed between the 3rd and 4th nail hole.  This was primarily as an option for jump-offs -- little extra power steering for when the course designer got overly trappy in his final test.  Course, trying to do a switch-back on a Warmblood often ended up like trying to win a barrel-race on a Yak. Lots of scope, but often not handy in the tight stuff.]       

Quick fixes:  Often, grass shows are more challenging on the first day, improving greatly as the surface gets chewed up a bit.  Also, particularly in the case of hunters, amateur riders, etc., poor preparation plays a part. It is unrealistic to re-shoe 400 horses for the first day of a show. lib.  Mud and frost nails can be added, or an assortment of copper washers that can be added to the shank of a conventional nail -- when you seat the nail, the two sides of the washer fold vertical, thereby producing a modified sticker of sorts.  More permanent solutions can be addressed later...including that lecture on preparedness.

 Horses for Courses, Clips and Pet Peeves:
Clips:  I don't like toe clips.  To me, they are similar to the hood ornament on a Cadillac. Now, I don't mind them on hunters...kind of pretty and they prove you own a forge, but not jumpers.  As I stated earlier, the coffin bone shifts forward on impact, particularly from a perch 6-feet high or so over a fence. Far too many toe clips are seated into the wall or pounded excessively into the toe.  Over the years, I've seen a number of radiographs where it appears a rat has taken a bite out of the leading edge of the coffin bone -- where the bone is about the thickness of your business card.  People loved to offer, "Oh, he hits a lot of rails."  To tell you the truth, I've worked on hundreds of these horses that jump using the Braille system and have never found a correlation to rapping rails.  If hitting rails with the hoof actually hurt, logic would indicate that the horse would quit doing it.  Why do you suppose they used to pole horses?  On the shins...
PP #1
Side-clips:  All around normally.  Especially with studs.  Caulks put tremendous torque on the nails and can literally twist a shoe right off the foot.  Consider it an insurance policy.  And for the critics out there, in 35-years I have never seen a downside to a properly constructed and fit side-clip.  However, I have seen a great many badly made clips.  Sure, they look pretty, but they can become a liability in a hurry.  A proper clip should have its strength at the base, diminishing in thickness and strength as it tapers to a peak.  They also do not need to be deep-seated into the wall.  Save that for the contests.  The problem with an over-engineered clip is if the horse happens to pull the shoe off and steps on one these knife blades -- you are going to have a very unhappy horse.  Example:  Horse vanned down from Canada for a series of shows and got to scrambling in the box.  Half-pulled two shoes and spent a good part of 400- miles slicing his sole, frog and yes, the bottom of his coffin bone into Swiss cheese.  And no, he never showed again.  Clips must collapse if stepped on by the horse.  Period.  Art has no business compromising safety.  
PP #2
Leave your prejudices and peccadillo's at home.  Try to understand that other farriers, particularly show farriers, may not be interested in your art work -- further, have no intention of duplicating it when there are 2500 horses on the grounds with one kind of issue or another.  Example:  A well-known and respected farrier from England came to western Canada some years back, importing the English thinking to the teaching of farriery.  I have a great deal of respect for the man as a person, a clinician and a farrier. I consider him a good friend.  However, when in Rome...
The issue had to with convincing a whole new round of aspiring farriers that concave was the cat's meow for hunters, jumpers and whatever else stumbled into the shop. The problem was that concave is outside of American shoeing culture and horses nowadays cross not only borders, but cultures as well.  These horses would also show in the states and if they lost a shoe, they were, for the most part SOL.  Nobody uses, carries or finds much need for concave bar (shoes) in the states, and most show farriers can't find time for lunch, much less trying to duplicate something that is pretty much irrelevant to the job anyway.  It is a shoe designed for a field hunter, NOT a show hunter.  Practice a little professional courtesy and appreciate these differences...and if for no other reason, as a service to your clients.  Or, as I had always done with my CT clients...send them on the road with a full back-up set.  Issue resolved. 
PP #3
Backing up the toe excessively.  If you need to back up the toe, this is the way to do it.  Excessive reduction (by rasping over the length of the wall at the toe) -- severely weakens the toe.  By doing this -- (according to Einstein and Newton's wisdom concerning cause and effect.) -- you are contributing to the medio/lateral migration of the quarters. Particularly if the environment includes moisture. The owner or the vet might not like the look, but this approach will not compromise the overall hoof structure.  Nice clips too...
And lastly, as I have emphasized often here, know the horse if possible, but always know and appreciate his job -- because it all begins or ends at that first fence.  And yes, I do have an opinion and that is all this really represents.        

And always be kind...this is not the enemy.
 Thanks to Farrier's Seth Parker and Sandra Mesrine for the use of their photos!

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