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!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wings II....

Part II: Shoeing in the Fast Lane;

Fronts -- The Landing Gear
 of this Business:

[Note: Well gee, we'll just throw out most of the old article and mostly ad lib.  However, it is important to remember that much of this conversation is about perspective -- high performance horses over a historical time-line.  And of course, the possibility that I'm just making the whole thing up.]

Ever watch a 747 land?  Yeah, the landing gear isn't rigid.  Same case with a horse's leg.  The entire suspensory system of a front leg is an absolute marvel of engineering.  And it has to be able to repeatedly handle that 60% of the horses weight + rider, coming off a 4-5' fence. Key word: repetition. 

However, the horse is well-equipped to handle this job if supported in a positive fashion.  That entails thinking a bit outside the conventional (or popular) thinking.  In earlier days, a great deal of emphasis by shoeing instructors was based (as I mentioned earlier), on the finer points of ship construction.  Fronts should be 52 degrees, hinds blah, blah...shoe should start here, end there...and on and on. Why?  Because it was remedial education and somewhat safe to teach to an audience that rarely consisted of horsemen/women, but rather students seeking a way to afford a Ford F-250 with chrome wheels and a CB radio.  While that is a bit exaggerated --- particularly in today's world, the exact motivation is rarely sought on the first day of class.  As a practical matter, a potential student should first become somewhat acquainted with a horse, prior to specializing in a job where your working environment is six-inches from the business end of a hoof.

Why does this matter?  Two reasons really.  One is the cost of a funeral nowadays, and the other is that it places the aspiring farrier into a learning curve based on what doesn't work -- not what could.  It is also why so many programs emphasize shoe-making, rather than a degree of specialization or even business acumen in this rapidly evolving profession.  With the resources and technology available today, shoe-making may still be necessary from time to time, but can be seen as a highly overrated skill.  And you will notice this fundamental truth once your right elbow gets about 100,000 miles on it.  And those miles pile up faster than you think because labor has a price that you often pay for at a later date.

That Front End:

Back to 747's.  The front-end of a hunter (or jumper) always seems to garner more attention than it might deserve.  This notion probably evolved because that is where the horse's head is attached.  In its relation to shoeing (not the head, the other part), it should be viewed as the secondary end, or as an attachment to the rear-end.  It is merely pushed along by the back-end and gets all the credit because it arrives at the destination first.

The front-end of the horse carries the majority of the weight and acts as a fulcrum for the body to pass over; and since the head is here, it also determines the direction of travel.  For these reasons, most riders face to the front.  The design of the front-end of a horse naturally dictates a different approach to shoeing than the rear, as it has a completely different purpose.  Again, length and vertical elevation of stride play a role here, as they are a measure of efficiency -- further, particularly with hunters; courses are set to specific stride length -- normally 12 feet.  Horses that can't make the right distances generally find themselves unemployed in this business rather quickly.  And sure, riders can adjust the stride, but a horse with excessive knee action will probably knock himself unconscious at the first fence anyway.

Angles and Other Considerations:

This is just possibly the most contentious topic ever developed in farriery, and has been thrown at  horses like a cash prize handed out on the Wheel of Fortune.  Angles are arbitrary, far too exclusive by interpretation, and immediately place one number in a raging conflict with some other number.  And further, Henry Ford didn't invent the horse, nature did, and then us geniuses started messing around with product improvement. So not only are the disciplines specialized, but the horses are as well. Which means that what we have here is an artificial animal.

So what does a 49-degree hoof angle mean?  Not much. It is a static measurement out of context with other elements -- most notably where the hoof rests in conjunction with the entire leg (all 6-feet of it), more importantly, where the terminus of the heel is in conjunction with both cannon/fetlock joint and the bulbs above the actual heel.  And where's the toe at in relation?  At 49-degrees you could have a great alignment or a disastrous one dependent on those other issues.

In my early experiences with both shoeing and managing Thoroughbreds (for the track), I would often hear other farriers lamenting the absolute horrors of race plating. "They butcher their heels, blah, blah..."  And given my early training in farriery, I bought into it -- though I did not bring up the topic on the backstretch.  Later I was licensed as a plater;  leading me to question everything I had been taught, a lesson I carried over to jumpers.  The dynamics are very, very similar...with a caveat or two:  As any woman can tell you, it is possible to fall off your shoe -- in the horses case, to fall off his foot.  Normally backwards, but sometimes sideways as well. And it is here that you might want to grab the aspirin because it is a difficult concept for many people to comprehend. And no, I don't have any scientific proof, just eyes.
My favorite shoe...picture.
See, the  racehorse's heels are presumably low, but not necessarily in relation to the toe.  For every time you lower a heel a degree, the heel ends up posterior to its previous position.  So if your horse was brought to me in a size 1 shoe...he will probably leave in a size 2 or 3.  Because I have now shifted him off his foot and onto his leg.   Hmm. Maybe take that aspirin with four-fingers of Bourbon.  See, low heels don't injure or kill racehorses; however, muscle-body fatigue, toe-grabs, congenital issues, poor conditioning, immature or over-racing can and do.  As does the masking affect of over-medication. 

 Everyone has seen one of these photos showing a hyper-extended knee. In this split-second, what happens if the toe-grab anchors on the harder sub-surface?  Remember here, that many tracks have a light asphalt undercoating -- a harder surface to move excess water to the infield.  If the horse cannot retract his toe in that instance -- something else will give; normally the knee itself.  It is also at this point, perhaps late in a race where the muscle bodies (above the knee) have reached the point of exhaustion, thereby throwing the load onto the suspensory apparatus below the knee.  And if you are wondering, yes...the fetlock is designed (in runners and jumpers) to seek the ground as well under maximum load.
Jumpers rarely, if ever experience the type of muscle-body fatigue seen in racehorses.  However, they do have the issue of load, aggravated by the angle of descent -- considerably different according to the discipline.  Added to this, horses jump as an element of a complete stride...i.e., landing one front leg at a time; (as pictured) as a continuous motion towards the next fence.  As you can see here, the leading fetlock is in/on the ground.
Back to high fashion. Consider the relationship between the heel of this shoe and the woman's ankle -- yes, extreme here, but extrapolate that image to a horse with a short shoe, maybe a wedge pad...say the bulbs being about where the woman's actual heel is located.  What happens under that maximum load on the down side of the fence?  Yes, the horse falls off his foot because the angle between heel and fetlock (under load) has pulled the toe off the ground -- transferring the whole load to the rear of the actual shoe support.  And it is at this moment that most injuries can occur. 

Yeah, I flunked art school -- Angles
of descent...sort of.

                                  Next: Part III
Jumpers and more....

Monday, July 8, 2013


Shoeing in the Fast Lane:
Hunters, Jumpers and CT's

Part I

Anvil Archives: Rob Edwards,

[Note: This article was first published in 1988, hence certain annotations will be added here. Up to the mid-1980's, the majority of hunters and a high percentage of jumpers were Thoroughbreds. Imported Warmbloods were beginning to infiltrate American shows, but their numbers did not really impact the sport nationally until the early 1990's.  Today, they dominate the ranks of the H and J world.]    
Hunters and jumpers. The term has always made the implication of something a little special -- a touch above the ordinary -- an air of sophistication...espirit de corps with four legs and a tail.  Images of champagne on ice, Bentley's and of course, the Olympic Games.  Perhaps it is the formal attire, the organization and promotion of the sport, the money...prestige wrapped in a dangerous encounter with walls and rails.  However you care to shake it or wrap it, the shoeing concerns need to be as fast, and yes -- as cautious as the participants on course.  A dangerous kind of caution to be sure.
Over the years, horseshoeing has developed a language of its own -- distinct semantics that often have no clear definitions, accepted interpretations or even a general agreement on whether the topic is horses or a building inspector's opinion on your new chicken coop.  Words like angle, length, flat and balance generally manage to only confuse owners and trainers, worse yet, become an ambiguous deflection, allowing the farrier to commit on being uncommitted.  Most of these terms are better suited to engineering and mathematics and not to a dynamic piece of physiology such as a horse.  It is virtually impossible to apply rules or set procedures to a living organism.  Instead, it would seem better to focus on themes and priorities (that may not include your opinion), and allow the individual horse to dictate the proper course of action.  It is quite accurate to say that a 16-hand, 1200lb horse is going to offer a horseshoer little more than an inch of adjustment in any direction, 3 to 4 degrees of angular deviation and less than a pound of negotiable weight.  This kind of influence amounts to stopping a runaway freight train with a stuffed armadillo.  So applying all this technology and terminology to that 1200lb animal with the persimmon between his ears is not likely to influence the conversation. Which could mean that the real object needing your attention is not going to be his exact lengths, angles or favorite pizza toppings, but how this particular horse approaches his job, and what can be done to accentuate his abilities and finer points.  The horse is going to be helped, not  converted to some mysterious ideal.  High-end horses end up there because they DON'T have a wheelbarrow full of problems.  $50,000 = talent.  If you want to shoe used cars, try the 4-H. They thrive on projects.

In any discussion of hunters and jumpers, it is imperative to distinguish between the two disciplines.  The only real common denominator is that they jump non-rigid obstacles.  Other than that, it is like having a ballerina and a wide-receiver apply for the same job. Somehow, someone is going to be overqualified.


In the American mind, hunters are supposed to be pretty. These are not the hodge-podge of breeds and types jumping hedges in England or Ireland.  Field hunters have little in common with the American show hunter of today. While both need to move fairly well, for disparate reasons; show hunters must also appear to be sound, jump their fences with form and safety, use themselves properly and hopefully not fall down somewhere on course.  The idea is to showcase the rider's ability to negotiate a course properly.  Yes, these are all theoretical parameters, not necessarily how it ends up, as hunter and rider are also engaged in a kind of on-the-job training exercise.

Moving well is always the chief priority with hunters.  There is a strong correlation between a bad mover in the ring and the restroom schedule of the judge.  And while that is an exaggeration, a spotless round on a dump truck will earn you nothing other than a nice go and maybe your trainer's applause.  However, the criteria does have roots in those field hunters of old, as a bad mover on a long hunt could easily put a rider permanently in dialysis; and it is a general rule that bad movers generally make mediocre jumpers.
Good movement is basically defined as how the horse uses itself, how it covers the ground and the level of comfort and stability offered the rider.  This is a laterally viewed conception for the most part and subject to a wide degree of interpretation.  Good hunters (and jumpers) will work off their hind end.  This is the business end, the source of their power and forward momentum.  In many horses, if the hind end is right, then the front end will take care of itself.  This is not to say that a good mover can be created out of anything larger than a cow.  Rather it is a case of accentuation and/or reduction of the opposing elements.  The picture that the canvas should depict is a horse that uses itself well (efficiently), or basically gets its hind legs under its body well -- providing the necessary propulsion to move the front end forward...effortlessly it would seem to the viewer;  thereby producing a long, low stride with a minimum of knee or vertical action.  Going up is not the same as going forward -- wasted energy.  This is the desirable frame, not always available in what might be standing in front of you, but still, a reasonable goal. Accentuate the good points, reduce the bad...and in many cases, one will improve the other.

[Note:  Show hunters have changed dramatically over the years, primarily the result of the changing focus of horse shows and the ever-evolving eye of the judges.  It is still quite true that judges have favorites; they are horsemen/women -- biases and all.  And judging hunters is a subjective pastime. In older days, when soundness carried much more weight in these divisions, the sight of pads, bar shoes...even rotational deviations were considered strikes against the horse and rider. With the expansion of the amateur divisions, most of those prejudices have pretty much dropped from the judging criteria.  And too, most farriers today have thankfully concluded that rotational (with concurrent break-over issues), are best left alone.  The hoof itself has nothing to do with these deviations anyway.  Break-over is the property of the suspensory and annular ligaments of the fetlock/pastern -- disparate medio-lateral lengths, the result of developmental conformational irregularities.  Which means that even if you welded a door knob on the toe of the shoe, the break point is pre-determined by the fetlock/pastern, not the hoof.  So focus on what is important -- that being the overall package.] 

From here....
Of course, these horses also need to be trained -- a silly sounding notion here, but bad movement is often related to bad riding as much as poor conformation.  And remember too that particularly with hunters, horses are purchased according to the ability of the rider...whether a novice amateur or a developing junior rider.  Equitation, medal riders, etc -- good mover is essential.  Green, conformation, model or derby hunters are normally money prospects or money hunters -- meaning the trainer occupies the irons.  A bad ride is therefore unlikely.  Not impossible, just unlikely.  So, if you are lucky enough to shoe one of those amazing natural absolutely nothing to screw him up.  Revel in the comfort of a status quo job.  They are damn rare.
To here...
Hinds Comes First...Not the Other Way
Everyone seems to look at  conformation as a definer of movement, and yes it plays a definitive role on the macro level. Yet farriers often view it piecemeal instead of as a complete element, or assume some similarity exists between the function of a front and hind leg.  Consider the angle of the entire hind leg -- top to bottom -- the posture it assumes viewed from the rear or for that matter in movement.  It begins at a wide point (the hip), then angles inward toward the mid-line, that being the terminus at the ground. The leg will invariably meet the ground at an angle, in some cases, actually crossing the mid-line.  This is an extremely efficient way to use a hind leg, if forward propulsion happens to be your goal.

[Note:  I am often reminded of those wonderful, but extremely flawed diagrams from farrier school (and your average Quarter horse show), of these completely useless fence posts identified as correct hind-leg conformation.  Yes, correct if you might want the horse to hold up a small building.  Two other issues come to mind -- the first being that the hip is an actual joint as opposed to the shoulder which is not -- leaving it with very limited rotational capability, that confined to the elbow.  And two, how farriers tend to view horses.  Most, from the foot up, unless you happen to be left handed, right-brain in your thinking.  In that case (my own case), I look at the package down, because for the most part, I'm shoeing a horse, not a foot.  And all my thoughts, concerns...angst perhaps -- must consider the package and more importantly, the horse's particular job in life.  And no, this is not some kind of  tree-hugging "natural horse" approach.  I've personally never seen a 'natural' horse and have never noticed a feral horse doing the first-year green stuff either. My notions are based on physical law -- as both Newton and Einstein noticed: every action has an equal and opposing re-action.  Shoeing itself will produce an impact at even its most basic level, so KISS and within the parameters of the horse's job.  There are no all-encompassing theories, no magic bullet -- no absolutes. Simply variations on a fundamental theme.]  

Might work for humans...but not horses.
This hind-leg angle is what produces the propulsion (impulsion), by allowing the maximum forward extension of the hind foot -- under the horse, near the girth.  Good place to be if you plan on lifting 60% of the horse's weight and that overdressed pilot over an obstacle.  Hence, the trimming and shoeing of the hind feet of a hunter (or jumper), should emphasize and encourage the usefulness of this bit of factory equipment.  Which means forget the animal's conformation for a second, throw your chaps in the truck and wander down the schooling ring and smoke a cigarette.  Walking or jogging a horse on a hard surface to see how he moves is slightly ludicrous and marginally useful -- unless they plan on setting the course down the middle of the aisle-way.  Horses cut into the ground, they don't simply tread the surface.  Besides, we live on a round planet, so throw away the textbook and slide-rule and use your eyes.  Separate the elements of the horse into thirds, see what you like and don't like and then put the animal back together again. And too, decide if there is anything you absolutely can't live with outside your own ego.  Yes, that is a consideration -- does the horse have a problem or do you have the problem? 

Yes, exaggerated, but you get my drift.

What, you say?  Basically, you are not seeking a level foot behind.  (Whatever the hell that is.)  Rather, the trimming and shoe need to represent the added needs of a horse that jumps for a living.  The foot should be slightly banked, thereby assisting the hind leg on its path and reducing resistance from the ground on the outside of a hind foot.  And yes, it is subtle.  Let that hind leg travel the course intended and not hit or stab the ground prematurely.  Exactly how much variation is completely dependent upon the horse's own tendencies; his way of moving forward.  Remember above all else, that a hind leg is not intended to support weight (other than standing in the cross-ties), but to propel the body forward -- as such it does not sit under a horse like the pillars in a parking garage.

Comparative anatomy supports such a conclusion, the carpus being primarily a perpendicular (square) joint, the tarsus triangular, with obvious angulations.  So why we would approach them as apples and apples when they are not?  Excellent question.  Hold onto that thought.

Does kind of make you ponder a little over the popularity of trailers, lateral extensions -- support via length or width to the outside of many hind shoes. I call them runners.  People often say, "he was hittin' a bit behind,"  "hocks are a little shaky," "she rope-walks"....blah, blah..."pops the hocks too much."  In truth, the only horses I've ever seen hit are those with physical issues or on the receiving end of a bad ride.  Sure, accidents happen, horses can get tangled up on course, but no horse in its right mind is going to bloody himself with every stride and no farrier is going to correct an outside aberration -- whatever it's origin may prove to be.  If the hocks are sore (not uncommon), then the phone call needs to go to the vet, because Rule #2 is "you don't screw up the horse's job chasing somebody else's ghosts."  (Yeah, I was going to say, "You don't talk about Fight Club."  Kind of the same, really.)  So when considering additions on a hind shoe -- square toes, caulks, your initials etc., be aware that you are creating an asymmetrical masterpiece here.  Balance is for a bar stool, not always a horse. 

Hind shoes are really rather discretionary as most shoers have their favorites, but since hunters show without protection, they should be fit relatively tight and well safed-off to the inside. Weight minimal according to size demands of the individual horse.  The shoes should support the trimmed foot, meaning the outside branch may be 1/2 to 1" longer than the inside.  The horse is going to work off that outside branch a bunch, so give him a little extra to accomplish that task.  In all cases, cut the quarters some slack while having a fairly tight inside heel. The quarters are the seat of the vast majority of medio/lateral flexing -- the heel really not going anywhere, being perhaps one of the strongest engineering examples in the whole hoof.  And if the quarters are weak or problematic, then give them a slight gut and a three-point fit.  It was a book that first said a horseshoe needs to be flat -- not any of the thousands of horses I have discussed this, it is subtlety in fit and application, but often the only way to control those migrating quarters. The idea here being that show season is NOT the time for extensive repairs or some approach that might work. Trainers tend to be a little unresponsive to this kind of approach.

Part II

Fronts -- The Landing Gear
 of this Business:
Ever watch a 747 land?  Yeah, the landing gear isn't rigid.  Same case with a horse.  The entire suspensory system of a front leg is an absolute marvel of engineering.  And it has to be able to repeatedly handle that 60% of the horses weight + rider, coming off a 4-5' fence. Key word: repetition.     
And don't forget...comments, hate mail and crank phone calls to:
The Rich and Scientific Horseshoer's Association
PO Box 4
Tijuana, Mexico