Equinamity-A Revolution in Horse and Rider Training

Equi-note 35 Horseshoeing-the scandal exposed at competitions

Horseshoeing-the scandal exposed at competitions
Horseshoeing-the scandal exposed at competitions
Source: Equinamity.co
Horseshoeing-the scandal exposed at competitions

This post shows evidence of poor horseshoeing quality at international competitions. As can be seen in the above photos. The hooves shown in this section are from leading international competitors principally in Grand Prix Dressage, 3-Day Event and Show Jumping.

Extensive research was conducted on 84 top-level international competition horses. As indicated in the previous post, four main problems were identified, which are:

-the extensive use of side clips on their front hooves

-incorrect hoof angles, both lateral and anteroposterior

-distorted hoof capsule contours

-ineffective/risky shoe shapes


Further comments on each of these problems follow.

Side clips

The following images indicate the three options for clips on the front hooves. The first photo on the left is with no clips, the middle photo has a single toe clip in the middle of the hoof and the photo on the right has two side clips, one on each quarter.

Clip comparison
                                                                           No clip         One toe clip     Two side clips
Horseshoeing front hoof clip comparison

Occasional usage is made of two clips on the same side of the shoe for medical reasons, such as a split hoof wall, but this is rare.

The research showed that usage of side clips is extensive, as the following table indicates.

Lame horses with two side clips on the front hooves


 Total w/ side clips*    65
3-Day Event Dressage  29
Grand Prix Dressage   36
                                                                          *Note: Total number of horses analysed=84; 19 horse difference vs total is that either they had no side clips or evidence was insufficient.

The prevalence of clip-related unsoundness was present in an alarming 3/4 (65/84) of competitors. The lameness observed is intermittent, which is described as a Grade 2 or 3 according to the AAEP scale. This is an entirely different type and level from the highly obvious Grade 5 level lameness which is immediately noticeable. Nevertheless, at this level of competition, it should still be regarded as serious.

How are side clips made?

It is important to note that raising the clips is an art in itself. Significant variations exist in terms of the clip’s overall size, location along the shoe’s branch, width, thickness (at base and amount of taper), height, sharpness of the point, angle to the hoof wall, fitting into the hoof, etc.

Another vital point is the hammering done by the farrier on the clip to angle it with the hoof wall. This is often performed in a rough manner and creates bruising.

These are all highly significant issues which can determine whether the horse is comfortable with the shoe and clips. This matter will be analysed in the next post.

Incorrect hoof angles


The hoof capsule has an overall cylindrical shape and grows continuously. It is therefore subject to an infinitely large number of changes to its length. This growth can be and usually is irregular along the perimeter of the hoof. By its very nature, all growth will create angle changes. For the sake of simplicity, these angles are divided into two main groups: the anteroposterior (front-back) and the mediolateral (inside-outside).

Anteroposterior angles

The anteroposterior angle must provide a pastern-hoof angle that is “straight”, when viewed from the side. If the shoeing is incorrect at either the toe or the heel, this will not happen. There are two main variations which occur, which show the hoof to be either “broken-forward” or “broken-back” as shown next.

Horseshoeing broken back_forward
Source: Butler Professional Horseshoeing

The dotted lines at the bottom of the hooves, indicate how much trimming is needed to correct the angle.

Mediolateral angles

The second main type of angle refers to the sides of the hoof, or the mediolateral. Medial refers to the side of the hoof closer to the horse’s mid-line and the lateral to the outside.

The starting point is based on the horse’s original skeletal structure, whereby the hoof and leg are constructed at a 90°-degree angle to the ground. If the angle is not 90° then it means that one side of the hoof is longer or shorter than the other. Bone and skeletal deformities are excluded from this analysis.

Horseshoeing broken in_out
Source: Butler Professional Horseshoeing

This unevenness can happen from either unequal natural hoof growth and conformation (shown in the top row in the above image) or from a deficiency in the farrier’s trimming. When either of these two situations arise, the result is a crooked hoof. This is defined as either “broken-in” or “broken-out” as shown in the second row above.

Almost half of these top-level competitors exhibited an angle problem. Both front hooves and hind hooves were affected.

Distorted hoof capsule contours

The third shoeing problem dealt with the hoof capsule and its contour.

Overall, its shape must look like an extension of the leg and be part of an overall, harmonious conformation of the horse. It must look healthy, well-formed and balanced, and allow the horse to move comfortably and soundly.

Given the growth of the hoof, distortions to the capsule are continuous and can be rapid. Consequently, continual adjustments need to be made to each individual hoof at every shoeing.

A series of factors intervene to complicate this process, including genetics, conformation, health, injury, nutrition, stabling, environment (especially weather and temperature), workload, type of work, work surface, shoeing frequency, type and material of shoe, nailing, fitting of shoe, etc.

The following examples show a range of reasons why growth can be distorted.

Causes of distortion of hoof capsule
natural growth over-trim wrong trim neglect
Horseshoeing-the scandal exposed at competitions-causes of distortion of hoof capsule
Source left photo: Mike Ware-Director of the Australian College of Equine Podiotherapy

Source third photo: Tom Smith Farriers comments:” that he received the horse in this condition for purposes of re-shoeing”.


The quality of the farrier’s judgement is demonstrated as to which of the above listed elements they choose to prioritise to get the combination that is right for the horse.

Ineffective/risky shoe shapes

Shoes must be comfortable and functional to allow the horse to fulfil the tasks that have been set for it. Bizarre shoes which impede this are simply gimmicks. One of the most common faults noted in the research is a wide flat, smooth shoe which increases the risk of slipping.

In addition, there are also shoes which may be appropriate for the horse and its work, but which have been made badly by the farrier /blacksmith. These can damage the horse’s leg action.

Some examples follow.

Ineffective/risky shoe shapes
Horseshoeing-the scandal exposed at competitions Ineffective/risky shoe shapes

Issues which arise from each of these four problem areas will be analysed in greater depth in the following posts.