Just like people, horses have differences when it comes to the shape and size of their feet. For some, a hoof fault can result in strain on the legs or other parts of the body.
Limb deviations (such as legs that are not straight) add to the challenge of trimming and keeping your pony sound. Always use a qualified farrier and if you notice any change in your pony’s feet or legs, let your farrier know immediately – he is there to help you.
It must be noted that often ponies with limb deviations do better with shoes than going barefoot. The shoe helps prevent excessive wear in the area where the pony’s conformation naturally puts more load on the foot. It is also important that your pony sees the farrier regularly and sometimes more frequently than a pony with straight legs.
Toeing-in means that your pony breaks over to the outside of the central point of his toe, so the inside heel and outside toe take the greatest pressure. As a result, the outside heel and inside toe can grow too long. At every trimming or shoeing your farrier needs to rebalance the foot and trim it so that your pony carries weight as evenly as possible. Shoes can help as they can be set slightly wider where the horse wears his foot too much.
Walking like a duck?
Toeing-out creates the exact same problems and corrections as toeing-in, just adjusted to the opposite side – in other words the outside heel and inside toe carry the weight. If your pony toes-out seriously, he may brush very badly. Your farrier may not be able to stop it completely, but should be able to help a bit with regular trimming and balancing. Brushing boots should be worn to protect your pony’s legs during work.
Low heels and long toes can create a number of problems, from excessive strain on tendons and the structures inside the hoof, to stumbling and sometimes even falling. These horses need regular trimming and ‘bringing back’ of the toe, with very little to nothing trimmed off the heels (bare minimum for balancing only). Going barefoot is often a good option, unless they are too footsore to do so. In this case your farrier may provide arch support and may use something like Sole Pack to provide it. Being barefoot encourages the structures of the hoof to work optimally, and more frequent trimming of the toes encourages the feet to stay in balance.
On tip toes
High heels as well as boxy and contracted feet are prone to being too narrow with too much concussive force shooting up the pony’s leg at each stride.
There are all sorts of theories about how to manage this, from soaking the feet in water every day to shoeing with toecaps only. In most cases regular trimming, and taking off as much excess heel as possible and as little toe as possible, is the best solution. Encouraging good ground contact with the frog (frog pressure is very important), and removing a little of the bars at each trimming encourages the feet to open as much as possible.
If you haven’t paid much attention to your pony’s feet before, some of this information may be new to you. Try to be around the next time your farrier visits so he can show you the structures of the hoof and how he works with them to keep your pony sound. The more you know about your horse, the better you will work together!
Text: Mandy Schroder. Photography: Shutterstock
This article first appeared in the January 2015 issue of HQPony Magazine. For great subscription offers visit Coolmags.