Last week was a significant milestone moment. I fitted a pair of front shoes to a pony! Kris [Parsons], my training farrier, so far has rejected most of my fitting attempts so I was really pleased to be allowed to nail on the shoes I had shaped.

There’s a lot to consider when fitting. Not only must the shoe fit, so to speak, but the right amount of length and support needs to be is given to the heels as well as consideration into providing width to help balance the foot if it’s not symmetrical.

A key reference point is the pedal joint (the distal inter-phalangeal articulation), which is the central point of rotation and it is around this point of the foot that the shoe should be fitted. Shoeing a foot correctly will optimise the horse’s performance and create a healthy and strong hoof capsule.

There are, though, many trade-offs that farriers have to make which mean that they are not always able to shoe in a way that is best for the horse. For example, hunters need to be shod “tight” so they can hunt all day in muddy and wet conditions without fear of the shoe being trodden on and pulled off. No width or length therefore can be afforded, even if the foot needs it.

Much of how a horse is moving shows up on the foot. The farrier can quickly build a picture by reading the signs such as brushing marks, wear patterns on the old shoes and the balance and symmetry of the foot. These are all indicators on what has been happening since the last time the horse was shod.

Interpreting these signs correctly and making the right shoeing adjustments is key to successful farriery. This will be the focus for my next two years which seems an enormous mountain to climb. Still, one step at a time and the sense of achievement of just getting a pair of shoes on a pony is worth banking. Time to try some hind feet next!

Until next week,

Roland

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