Therapeutic Shoeing Part 1: Foot Fundamentals

Addressing the anatomy, conformation, and biomechanical principles of the equine foot.
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Therapeutic Shoeing, Part 1: Foot Fundamentals
Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

The beginning of this two-part discussion on therapeutic shoeing addresses the anatomy, conformation, and biomechanical principles of the equine foot; the trim as the foundation of farriery; and diagnostic imaging.

Any discussion of therapeutic shoeing in the horse must begin with a discussion of what therapeutic shoeing is–and what it is not. According to Stephen O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS, professional farrier and owner of Northern Virginia Equine, in Marshall, therapeutic shoeing (or therapeutic farriery) is “the science and art of affecting/influencing the structures of the foot.” It is not a cookie-cutter, “apply shoe A to foot B” magic bullet in the war on equine lameness. To understand how the foot structures can be influenced, we should first have a clear picture of those structures and the forces that act on them.

“In an ideal world, you would begin from a diagnosis,” says Andrew Parks, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, professor of Large Animal Medicine at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “From that diagnosis you would get your treatment goals. By goals I mean the big picture concepts for treatment. You need to have principles (a range of techniques) that allow you to implement your goals.”

O’Grady concurs: “In order to be proficient at therapeutic farriery you must understand the forces that affect the foot. Excess forces or stresses on the hoof capsule lead to deformation, and excess forces or stresses on the internal structures of the foot lead to disease. Everything we are trying to do with therapeutic farriery is to change the forces on the foot

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Written by:

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM, practices large animal medicine in Northern California, with particular interests in equine wound management and geriatric equine care. She and her husband have three children, and she writes fiction and creative nonfiction in her spare time.

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