Whether caused by injury or lameness, time off from competition affords an opportunity for a farrier to make shoeing and trimming changes to accommodate a performance horse’s needs. At the 6th International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Oct 28-31 in West Palm Beach, Fla., Aaron Gygax, CJF, a sport horse farrier from Brittnau, Switzerland, explained how–with a veterinarian’s advice–a farrier can devise a hoof care plan that helps a horse return to performing as soon as possible.

"Making the most of this time helps speed recovery and improves the overall health and condition of the feet before the horse starts back in work," he explained.

Gygax emphasized that communication between veterinarian, horse owner, rider, and farrier during this period is key. The farrier, in particular, needs to know how much time off the horse requires; if his layup is injury-related and, if so, due to what type of injury; and how much exercise he will be getting and on what surface (A horse that needs to be hand-walked over hard ground for injury recovery, for instance, should not be barefoot.).

During the horse’s time off the farrier can rebalance the foot more aggressively than he or she would if the horse were in work or make shoeing changes that would be impractical if the horse were competing, Gygax said. First and foremost, however, the farrier selects shoeing mechanics to support any injury the horse might have.

When possible, Gygax pulls the horse’s shoes to improve hoof balance and condition and to relax the foot. "For example, in a horse with severely contracte