Choice of farrier might have a significant influence not only on the shape of a horse’s hoof, but its soundness and athletic ability, according to research carried out by veterinarians in Switzerland.

Forty dressage and show jumping horses, divided into six groups, were trimmed and shod by one of six selected farriers over a period of one year. Their hooves were periodically evaluated and compared by radiographic exam. Of 15 variable parameters evaluated, 14 differed significantly among farriers, according to an article based on the study and forthcoming in The Veterinary Journal. Parameters included dorsal wall length, hoof angle, sole thickness, the distance from the cannon bone to the toe and wall, and other lengths and angles measured from front and side views.

Although all the parameters can affect the hoof’s shape, toe length and mediolateral (side-to-side) hoof balance are most important for the horse’s overall soundness, said Martin Kummer, DVM, Dipl. ECVS, chief assistant in the Equine Hospital at the University of Zurich and primary author of the study. "The length of toe influences the point of break-over, (and) the mediolateral hoof balance could influence the loading pattern of the joint surfaces," he noted.


Of 15 variable parameters evaluated, 14 differed significantly among farriers…

To counter this variation between individual farriers, some form of trimming guidelines need to be established in order to create "some form of standardization" to make this study meaningful and practical, according to Stephen E. O’Grady, DVM, MRCV