Updated: October 25, 2019
Horse owners and clients have an amazing ability to nod along when farriers drift into technical talk precisely as if we know exactly what’s going on. It’s a good strategy for not looking like an idiot, but it’s often not the best strategy for gaining the detailed information that would help us understand and improve on our horse’s hoof conditions and issues. So for those who need a crash course, here is a basic glossary of common farrier terms and their definitions.
Where Are We, Exactly?
These are the terms farriers use to talk about sides and directions:
Anterior: the front of the hoof
Posterior: the back of the hoof
Dorsal: the upper side
Ventral: the lower side
Lateral: towards the outside
Medial: towards the inside
Bilateral: both sides (or both left and right hooves, pasterns, etc.)
What Part of the Foot Are We Even Discussing?
Farriers have specific technical terms for each part of the anatomy of the foot and each common hoof problem that can crop up. Some will be familiar to you, but some of them might be new:
Bars: these are on the bottom at the back and to the sides, where the hoof starts to narrow
Breakover Point: the part of the sole still on the ground when the hoof begins to pivot as the horse moves forward and the heels lift
Bulbs: these are the softer cushions at the very back of the bottom of the horse’s foot; they form the external part of the digital cushion
Coronary Band (or Coronet): the hairline at the very top of the hoof, all the way around
Digital Cushion: the fatty area at the rear of the horse’s foot that forms the interior of the frog and the bulbs of the heel
Frog: the softer triangular area that starts at the back of the bottom of the hoof and moves to a point in the center
Heel: the back part of the horse’s hoof
Hoof Capsule: the exterior of the hoof, including the hoof wall at the sides, the sole and frog at the bottom, and the bulbs of the heel at the back
Hoof Wall (or Horn): the hard, outermost layer of the hoof
Laminae: the inner layer of the hoof that sits between and attaches the hoof wall and the internal structures of the foot
Quarter: the sides of the hoof wall
Sole: the bottom of the foot, from the frog forwards
Toe: the front of the horse’s foot
White Line: the band that wraps around the hoof (visible from the bottom) and joins the hoof wall and the sole
My Horse is Prone to Issues Because What?
There are also specific terms to describe how a horse is built and how it moves:
Action: generally speaking, how a horse moves (more specifically, a horse can move with a lot of shoulder action, or knee action, which basically means it uses that body part a lot)
Brushing (or Interfering): when a horse strikes its opposite leg with the hoof that’s in the air
Dishing (or Winging): when the hoof swings inward as it travels, instead of going in a straight line
Forging (or overreaching): when a horse strikes its front legs with the toe of a back foot
Paddling: when the hoof swings out as it travels
Plaiting (or Rope Walking): when the horse moves one foot directly in front of the other
You’re Going to Do What to My Horse?
Many corrective shoeing terms don’t have specific names, but here are some common ones that do:
Balance the Foot: trim the foot such that both lateral and medial sides are symmetrical in shape and size and the foot sits level on a hard, level surface
Change the Breakover: alter the way a horse’s foot leaves the ground, usually to lessen the leverage so the foot comes off the ground more easily
Cold Shoe: when a farrier shapes a shoe without heating it before affixing it to the horse’s hoof
Hot Shoe (or Hot Setting): when a farrier heats up a shoe, shapes it to a horse’s foot and quickly places it on the foot before cooling it and affixing it
Level the Foot: trim the foot such that the heels, the toe, and the quarters of the hoof are even, relative to each other, and the foot sits evenly on a hard, level surface.
Rasp: when a farrier files down a hoof to smooth and lightly shape it
Raise (or Lower) a Heel: change the angle of the hoof either by leaving (or removing) more heel or using a pad or specialized shoe to get the desired hoof angle. Usually done to relieve stress on specific hoof or lower leg structures
Resect the Hoof Wall: remove a section of outer hoof wall to expose an area with a bacterial or fungal infection
Rocker a Shoe: when the front of the shoe is mildly angled and lifted slightly off the ground to manipulate where the horse breaks over
Roll a Shoe: when a farrier rasps (or grinds) off the very bottom of the toe of a shoe, creating a less steep shoe angle to help the horse’s foot break over more easily
Set a Shoe: placing the shoe slightly back and behind the horse’s toe and then shortening the toe to ease breakover
Hopefully some of these terms will make it easier for you and your farrier to communicate about your horse’s feet and the work that’s being done on them. At the very least, knowing and using them will feel better than just nodding along.