Ask a Farrier: What’s the Difference Between Long Footed and Short Footed Farriery?


horse walking away through field - Ask a Farrier - the Difference Between Long Footed and Short Footed Farriery

There's really only one "kind of farriery.” Wikipedia defines a farrier as "...a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses' hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary. A farrier combines some blacksmith's skills with some veterinarian's skills to care for horses' feet."

Whether we’re talking about a barefoot trim, hot shoe or cold shoe, a farrier's job is to take care of all horses’ hooves. Farriers need to need to learn the anatomy of horses and be able to read X-rays so we can correct lamenesses, or at least try to keep the horse as comfortable as we can. We also have to know different riding disciplines and be able to watch how each horse moves and, possibly, change some angles in the hooves to help them move faster or better. We may also need to change some angles laterally to try and correct conformation problems.

It's All About Angles

Long footed and short footed farriery is a term that's rarely used. It's another way to describe the angles at which you would trim a horse's hooves to give them the gait they need to be able to do their job the best they can. The breed of the horse and what you're doing with it will determine what angle your horse needs.

Long footed horses have longer toes and shorter heels. This smaller overall angle gives horses a slower break over and a longer stride. You'll see this in Standardbreds and harness racing horses at the track. Thoroughbreds are usually shod with aluminum shoes. Race horses need longer strides and lighter shoes. Some Arabian show classes require the horse to wear shoes with weighted toes to exaggerate their movement.

The opposite applies to short footed horses. The heels are left a little longer and the toes are shorter, which gives the horse a shorter stride and a quicker break over. Cutting, reining and working cow horses need to be quick, agile and able to turn on a dime, so the short toes and faster break over will help them move better.

Try Changing Your Own Angles

I like to use humans as an analogy when describing how different angles and changing an angle affect movement. Even the slightest change can manipulate your gait or strides—the same theories apply to horses and people. If you'll all humor me for a minute and try this yourself, you'll see what I mean.

First take your shoes off and walk normally. Then take a few long, stretched out strides, as far forward as you can. Now put on your stilettos or high heels and do the same. Guys, if you don’t own heels and none of the people you know will let you ruin their shoes, you could tape blocks to the heels of your shoes or just stand on your toes and don't let your heels touch the ground. I'm guessing your stride was much shorter with heels on, right?

Now, either barefoot, in flat shoes or with blocks taped to the toes of your shoes,  walk around on your heels and don't let your toes touch the ground. Clown shoes would work best for this demonstration because that'll really show your exaggerated steps.

For the most part, horses’ hooves are smaller and wider than ours are, which makes their break over point different than ours, but you see my point. I wouldn't recommend clown shoes or five inch heels on them, but changing the angle of a hoof a degree or two could make all the difference in the world.

This is our monthly feature, “Ask a Farrier,” a Q and A with farrier Karen McMann. Karen has been a full-time farrier for 17 years. She graduated in 2002 from the Canadian School of Horseshoeing, where she studied under Pat Cullen. She serves on the Advisory Board of Equi-Health Canada and Equi-First Aid USA as a Farrier/Hoof Health Support specialist. Karen lives and works outside of Okotoks, Alberta.

If you have a question you’d like to ask a farrier (about horseshoeing, farriery, hoof and horse health, blacksmith tools, working as a farrier, etc.), email or leave it in the comments below. Every month, we’ll pick one question to answer in our feature.

Image credit: Richard Austin


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