Ask a Farrier: Can I Use Hind Shoes on the Front Feet of a Client's Horse?

horseshoe on anvil with hammer - ask a farrier - can i use hind shoes on front feet

In short, you absolutely can use hind shoes on a front foot, but there are a few things to take into consideration.

1. Form and Function

Front hooves usually bear sixty percent of the horse's weight. This extra weight-bearing makes front hooves bigger and rounder than hind feet. It also causes the sole to be a little less concave than hinds. 

Hind hooves are more pointed, with a squared-off toe. The soles of the hind feet are more concave, which helps with agility, turning and traction when they move. That front and back feet have different shapes and functions doesn’t mean that you can’t use a hind shoe on a front foot. It just means you’ll have to adapt the shoe, either a little or a lot, depending on the horse and the type of shoes you have.

2. The Kinds of Shoes You Have to Work With

Depending on your budget and the amount of time you have, you can buy horseshoes that are already shaped to front and hind patterns. These cost a bit more, but the advantage is that you may only need to bend them a little to fit the horse you're shoeing. 

For a little less, you can get a box of shoes that you have to completely reshape to fit either or both fronts and hinds. If you have more time than money, you can buy bar stock and make your own shoes from scratch for a custom fit to each one of your clients.

3. Whether You Want to Use a Hind Shoe Therapeutically

There are actually some good reasons why you might want to use a hind shoe on a front foot. Hind shoes have a squared off toe, similar to (but not as drastic as) a rolled, rocker toe or natural balance shoe. 

Cutting back the toes on front feet can help all sorts of issues. It can relieve pressure from stretched out laminae in foundered horses. It gives horses an easier and quicker break over that will help horses who have leg, knee or shoulder injuries walk a little more comfortably and that could also potentially shave off a second or two in a race. 

The squared-off toe will force the horse to break over in that spot, which could help with conformation issues and straighten out their strides, correcting paddling or forging.

In some cases, you may need more than a hind shoe to correct or help your client's horse's movement, but a hind shoe is a good start. It'll be a little less work to bend it in to a rolled or rocker toe with the toe already straight. Using a hind shoe will also definitely be cheaper than buying natural balance shoes.

This is our monthly feature, “Ask a Farrier,” a Q and A with farrier Karen McMann. Karen has been a full-time farrier for 19 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: Foto-Rabe


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