Importance of Balance

The most vital part of your horse is his feet.
Remember No Hoof = No Horse.

Farrier School Tucson AzEighty percent of all lameness comes from incorrect shoeing. Every horse needs to be in balance, as far as his feet are concerned, the feet are the foundation of the horse. Whether you have a working horse or a pleasure horse, the feet must be balanced in order for that horse to give you 100%.

Consequences of this improper balance are:

• Arthritis • Ring Bone • Quarter Crack
• Bad Attitude • Sheared Heels • Suspensory Ligament
• Cripple for Life • Sore Back • Navicular
• Joint Problems • Stride Length

Achieving Proper Balance

leveler3Tools are essential to your horse’s well being, and using the proper tools assures correct shoeing of your horses’ feet. Eighty percent of all lameness comes from incorrect shoeing. It is important that you and your farrier work together for the well being of your horse. Every horse owner should own these tools and know how to use them:

  1. Hoof Gauge for Angles
    Check the proper angulation of each hoof and check for inconsistencies and balance of each hoof. Angles need to be between 50 – 55 degrees for front feet, matching pair and between 55 – 60 degrees for back feet, matching pair.
  2. Divider for Length
    The divide is used to measure toe length. This insures that all four of the feet are the same length from the hairline to the tip of the toe. This will make sure that all feet are equal. Break over the same distance and speed.
  3. T-Square for Side-to-Side
    T-Square is used to see the foot’s medial /lateral or side to side from the bottom of the hoof. Also, the heels and bulbs of the foot are the same distance from the surface of the ground.

Why do I need to use tools?
Some horseshoers say balancing with instruments is not good, because the hoofs can have different angles on the same horse. This is true, but if you don’t have an instrument to read, how would you know the amount of difference?

It is important that you are able to check your horse’s feet at any given time. This may give you the edge that you need to win, and keep your horse sound. The most Vital part of your horse is his feet. Remember: No Hoof – No Horse. This is more important than the color, training and saddle. There is an old saying, “In God We Trust, All Others We Should Check.”

I know a lot of people think that it can be “eye-balled”. Let me ask you a question. Would you let a carpenter build you a house without instruments? I don’t think you would. So now we come to the subject of instruments to shoe the horse. How can a person shoe a horse without documentation or instruments to record the angles, toe length and medial/lateral. A level balanced hoof will allow the leg to be in good functional alignment with body at the moment the hoof is about to leave the ground. This is also the critical moment when the hoof and leg are supporting their full load. At this moment, if the horse’s foot is not in balance, how is the full load going to to impact the the leg and different ligaments, tendons and bony column. The hoof will not hit the ground level. This will cause damage to the bony column and will cause lameness sooner or later.

“Balance as it applies to horseshoeing can be defined as trimming and shoeing the foot so as to apply the weight-bearing base of the foot as close as possible to the center of gravity of the leg and foot. In general, we trim the foot to align with the foot’s center of gravity and apply a shoe to align with or support the limb’s center of gravity. The object of foot balancing is to approach an equality of equilibrium of forces in the foot and limb structures that will provide an optimum performance that can be sustained over an extended period. Feet that are kept balanced are seldom lame.”
– Doug Butler, La Porte, CO: 1996

There is an epidemic of lame horses in the United States and I believe it is due to an incorrect balance of the horse’s foot. If a horse is kept out of balance for 10 to 15 years, it will become lame. I believe that most horseshoers are to blame. They cannot or will not use instruments or documentation for their work. These instruments are not 100%, but it beats the heck out of nothing. If instruments are not useful, then why do we need them to tell us when our truck is close to needing fuel. It’s a long walk when the fuel gauge doesn’t work.

Two years ago, I was giving a seminar at the USTRC in Oklahoma City, OK, and was stressing the importance of balance on the horse’s foot. Afterwards, a farrier came up to me and said that he could see if the foot was balanced without instruments. I told him I thought that was great, but what about the other million who can’t see that good. What about them? He said, “I never thought about that.”

Gauging Balance

In 1987, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. reported American horse owners lose $500 million to lameness-related problems every year. However, in 2004, that number could easily be double.

Incorrect hoof balance and angulation, insufficient frog size and inadequate sole thickness are among the major causes of lameness as has been well documented for centuries. Hoof gauges offer a proven way to easily and scientifically achieve hoof preparation standards that maintain normal gait and prevent lameness. Hoof gauges measures the angles of the heels, for the correct break over and pastern axis.

The T-Square, for example, gives you verifiable measurements of side-to-side balance, foot symmetry and hoof axis angles. It adjusts to the smallest foal or the largest performance horse and balance can be checked whether the horse is shod or unshod.