The hoof is a plastic structure, that is, stress can cause it to change shape. A hoof is strongest when the entire hoof wall from the coronary band to the ground is straight, without flares. A flare is a concave bend, or dip, in the hoof; a flare at the toe is called a dish.
Flares weaken the hoof wall and can lead to cracks. A dished toe can affect a horse’s movement and long term soundness by causing the toe of the shoe to be too far forward. This makes it more difficult for the hoof to break over and can cause forging (hitting of the front shoes with the hinds) and more serious problems like those caused by Long Toe/Low Heel.
by Richard Klimesh
© 2010 Richard Klimesh © Copyright Information
Flares can result from hoof imbalance, poor genes, inadequate nutrition, too much moisture, or most likely, a combination of these factors. Serious flares are easy to see, but early flares are not as obvious. To check if a hoof is developing a flare or dish, lay a pencil against the hoof wall. Space under the center of the pencil indicates a flare or dish.
Most hooves tend to develop flares and dishes to some degree but they can usually be kept in check if a shoer takes the time to “dress” the hoof wall straight with a rasp every time the horse is trimmed. This doesn’t mean the entire wall is indiscriminately rasped – only where a flare or dish is forming. Even neglected feet that have developed wide flares or deep dishes can be improved dramatically with one trimming and gradually retrained with regular care.
In order to control flares, the bottom of the hoof where the flare was located is sometimes sculpted out, or “relieved”, with the rasp so that the hoof at that area bears no weight. This removes the bending forces on that portion of the hoof so new hoof horn grows down straighter. Another approach is to rasp the flares to about half the thickness of the hoof wall and apply a shoe with side clips located at the flares. The clips prevent the hoof from flaring and encourage the hoof wall to grow down straight.
Whether or not flares are kept under control by careful shaping of the hoof often tells the difference between a “good” shoer and a “fast” shoer.
Note from Cherry: While I am away on business, I’ve invited Richard to blog in my stead……watch for the next 2 parts to this article series.