Originally Posted by OceanProspector View Post
Thank you for all the information you have provided, I appreciate it. I'll have a more thorough discussion with my farrier when he comes out next. Sounds like shoes are the thing to do though. One last question :) Why do people opt for just front shoes vs a full set?
Posted via Mobile Device
That is a really good question!
In shortest summary, farriers are more likely to shoe only the fronts because for the majority of horses that benefit from shoeing, fronts are all that is needed.
Read on if you want a more detailed explanation.
In my own business, it isn't usually the owner who is opting for a half set. It is more often my own recommendation to the owner.
About 75-80% of the horses I shoe get front shoes only. I think that percentage probably applies to a lot, if not most, farriers.
Horses carry between 60 to 65 percent of their weight on the front feet. That means more wear and greater mechanical force on the fronts than the hinds. This increased wear and load force becomes even greater when we add the weight of a rider and tack.
The horses front limbs are anatomically and functionally different than the hinds. The front limbs are more supportive than anything and basically serve to keep the animals nose out of the dirt. This results in the somewhat rounded or oval shape we see on front feet versus the more pointy shape of the hind feet. That rotational supportive role is responsible for the dorsal/palmar distortion we often see in the feet. The heels tend to drive forward during the landing phase while the toes are stretched forward at breakover. Our "ideal" roundish feet, left unmanaged, soon become elongated or "boxy" as farriers call them.
Front shoes provide protection against distal damage and allow the farrier to better manage any forward running distortion without overly trimming the foot. In other words, we can forge mechanics into the shoe that we can't trim into the foot.
Trimming at the toe basically has to stop (or should) as you near the stratum internum of the hoof wall, well before you reach the whiteline. With a shoe, we can forge
breakover far behind the whiteline.
The farrier can also extend caudal support behind the most posterior aspect of the trimmed heel buttress. This means we can use shoes to bring the entire base of support back under the horses limb, improving dorsal/palmar balance and better centering that d/p balance around the COA (center of articulation) of the coffin joint.
The hind limbs are anatomically a reciprocating propulsion mechanism. Horses are rear wheel drive and those pointy feet are designed to dig in and push off. While there is some debate in this area, many farriers (including me) do not believe the horse really "breaks over" at the hind feet. It would be more correct to say they "unload" the hinds rather than the rolling "break over" we see in the supportive fronts. This load/unload stride phase means you are more likely to see medial/lateral distortion of the hind hoof versus the dorsal/palmar distortion common in the fronts. The bulk of that distortion manifests at the heel quarters.
While distortion and distal wall damage certainly does occur in the hinds, it's less of a problem as compared to the fronts. Less weight, less distortion force, less need for shoes.
In layman's terms, the above explains why you see the fronts become long and dishy while the hinds tend to get wide and flared at the heels.
Another factor is sole depth and solar arch or concavity. The hinds will often present greater solar arch than the fronts. Again, this is a consequence of weight distribution (load) and function. That greater solar arch common to the hind feet means less risk of solar trauma (bruising). Less load force means generally better circulation within the vascular bed, particularly under the solar margin of the coffin bone. This yields greater sole tissue depth so more natural protection against trauma.
While shoeing the fronts is most often done to provide protection and mechanical management of distortion, shoeing the hinds is more likely to be done to increase load support, increase/decrease traction or alter gait. Protection can also be a factor (toe draggers, endurance riders, etc) but isn't as likely as other criteria.