Q: I have just bought a four-year-old I hope will be my dressage star of the future, but he has two very different front feet. His left front is upright while the right has very low heels. I believe he has Advanced/Grand Prix potential, but I worry that he hasn’t been balanced properly. I haven’t yet had my farrier attend him. Shouldn’t his feet look the same after they are trimmed and shod?
A: This may have been a better question to ask before making the purchase!
If the feet are particularly different as you describe then this is more likely to be a conformational issue than something as a result of how the feet have been trimmed.
On a perfectly put together horse, yes the feet should look the same after trimming or shoeing but we don’t ever see perfect horses and feet always require some level of corrective trimming at each farrier visit. After all, the need to trim any part of the hoof is done in an attempt to correct the hoof and angles and something farriers do all day. In this case from what you’ve told me, the extent and nature of the correction may require greater technical expertise.
In horses that have particularly different front feet, the amount of improvement that can be made with routine trimming and shoeing is limited. Unless the problem has been caused solely by poor trimming (and it would be difficult to get the job so wrong that this is likely) you might get some improvement with a strict and regular trimming/shoeing schedule (perhaps every 4-5 weeks) and, if your farrier thinks it would help, some specialist shoeing too.
Achieving Advanced/Grand Prix level may still be possible. After all, there are some horses competing at the highest levels with less than perfect conformation or feet. But having such odd feet is a problem that might cause issues in the future and it will be an on-going battle to keep on top of them so he can perform at the level you want to.
Your farrier may achieve some improvements but this isn’t a problem that can be completely fixed and will possibly deteriorate in the years to come.
David Hankin Dip.WCF
This question and answer first appeared in NZ Horse & Pony magazine July 2011