Friday, November 12, 2010

Flare debate

I was perusing through blogs the other day when I came upon this post on Cherry Hill's blog:

Hoof Shape
by Richard Klimesh
© 2010 Richard Klimesh © Copyright Information

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.

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. 

Huh, that doesn't quite mesh with what I've been researching on causes of flares and how to treat them. Check this out from Marjorie's page (

A flare is separation of the hoof wall, away from the coffin bone. Often the wall curves outwards at the bottom like the bell of a trumpet. You can feel even the slightest flare with your hand, and you can generally see a flare by looking at the hoof wall with your eye or camera at ground level, and moving around the foot to see all parts of the wall.
A flare due to laminitis or long-term mechanical stress (shoes or a pulled-forward toe) often is straight in outline, and may be difficult to recognize. The angle of the wall changes abruptly, high up -- sometimes so close to the coronet that you can't see where it changes.
Flare tells us that white line stretching or separation has occurred and the hoof wall is not attached to the coffin bone in that area. Flare and white line separation are the same thing. When you look at the sole of a flared foot, the white line beside the flare is dirty (stretched) or makes a small groove (separated) between the wall and the sole. To say it the other way around, you will find a flare where the white line is dirty or grooved.
When the white line has pulled apart -- like pulling the two sides of Velcro (hook and loop fastener) apart -- the two sides cannot re-attach to each other. A new connection must grow down from the coronet (hairline) -- just as, if you tear part of your fingernail, you have to wait for the fingernail to grow out from the quick.
Most flares occur at the bottom of the wall, where ground contact mechanically starts to pry the wall away from the bone. Occasionally a hind foot that is overgrown in the toe but short in the heel, will form a bulge ("bull-nose") halfway up the toe wall. The white line at the bulge is stretched because the unusual mechanical forces in this shape of a hoof pull the wall away from the bone.

Then there's this from Pete Ramey's page,

How to grow them out? Diet is certainly most of it, regardless of the trim method you use. I think it is important to relieve flared areas from active ground pressure with the mustang roll beginning from the ground surface exactly where it would be if there was no flare. Depending on current sole thickness, I try to accomplish this on the first, second or third trim. I do rasp the flares from the lower 1/3 of the outer wall on most set-up trims, but am careful not to thin the walls or lamellar wedge so much that there is a risk of the horse kicking a rock and bruising the dermal laminae. After the setup trim, I rarely do more than lightly dress the outer wall to eliminate superficial fungal cracks. Often I don’t even find a need for that.  

What I find interesting is that while they agree on what a flare is, they don't seem to agree on why they occur or how to deal with them. Right off the bat I need to admit that I've drunk the barefooter's Koolaide, but I can admit that doesn't necessarily mean they are always right. To me the barefooter's explanation of flare and how to deal with it is more in line with the laws of physics and how hooves are designed. So I'm a little confused as to why the traditional farrier doesn't mention anything at all about long hoof walls- unless that's what he's alluding to when mentioning unbalanced hooves. He says he *sometimes* carves out the bottom of the wall  to relieve the pressure, but the first thing the farrier recommends to treat the flare is just to rasp off the outer wall until it's gone. According to the barefoot philosophy this would just disguise the problem and wouldn't do anything at all to fix it. So...
  • if the farrier knows that pressure on the hoof wall is making the flare worse, why doesn't he always advocate shortening the hoof wall? Is it because if you took down the hoof wall low enough to avoid it you wouldn't have enough wall to nail a shoe to? 
  • if the farrier is always "dressing the hoof wall," AKA rasping it thinner and thinner, to get rid of the flare aren't they just taking away the material that's supposed to hold the shoe on? Wouldn't this lead to more pulled shoes because the wall is no longer thick enough to hold the nails?
 I don't mean to bash farriers: making shoes, fitting them to hooves, and nailing them on properly is an art. An art that I couldn't do. I'm just wondering if their trimming philosophy couldn't be tweaked a little.


  1. Get Mrs. Mom at Oh Horsefeathers to comment on this - she knows what she's doing.

  2. I hope she does, I'm confused as to why there are differences of opinion over this.