One of the most common misunderstandings I hear is that gaited horses need a “special trim” or a “special shoe”. The answer, of course, is NO, because there is no difference. A hoof is a hoof. Farriers do a huge disservice to our gaited companions when we manipulate hooves to achieve smoother movement. One of the most important things to remember about gaited breeds, which are horses that have an ability to do several different intermediate gaits between the walk and the canter, is that “gait” comes from the body. Not the hooves. There are many factors that allow or interfere with a gaited horse’s natural ability to perform his gift, but the hoof is never the powerhouse or the origin for this trait.
All hooves are anatomically and physiologically the same. In all breeds, large drafts, small miniatures, gaited horses or trotting quarter horses. They have the exact same form, function, and shape. All hooves have the same shaped coffin bone. All hooves must be short, tight, have tight healthy lamina to hold the mechanism together, have healthy low heels and appropriately trimmed toes. One of the common mistakes in a gaited horse is a ridiculously long exaggerated toe, high heels to match, and all this encased inside a metal shoe.
This is thought to enhance a gaited horse’s gait, and is often even done to “fix” a gaited horse’s gait. And sadly, it works. Why? Because elongating the toe’s and raising the heels puts the hoof, and horse, out of balance. It delays the break over of the toe, and thus will smooth out a choppy or pacey gait. What’s that harm? Everything. When we manipulate a hoof to create a smooth gait, we put the entire horse’s body at risk for injury. The first offended part will, naturally, be the hooves themselves.
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