Squaring of the toes

(Square toes in shoeing and trimming)

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The above are pictures of a wild horse's front and hind feet right after it was captured and auctioned off. They are just about perfectly round, no trace of any squaring, obviously.
I have been complaining about the squaring of the toes in horses for a long time, ever since some fool came up with the idea. In my younger days no one that I was aware of had a horse walking around with square toes, nor have I ever seen one before coming to the states.
Suddenly, out of nowhere more and more farriers started to adopt the idea of squaring the toes when trimming or shoeing, providing total nonsense reasoning that someone had invented, more likely a veterinarian.

One of the nonsense reasons that was frequently given, when this trend of square toes started was, that the wild horses have square toes, and that it was quite natural, some calling it the "mustang trim". Of course this is total misinformation, and more likely coming from the folks that dealt with captured mustangs. Most of them were totally ignorant of the fact that these mustangs spent already some time in captivity, and since they did not received any trim care, and were predominantly walking, at which point the toes get worn out before the front quarters of the toes, and the feet and the toes end up being squared. Such squared toes can be frequently seen on horses that were neglected and did not received proper farrier care, while spending most of their movement in walking straight forward. The opposite of the square toes, the pointed toes, especially of the hind legs, can be found on barefooted horses that spent a lot of time running around in a circle, like in the case of longeing.


Another common reason for squaring the toes was given for easing the break over stress, mainly in riding horses. I hope you get to read my article on the break-over stress, so you can understand why this reasoning is a complete nonsense, especially when we are talking about the hind feet, where there is no break over factor what so ever, since the horse is pushing with the hind leg and then simply pull them up under.

As far as the break over factor of the front leg goes, that too is pretty much nonsense, though the square toes may help in reducing the break over stress when going straight. However, when turning, like working in the arena and on the circles, the square toes actually not only increase the break over stress when moving to the side, but they also destabilize it, because the break over factor changes every time the horse deviates from the straight line.

All in all, generally horses by nature have their front feet round, and in the hind legs they are more oval. This is not the rule, as many horses these days have fairly distorted shapes of their feet, much of it has to do with the lack of horsemanship in breeding of horses, producing a lot of irregularities in conformation of horses, which will then unfortunately have distorted shapes of their feet, accompanying the crooked legs.

<-- This picture actually advertizes this nonsense of squaring the toes, specifically talking about the hind legs. Unfortunately this type of shoeing will have fairly bad consequences. In most of these cases, when the shoe is set back, one will end up with excessive toe growth, and collapsed heels, which will then produce the so-called "convergent hoof". I can see why some of the farriers prefer to do this, especially when using the side clips, which makes it much easier for the greenhorn farrier to nail the shoe on, and at the same time does not have to fit the shoe to the hoof, as he simply rasps off the excess, or in some more preposterous cases, they even leave it hanging over the shoe.
<--This is a typical case, as well as an extreme case, where the square shoes is used and also set back. Please note, after the horse was re-shod normally, not only that the break over stress was reduced, but also the break over stress was balanced out to all sides, as the hoof was, to some extent, reshaped to its original natural shape. This horse has a fairly straight stand, and has a high heel, hence we shoe them and trim them the way they were born. The so-called corrective shoeing applies only to correcting something that someone messed up, and it does not apply to correcting something the horse was born with. In other words, no sane horseman or a farrier will attempt to correct the conformation of the legs, and as long the leg is crooked, the hoof will be also to some extent off center and off balance.

       
       
I am glad to see that this trend is slowly dying, but in the past there was no talking to people about this, as all seemed to be almost brainwashed into this "square toes" hysteria.

 

Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a. Lee Stanek 2001