Hereford Farriers Club
“Appreciation for Balance”, Grant Moon AWCF
Two dozen farriers met in the I.T. Suite at Hereford College of Technology for the evening presentation by Grant Moon, AWCF. As six times holder of the prestigious World Champion Blacksmith title, Grant barely needed any introduction. In his capacity as a representative for Mustad for over 20 years, Grant has had the fortunate opportunity to experience so much travelling and working across the world. His talk proved to be both humorous and insightful whilst honouring simple shoemaking practises.
Grant has witnessed as much good shoeing as he has bad. In many areas where the horse is used predominantly as a work animal, shoeing is carried out as a necessity and often undertaken with the bare minimum of tools. Skill is therefore of paramount importance especially when working with very little equipment. Learning to take experience from everywhere he goes, Grant still believes in the basics he learnt some 30 years ago. Even when shoeing at the very highest level, techniques he learnt as an apprentice are very much evident.
Trimming and shoeing with accuracy was of paramount importance when working with Arabians. To ensure all rules were adhered to, Grant’s customer, the trainer would be asked to witness the weighing of shoes prior to nailing on – a set of postal scales proved to be worthwhile investment! Exact measurements were provided in such a way that Grant quickly learnt an extremely high level of attention to detail.
Horse owners across the world behave quite differently. In the States “Why?” is a very frequent question. In an area where there are many unqualified farriers it was apparent that, particularly if you were charging more, you need to be able to explain and give a reason.
Suggesting a typical farriery business as having the largest proportion of its horses as sound, a smaller proportion as exhibiting a shortening of stride, a smaller proportion with intermittent lameness and the smallest proportion being chronically lame. No-one can keep all of their horses sound, horses all have problems whether competing or ageing – you can’t expect horses to be at a perfect level every day. Grant reiterates the importance of talking to the trainer and rider. Sidebone, ringbone, degenerative diseases are all stresses on bone. What can be done to reduce that stress? The earlier that these problems are detected the better the chance that you will have of working with it; communication is key.
Grant believes that a lot of ‘fashions’ in the shoeing world can be used as first aid for bad (or inadequate) shoeing. ‘Add-ons’ should be used only on a temporary basis. Citing just ‘two types of feet, front and hinds’ Grant reaffirmed his belief in simple shoeing methods.
Grant suggests perhaps the greatest farrier’s tool is evaluation, from horse to anvil. Hammers can create and destroy! Grant advises trimming constructively – envisage what you want to see before you start trimming. Walk all horses on soft and hard ground before starting. An unsupportive soft surface may show a very different picture from movement on a hard surface. Horses are dynamic animals and therefore you should also watch them being ridden. Are they muscled evenly? Posture is also incredibly important to note, taking the horse away from ‘normal’ i.e. gently pulling on it’s whither whilst standing will cause an immediate alteration in posture. Evaluation of a horse may take 15 to 20 minutes but will prove essential.
Citing the ‘foundation’ of a horse as the bottom of P3, Grant thinks of a horse as trying to put the P3 flat. Whilst a lot of attention is paid to hoof wall angle it is not the hoof wall which deals with the ground forces. The bottom of the foot is therefore also an important factor in foot balance. Farriers should deal with the ground reaction force first – normalise with trimming. Ensure that the horse is stood properly (how its head is being held!) as this will affect how you will see foot balance.
There are a number of ways in which hoof distortion is seen – flares, under run heels, prolapsed frog, prolapsed sole, distortion of coronary band, distortion of the white line, quarter cracks and broken bars to name a few and it is usual to see distortions in combinations. The foot is connected; pressure in one area will lead to alteration in another and therefore changes in the foot should be examined for and may occur due to neglect, conformation or farrier error. Feet must care weight evenly or they will distort; symmetrical structures lead to equal weight bearing. Shoulder and pastern angle should be equal, the leg vertical. Phases of stride include: impact – high concussion, over in seconds, the heels should be trimmed properly; weight-bearing – phase of support and weight central; and break over – mechanical process, foot should not have too much in front or behind point of articulation. The centre of articulation should ideally have 50% of the foot in front and 50% behind. The end of the heel should be central to the centre of the digital cushion – the area where maximum concussion may be absorbed and lessen the interference with bony structures. Distortion does not have to be corrected in one shoeing, it may be a gradual process that occurs over a few shoeings.
Questions were invited from the farriers and apprentices in attendance and answered in full by Grant. The evening provided excellent pointers based on a wealth experience, delivered very modestly.