The Atlanta Equine Clinic The Atlanta Equine Clinic The Atlanta Equine Clinic


call us at 678-867-2577

The Effects of Shoe Clips

By Eric Gilleland, CJF

"I have a few theories that I would like to share along with some photographs to explain my thoughts. I believe that a clip can transform the shape of the hooves either in a positive or negative way depending on their placement."

Toe Clips

First, there is the toe clip. I believe that a toe clip should be burned into the hoof and seated properly so that there is no distinction between hoof and clip. You should not be able to tell where the clip is when running your hand over the front of the hoof wall with your eyes closed. A toe clip does not interfere with expansion of the hoof wall in an adverse way.

Figure 1

Fig. 1. Properly-seated toe clip using the “burned in method”.


Figure 2

Fig. 2. Improperly-seated toe clip using the “rasp-away-and-hope-it-fits-in-a-groove-somewhere method”.

Of course, some hooves may not accept toe-clipping in a positive manner. A foot that has a toe which constantly dishes or flares would be a bad candidate for a toe clip. In a dishing foot, for example, the toe will drag the shoe forward as it moves instead of just hanging over the front. Depending on the shoe-fit along the back of the foot, this scenario may even cause the shoe to be dragged-out from under the heel quarters. Your farrier may fit the clip very well and have the hoof dressed beautifully only to come back in three weeks and see the clip standing out away from the hoof wall. In most cases of a properly-fitted clip that is not excessively-worn, the toe has changed shape but the clip has not moved.

Farriers frequently get blamed for improper shoe fit towards the end of the cycle. It is important to realize that the shoes and nails are metal and don't move a great amount throughout the course of each cycle. The hoof, on the other hand, is constantly expanding/ contracting and moving around the shoe and nails.

Figure 3

Fig. 3 Hoof wall compromise at the end of the shoeing cycle.

Quarter & Side Clips

Quarter clips are a great tool for hind feet. Occasionally, we may also need them on front feet. A well-placed quarter clip should also be burned and seated. It takes some practice to get good at seating clips. The lateral clip will usually be at a lesser angle than the medial clip, so it is important to take this into consideration when folding the clips prior to application.

Figure 4

Fig 4. Hind foot that has not previously been clipped. Notice how the natural shape is condusive to quarter clipping.

Quarter and side clips will inhibit hoof wall expansion wherever they are placed. A hind foot is normally straighter from toe-to-quarter (following the shape of the coffin bone). Therefore, a quarter-clipped shoe usually doesn't alter the shape of the hind foot.

The hoof expands outwardly at a point in front of what is known as the "bridge" (as described by Craig Trnka). If a clip is placed at this location, the hoof cannot expand along that area. The wall still needs to expand to function properly, however, so will expand either in front of or behind the clip.

This response can be used to help reshape hooves to a more symmetrical and uniform status. For example, clips can be used to discourage further flaring until the hoof is rebalanced and able to grow more correctly. Unfortunately, clips are also effective at reshaping the foot in a negative fashion.

Figure 5

Fig. 5. Can you tell where the clips were on these front feet? They have created flat spots along the quarters. Notice how straight the white line is through those sections.

With straightening of the quarters on front feet we are setting ourselves up for trouble. Soon there will be a flare somewhere, probably behind the clip. There will be a lack of "flow" to the hoof wall, making future shoe-fitting more difficult. Without proper shoe-fit, nailing in the white line becomes more challenging. Then the feet tend to break up around the nail holes.... creating somewhat of a domino effect.

There are many talented farriers who seem to dodge these obstacles out of necessity. Because of their horse clients' rigorous training schedules the farriers rely on side clips to maintain solid contact and reduce nail stress. I give a lot of credit to a farrier that can keep up a good foot with continued use of side clips and who knows when to not use them.


I have been to many clinics over the years and have seen numerous demonstrations on a basic shoe modification called clips. Now there are different names for clips such as toe clips, side clips, quarter clips, and possibly others. These names simply describe the placement of clips.

The American Farriers Association Certification Guide gives specific guidelines on clips as to thickness, height, width, angle, etc. There have been some great articles on how to fit clips describing the "seating-in" process.

Today as I sit here at a show, waiting for someone's misfortune of a pulled shoe, I have time to write about clip placement and the effects on the hoof capsule. In the past, and even on occasion in the present, I have had trouble deciding whether or not to use a clip and where to place it. It took me a few years to realize that not all hooves can have the same clips used.

I love to see a well-placed toe clip for several reasons. First, it is the hardest clip to fit properly. Second, it can accentuate symmetry. Third, I just like a little bling in the front of the foot.

Quarter clips (between the first and second nail holes) and side clips (between the second and third nail holes) have the advantage of steadying the shoe from side-to-side. Generally, we use side clips on the front feet and quarter clips on the hind. Depending on the horse and the shape of the feet, however, we may mix it up. We may find that we need different clip placement on each of the four feet, so never stick to any set rule.


"I don’t condemn any type of clip that is properly applied in a proper fashion. But what I do condemn is a lack of respect toward the clip. I hate to see clips hammered over to the foot instead of seated in correctly. It simply shows a lack of craftsmanship and/or laziness. What is worse is to pull a shoe off of a horse and see that the last farrier not only hammered the clip over after the shoe was applied but also hammered the top portion of the clip, causing it to curve inward toward the hoof wall. If we are going to apply clips, either store bought or drawn, let’s be aware of the effects that they will have on the feet. If you notice the hoof starting to reshape in an adverse manner, change the location of the clips. Take some pictures throughout several shoeings to see if you are helping or hurting the situation.

I buy a few clipped shoes, but the majority of them are hammer-drawn. By drawing my own, I can decide where, how tall, and how thick to make each clip. I may put a clip between the first and second nails on the medial side of the foot and the third and fourth nails on the lateral side. There is no set rule to follow. Our decision(s) depend on each individual's demands.

I apply clips to about ninety percent of the horses that I shoe as they allow me to use less nails and/or take stress off of the nails that I do use."


Eric Gilleland is a Certified Journeyman Farrier (CJF) that has been shoeing horses of all disciplines for over 20 years. He owes much of his knowledge to the late Bill Crowder, CJF, with whom he apprenticed.

In addition to owning and running Bent Tree Forge Farrier Services (which consists of a team of qualified farriers), Eric serves as a Certification Tester for the American Farriers Association (AFA). He also participated as an AFA Farrier for Eventing Team 1 at the World Equestrian Games in 2010.


Bent Tree Forge Farrier Services

Bent Tree Forge Farrier Services offers the gamut of custom & corrective shoeing for eventing, dressage and hunter jumper equines. Please visit or write for more information.

For more information about HOOVES visit our CLIENT EDUCATION LIBRARY HERE.
THE ATLANTA EQUINE CLINIC: 1665 Ward Road, Hoschton, Georgia 30548 - ph. 678-867-2577

home | schedule an appointment | on-line consultations | events & seminars | questions & answers | client library | veterinary news | case of the month | related web links | clinic pharmacy | AEC clothing | classified ads