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