Hoof Flares in Horses

flare

This post has been adapted from my previous blog, The Handy Horse Owner.

We’ve likely all seen a horse with a hoof flare–an outward bending of the hoof wall.  It seems that flares have become increasingly common on domestic horses today, but a flared hoof is not natural and is definitely not healthy for the horse.

While visiting a barn with a trainer friend of mine a while back, I was reminded of just how bad hoof flares can get.  The picture above is of a horse that was supposedly trimmed by a traditional farrier just a few days prior.  Aside from having bad flares, the horse had two extremely unbalanced front feet.  It was all I could do not to trim those hooves right then and there!

You can easily see a severe flare (like the one above), and many times, you can feel a slight flare if you run your fingers down the outside of the hoof.  Flares can occur on the toe or on the quarters (sides) of the hoof.  Some are bell-shaped, while others are straight (but at a different angle than the top portion of the hoof.)

A flare, also known as a stretched white line, is a separation of the hoof wall from the coffin bone.  And once this separation has occurred, it cannot be simply reattached.  Rather, a new connection must grow in from the coronet down.

DSC00213

Stretched white line

So what exactly causes hoof flares in horses?  The contributing factors can be many, but here are a few:

  • infrequent/ improper trimming
  • wet environments
  • mineral imbalances
  • constant shoeing
  • high sugar/starch diets
  • lack of movement

Flares are not comfortable for the horse.  You could compare them to your fingernail being pried away from the skin on your finger.  Every time the horse’s flared hoof wall comes in contact with the ground, it’s prying the wall further away from the coffin bone.  This is why overgrown and flared hooves tend to crack and break away in chunks.  It’s the horse’s natural defense mechanism for getting rid of the flare and the pain.

Chipping and cracking because of flares

So what can be done about flares?  They need to go!  You won’t be able to get rid of a bad flare in one or two trimmings, but if you are consistent with correct, frequent trimmings, you can get flares under control.

Pete Ramey recommends that the flared hoof wall be taken out of ground contact and beveled all the way to the sole.  This will put the sole in contact with the ground, but that is far more comfortable than a stretched white line.  The sole is actually meant to help bear the weight of the horse.

You can also rasp the outer, bottom 1/3 of the hoof wall to help eliminate flares.  You don’t want to do too much at once, but this will help get them under control more quickly.  The goal is to get the lower part of the hoof wall at the same angle as the wall growing down from the coronary band at the top of the hoof.

Horses in wet climates are especially prone to flares and may need to be trimmed as frequently as every 2-3 weeks.  If you don’t trim your own horses, find a trimmer/ farrier who will help to eliminate the flares.  And keep them coming out on a regular schedule.  You can even learn to use a rasp to knock back flares in between trimmings, if necessary.

Hoof flares are a nasty nuisance to our horses, but with diligence, they CAN be corrected and eliminated!

Ta-ta!

Sources

Barefoot for Soundness

Hoof Rehabilitation Specialists

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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6 Responses

  1. Diane Kaser says:

    I am really enjoying your blogs. This one on flares is especially well written, easily understood. We have been using a barefoot trimmer for about a year now. Guess what? Flares are no longer a problem. I have learned a lot about feet and I think more people should look into letting their horse go barefoot. Thanks for your great articles.

    • then5925 says:

      Thank you, Diane. Glad to hear you’ve gotten the flares under control. Barefoot trimming can really do wonders for horses’ feet!

  2. Robynne Catheron says:

    I also love your posts on hoof care! We used to deal with flares (and every other hoof issue possible, but that’s another story) other month, until I read “The Soul of a Horse,” by Joe Camp. Six to eight weeks was the norm at the huge military barn where we boarded when we first got our horses, and I never questioned it because everyone did it that way, just like everyone also put shoes on their horses. There were four or five farriers that came on different days of the week, and all of them insisted that horses required shoes. The “cool” boarders (we weren’t cool, and we were poor; our horses were pasture-boarded) paid extra for stalls so their horses could be inside during the day when it was hot, and at night when it was cold. Those horses all wore blankets, as well, as soon as it got down to 50° degrees. They were also fed huge buckets full of sweet feed twice a day. Boy howdy, did I ever learn a lot that first year! The blankets, rain sheets, and shoes came off. I found an old farrier that would come out and just trim my horses without putting shoes on them. No problem; not only did he insist on a barefoot trim with a “Mustang Roll,” he also insisted on coming at least once a month. He taught me the very basics, and told me to read anything by Pete Ramey. On Joe Camp’s website I found a link to Jaime Jackson’s Paddock Paradise, and another to The Natural Vet. I knew I had much more to learn than I ever realized, and I was going to have to seek it out for myself and stop following the crowd if I wanted my horses to be healthy and sound. I’m pretty sure those “cool” boarders are still paying vets for their chronically-lame stall-bound horses.
    I learn more every day, thanks to good people like you who truly love and want the best for their horses. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    • then5925 says:

      Thank you, Robynne. And kudos to you for not following the ‘cool’ crowd! “What’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right.” 🙂

  3. Jen says:

    I’m struggling with my 6 year olds feet. He seems to load the outside of his fronts which makes them appear pigeon toed. I have started reading as much as I can about trimming pigeon toed horses, but worried about what I might be missing.

  1. November 5, 2013

    […] I talk about this more in this post on hoof flares. […]

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