by David Farmilo
Accredited Master Farrier, Oakbank SA
PH 0418 835 186
The discovery that your horse has developed corns,
or indeed has corns that will not go away, must be recognised
as a warning sign that something is not right somewhere in the
hoof. This information will help rectify the problem and should
enable you to start on a programme of preventative maintenance.
Corns occur back in the heel area at the junction
where the bars meet the hoof wall – this is called the buttress
of the heel. That V-shaped pocket is called the seat of the corn
area and if the horse has corns there will be a reddening of the
sole tissue that looks like bruising.
Very often there will be no reaction to the hoof testers
when they are applied to this area, often there will be no increase
in the digital pulse to indicate hoof trauma but the horse just
looks uncomfortable when working.
Corns are the direct result of an unbalanced hoof
and poorly executed trimming methods. Put simply, in the correct
and normal flight of the hoof, the heels land first at the bottom
of the stride then the hoof flattens and the weight is transferred
onto the toe, then the hoof leaves the ground in a forward motion.
This will happen assuming that the hoof is balanced, has no flares,
the heels are level and that the front of the hoof wall is in
line with the front of the pastern.
However if the toe is too long it will cause the leg
to land too far forward and the horse’s weight is then transferred
back onto the heels, which then begin to fold in and under, which
causes corns. To remedy this the long toes need to be shortened
and any flaring of the hoof wall should be reduced at the toes;
then the rolled under heels should be trimmed to be straight and
strong and the bars trimmed short so that they are not weight
bearing. If there are corns, the red tissue should be pared away
slightly and disinfectant applied to stop any risk of infection.
The opposite scenario which results in corns is when
the heels are too high and land prematurely while the leg is still
in the downward motion, causing concussion and bruising to the
heel buttresses and often resulting in the formation of corns.
To correct this, the heels must be lowered. As a guide, look at
the point where the widest part of the frog meets the hoof wall
and lower the heels to a point just above it, then continue that
level through to the toe on an even plane, trimming the bars down
to near sole level. Trauma bruising to the heel buttresses will
be noticed as the bars and the heels are lowered. However with
the heels now lower there will be the correct frog pressure at
ground level to help the hoof work properly and softly, thus eliminating
Some points to remember - when viewing the hoof for
levelness, hold the lower leg at the fetlock joint and allow the
foot to fall free, then sight an imaginary T-square down the back
of the pastern and across the heel buttresses, which must be equal.
This level must continue through the entire hoof wall ground surface
to the toe. The walls should be an even thickness also from heel
to toe. Then taking the hoof forward, view the shape of the coronary
band and rasp away any flares at the bottom of the hoof wall to
mirror image this shape.
Hoof preparation for shoeing must show a concave sole,
with neatly trimmed bars, level hoof wall of even thickness and
at sole height. For the unshod hoof, the wall should be left about
4mm above the sole for comfort and clearance of the sole.
Remember a correctly balanced hoof will remain free