Driving horses feet - how to trim

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Well-Known Member
Feb 26, 2004
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Hi everyone!

I need some advise on trimming my driving horses feet please. I went to a show not long ago with plans on showing a mare I have in all the driving classes I could.

I started out in lead line and daughter won first place with this mare, I went in color class and won 4th. Everytime I came into the ring the judge would praise my mare, telling me how much he loved her that he thought she was a really nice looking mare. So I thought great - he likes her!

Next, I put her in her first driving class - Country Pleasure. She is a really nice little mare drives with no problems single and double, she is 33.75" and very arab type. I thought we looked fairly good together and she did real well in the class. Responded great did her back up in the line up perfect, thought I 'd done fairly well.

Well after my back up - before the judge announced who won he came to me and in a loud voice told me my mare was lame! I was flabbergasted!(not sure of spelling on that one hehe) I said lame where? What leg or foot? He said to me, all four feet. I said what? He said she is lame on all four feet and I want you to remove her from any driving classes I had put her in. So you can guess how I felt? I asked him could I replace her in the classes I had registered her in with another gelding I had brought for my daughter to show. He said that was ok.

He also said in a loud voice; Why in the heck did you not enter her in any of the halter classes? I was dumbfounded for a moment because I had yet to get over the " she's lame part" my horse was not lame! So I said to him after I picked up my jaw "again", I did not put her in any halter classes because I had only just weaned a baby off her and she had a belly that I had not worked off her yet. I didn't think she was in halter shape. He said to me and I quote - "I would have made her grand champion if you would have entered her". I said again I just didn't think she was in shape and he said again " did you see what else was here today?" This was all said in the line up!!! With people on each side of me showing against me. I even had another driver who was further down the line up who could not hear what he said come to me outside the ring and ask me what the judge said to me.

Anyways he placed me second to last in the class. I still had the two days left to show so I did not argue with him over this.

I went outside and found a vet to check her over before I even unhitched her, she watched her drive and could not find any lameness either. Said her gate looked " a little off" but physically she could not find anything wrong. So let me tell you something at this point in my loooong story - I have been to this show three years in a row and every year I have had something like this happen - First year my horse got a stone bruise from the ring in lead line, second year I forfetted my driving classes for a friend who's harness had been stolen at the show and loaned her mind since she was showing for points and needed them and I was not, then this happened! All I have ever wanted was to show one time in driving. It just doesn't seem to be going to happen. I cried all the way back to the barn. (Must be mid life crisis I turned 43 this year hehe)I practice all year and wait for this one show which only comes to my area once a year! I can not seem to even make it in the beginners classes. I have shown all my life with Quarter Horses!

Anyway, get back to the problem, had a ferrier check her out and found out that she was just unbalanced from a bad ferrier job!! She was trimmed on the spot at the show and had my other gelding trimmed also just in case even though they both had been trimmed the week before. Ferrier said at the show that driving horses need less heal and more toe.

Ok, here are my questions for all you great people who I respect soooo much out there on this forum:

1). If my mare was lame on all four feet - why would a judge want her in a halter class lame?

2). Why did the judge not say anything to me before this driving class?

3). Biggest question of all - how do I need to get her feet trimmed???????

- more toe - less heal?

- on a mini hoof gage - what is everyones opinion on where to set them on the hoof gage for driving? I have her set at 50 degrees in front and 52 in the back.

She isn't a mare that really reaches out enough or very high action. Still working on that. Don't think she is the best but just want her to be sound and safe with where we put her. Someone told me to put her at 43 degrees in front and 43.5 in back - this worried me to change her so drastically so I have not done that yet. Don't want her to blow a tendon! Not sure on this stuff had big horses all my life but the minis are a (little different) I guess? At least in driving?

Sorry this is so long but this has really bothered me and I have been trying to get the courage up to come on and ask everyone and I guess I have just built up steam and alot of questions since the show!

Would love any advise from you experienced driving people out there on the driving minis feet ,Please?

I have three minis here that I drive and want to get them right with their feet.

Hope to see answers to your question so will bump this up. Sounds like that judge was missing something.
All your hard work and then to encounter him must have really been a low blow. Mary
This could not have been a pointed show and if it was that was one rude sounding judge
who shouldn't have a card. Sorry don't know about hoofs we have ours done by someone for the driving horses and never had a problem though we've been told we drove bad in some classes but not lame.
I don't know much about driving, but I think you just want your horse to be balanced and to match its natural angles of shoulder and pastern. You might want a little more length to the hoof, but I can't imagine that you would want to change the angle that much! It depends on the horse, but around 50 degrees for the front and 55 degrees for the rear seems normal for my minis.
Well, IF the mare was just a little lame, the judge quite possibly wouldn't have noticed it in leadline, since that's usually judged only at the walk. Likewise the color class. There are many horses that don't show lameness at the walk, but will be obviously "off" or actually lame at the trot.

Had you entered the regular halter class, the judge may or may not have noticed anything wrong--all depends on how the mare trotted out. If you just jogged, the judge may not have noticed anything. In any case, when it comes to judging halter, it's my firm belief that many judges do not pay any attention to how the horse moves. Head bobbing lame, yes, then that might be noticed, but just a little "off", no, some judges do overlook that.

I don't believe in quoting any one angle which is right for horses to be trimmed at--it varies from horse to horse & I trim them at what is right for each particular horse. I also do not trim driving horses differently from halter horses--a correct trim is a correct trim, regardless of what the horse is or isn't doing.

Now, assuming that your horse is trimmed correctly, and hasn't been left with heels which are too high (in that case the person would be simply telling you what needs to be done to correct the horse's angle)...and that doesn't sound like the case here....the reason someone might tell you to leave more toe/less heel on a driving horse is this: a longer toe will change the horse's action--the horse will throw her feet out to the front more, and some people figure this is a good thing (more "extension" you know!).
IMHO a horse should be trimmed to balance.
However, if you look at some of the driving photos of horses that are "winning" you will see that the foot is, in some cases, VERY long to the point of having a curve to it.
There is someone in this area that believes to have a high stepper you MUST keep lots of heal on the horse. Are they right?
They have National Champion titles on more than one horse so you tell me?

I would like to see the judges disqualify a horse that has an obviously long foot and place the horses with natural action.

Putting on flame suit....

I have never heard anything more ridiculous that "trimming a horse to drive"!!! Drive where, exactly as I drive on my fields, on the roads etc etc not on a flat as a board show ring. My driving horses are trimmed exactly as the others, PROPERLY!! I think you should report the judge to the correct registration. Any Judge that states in hearing of others that he would place a horse he has just pronounced lame ABOVE the others horses in a (mere) halter class deserves to lose his/her card. Halter horses should be sound, in this country halter horses are judged on movement and any unsound horse would be excused the ring.
Am like everyone else, I have my horses trimmed in a balance manner for their conformation.

I had a Farrier once, said if I was going to drive they needed much longer toes. That ticked me off, he just didn't get that I do not want such an unnatural uncaring type of trim done to my horses. He was to either do a natural balance trim or he could find other business.

IMHO, how some of the driving horses are trimmed for shows are totally disgusting. I will not get into this any more that what I have already said.

But it is up to you.

Just find a good farrier that is willing to do nice balanced hooves, your horses will be happier for it.
I do not drive competetively -- But, I have noticed and seen in person, many padded and long hooved horses with the answer to my questioning of this being "they are driving horses".
Not all were minis, paddeds were the hackney types, etc. Not sure how much is allowed but, I'm just not "into" that condition of hoof.

It is a fact that any horse will move differently depending upon their hoof trims.

Whether is is necessary is another thing.

I'll be interested to read the replies from those who train & win.
I trim all my horses the same. I see alot of horses with less heal and alot of toe, drives me nuts and I cant stand the site.
OK... I do not drive competitively, but I do show competitively. The way I feel about it is this- everything goes into the conditioning and presentation of a horse looking it very best, to be put before a Judge who will decide which one is his/her opinion is the best horse in the ring. If you need to add anything- tail hair, etc, or weight or pad the hooves- that is NOT the best horse it is the best cheat. And, I am afraid, I include stringing the horse up with the "check rein" in this. So, flame away, if you want, but, as far as I can see the horse is supposed to be presented, with a bit of cosmetic help, as it was born, not as someone adapted it!!

My horses will stay trimmed for balance- not height and not movement, which they do or do not have.
Leaving a longer toe will enhance, in a small way, your horses action. Many driving horses are trimmed this way and if you look in the larger english horse breeds most, if not all show horses have a longer toe. Look at the National driving champions (minis) and most of them will also have longer front toes.
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Thanks everyone for your reply on my extrememly confusing situation.

I agree on alot of what everyone is saying.... just a note - when my ferrier came last week we discussed this and he understood all about the longer toe, shorter heal thing, he automatically trims horses per their conformation with leaving as much heal as possible. (Hates cutting too much heal). With that said... I have a few times needed to remind him to take a little more off the heal but normally he is right on with the angle of the shoulder and the foot. That he prefers to trim the way a horse is built. So I had purchased a gage for the minis just so I and he knew that they would be trimmed and level or balanced on all four feet. So we put her at 50 in front and 52 in the back. Just to see if this will make a difference in how she moves. I will not ever put any of my horses in any situation that would not be as close to natural as possible. I will not even do the full face shaving thing half way to the eye. Or cut eye lashes.... so I agree with you all that are against this.

I really felt highly upset with this judge for saying my horse was lame when really she was off balanced or she might not have had the type of gate that he might not like to see in a driving horse. I would have rather been placed last for that than saying she was lame! This judge was highly carded and this was not at any little open show either. I really hate to announce where this was at due to other members here could have been at this show. I feel I should talk with the registry about this situation but I just don't want to cause any problems for anyone. So I will just try again next year and maybe eventually things will go better.

I guess it is soooo hard trying to figure out what is right and trying to buy the right horse to even stand half a chance showing. I have three minis here I drive and they are all completely different in their training, movement, and qaulity. I am ready to just give it all up or bang my head up against the barn a few times!!!

Thank god for trail rides and drives where we can go and relax!!!!

Thanks again to all for your answers and I guess I will just keep my great ferrier because he has been wonderful through all this with me and soooo willing to work with me and my horses!!
We will just have to come in last at the show, but we will know that MY HORSE IS NOT LAME


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