What’s forging and how do you fix it?

This photo shows what happens when a horse forges.
This photo shows what happens when a horse forges.

Yesterday while I was cleaning up the paddock, I heard a click, click, click sound. It was the sound of the toe of the hind hoof hitting the bottom of a front hoof and it’s what is known as “forging.”

Forging generally occurs when a horse has gone a bit too long between shoeing and the hind hooves get too long. From my experience, I know it can also occur when the horse’s front hooves are sore and they might not be picking them up quickly enough (this happened to Kroni after he pulled both front shoes and I had him in hoof boots).

Mostly you hear forging at the trot. This is because the trot is a diagonal gait where the hind hoof moves in synchronization with the opposite front hoof, but it can also happen at a walk. Forging can be confused with a horse having an overstep but it is a form of interference caused by an imbalanced hoof, rather than an overreaching stride.

Hoof with breakover point at the outer edge of the hoof wall (from
Here the hoof shows a breakover point at the outer edge of the hoof wall. Images from http://kobyla.info/hoof/ToeRocker/ToeRocker.htm

Most of the time the forging goes away after a horse is reshod, but occasionally a farrier may choose to square off the toes on the hind feet which essentially moves the breakover point a bit further back on the toe. The breakover point on the hoof is the place where the foot begins it’s pivot over the toe. To avoid forging the breakover point needs to be near to the tip of the coffin bone and not too close to the perimeter of the toe.

This image shows a breakover point that is close to the tip of the coffin bone.
This image shows a breakover point that is close to the tip of the coffin bone.

Other reasons why a horse might forge:

  • The horse has a short back and long legs. Horses with this conformation are predisposed to forging and need to be managed carefully.
  • Horses that get stiff or tight in their shoulders or back muscles may have a limited range of motion with their front legs and can’t get their front legs out of the way fast enough.
  • Horses with run under heels may be sore in front and this can result in a shortened stride.
  • Poor saddle fit, or saddles that are placed too far forward can restrict the forward motion of the front leg and shoulder.

Forging is not a huge problem but it does predispose a horse to stepping on a front shoe and pulling it off. It also can signify a problem either in the horse’s hoof balance or in its musculature and should be addressed accordingly.

3 thoughts on “What’s forging and how do you fix it?

  1. When I was a kid and rode a horse with shoes I always knew he was due for a reset when I heard his feet clicking. Now my horses are bare and I trim them myself. Bringing the breakover back on the front hooves made a huge difference, not just in breakover but in the size of stride.

  2. I have a horse with a huge reach with his hind legs and very short back. Yes, his has reach in front, too, but he’s naturally very collected. I have his hooves done every 5 weeks to avoid problems like this. (He also has less-than-ideal hooves, so I try to keep them as balanced as possible w/ frequent shoeing.)

    His overreach is also huge – trot lengthenings are at least 1′ overstep, and he’s just starting to get them. I imagine as he gets better they’ll get even longer!

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