Oh Those Flares!

We all know 'em. We've all seen 'em. If not on our own horses' hooves we've certainly seen 'em on others. 


What, exactly, IS a flare? Simply put -- its a tearing away from the white line of the outer hoof wall causing a distortion in the angles of the walls from the periople on down to the ground. 

It's that simple. 

Wish they were always a simple fix.  But they're not. 

(All photos except last photo belong to my mentor, Marjorie Smith.) 

Some are merely mechanically caused from overly long walls or imbalances in the hooves from less-than-ideal trimming or farrier work. Those are most common. 

Others are caused on hooves that are wet most of the time causing the integrity of the connective tissue (laminae) to be affected while others are metabolically cause when coupled with mechanical failure. Hooves that live on wet, poorly drained ground, or during a wet season, need more frequent care than hooves on dry terrain and many times they just don't get that extra attention. Down here in SW Florida during the rainy-season, I'll see more flared hooves than during the dry, winter time. And just like "up North" ... the hooves will grow more slowly during the winter time so perhaps the flaring is minimized by the slower growth rate. Winter time down here is dry, dry, dry. In fact, summer and winter are differentiated as seasons with the labels "green season" (rainy season = summer) and "brown season" (dry season - winter).  But that's neither here nor there EXCEPT when one thinks that the hooves can get away with trims every 8 or 12 weeks in the summer just as, perhaps, they did in the wintertime.  

Not so. 

And that's when we see alot of flaring of the walls. 

Mechanical flaring means the walls have been neglected in length attention and the 'ground is pushing up against the excess wall, forcing it away from the bone.' If the horse's hooves are overall healthy with a tight white line, this generally won't cause any problems except unsightliness as the hooves will chip away themselves as the horse moves on hard ground.  My Mustang has, right now, overgrown walls but the white line is tight and she is definitely 'trimming herself' as evidenced by chips. But she's sound, sound, sound. So its merely a matter of hooves that don't look very manicured or nice. 

A horse that has decent trims may flare at the quarters from time to time. This type of flare will easily disappear with consistent trimming and a good bevel of the wall and mustang roll. 

The hoof above shows a flaring at the arrow due to overgrowth of the hoof in general. Just too much pressure on the hoof from the ground. The angle from the hairline down to the ground should be a nice straight angle. Once the hooves are trimmed down and balanced, that flaring will go away as the excess pressure is released.


A founder flare is not always very obvious but here one can see how almost the entire wall has pulled apart from the bone as evidenced by the angle of the dorsal hoof wall: 

While there are no 'rings' around the hoof wall except up towards the hairline where the deviation starts, one might assume this horse is sound and healthy. In reality, the line designates just how much the wall has pulled away from the foot and the extreme degree of the laminitis that is going on inside. Again, the angle of the dorsal wall from the hairline down to the ground should be a straight angle that is tight to the foot. When looking at the bottom of the hoof (solar view) one would most likely see an oval shaped hoof instead of round (this is a front hoof that should be round in shape) with a wide area of stretched laminae apparent. 

Here you can see how much flaring there is. 

If you train your eyes you'll be able to see the slightest flaring of your horse's hoof. When you do, you might want to take a good assessment as to the reason it might be there. Is he overdue for a trim? Is he sore at all? What is his diet? What is the environment like?  These types of questions that you ferret out are those which can help get your horse on sound feet again with the proper care. 

Questions? Comments?  They are all welcomed. 


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf







" The flare is most likely to be caused by excess growth and imbalances in the horse’s hoof/body/posture/diet." Precisely … but the question to ask is why is there excess growth and imbalance? I stated what my experiences have been over the years. Many farriers and trimmers simply do not recognize what a balanced hoof looks and feels like as they are not taught to ‘feel’ the hooves but to tend the ‘mechanicals’ of it all. The interesting part of the equation is that what might be ‘balanced’ for one horse may not be balanced for the next; or, even what might be balanced for one HOOF may not be the same on the next. :D

Gwenyth Santagate February 16, 2017

I don’t really like this statement
“Some are merely mechanically caused from overly long walls or imbalances in the hooves from less-than-ideal trimming or farrier work. Those are most common”
I don’t agree that the trimming or farrier work is the cause of the flare. The flare is most likely to be caused by excess growth and imbalances in the horse’s hoof/body/posture/diet.

Frances Hughes February 06, 2017

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