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Dr. Stephen O'Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles

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The Practical Application of Bar Shoes Reprinted with permission from Farrier Products Distribution
Original published in The Natural Angle, Volume 12: Issue 2.

Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS

Bar shoes could be considered the foundation of therapeutic farriery. A bar shoe is one in which the heels are joined to form a continuous unit of steel or aluminum. There are several patterns of complete bar shoes commonly used in therapeutic farriery including the straight bar, the egg bar, the heart bar, the heart bar-egg bar (full support shoe) and the "Z" bar shoe. It is important to realize and understand the multitude of benefits a bar shoe can provide such as increased stability of the hoof capsule, increased ground contact surface, local protection and recruitment of additional weight bearing areas of the foot. Furthermore, they decrease the independent vertical movement of the heels and provide the ability to unload or support a section of the foot. Placing a bar between the heels of a shoe adds several inches of surface area to the foot, thereby reducing movement and stabilizing the hoof capsule. The additional ground contact surface also seems to prevent the palmar-plantar section of the hoof from sinking into deformable surfaces providing a "flotation" effect. This effect appears to be helpful when treating palmar foot pain as it seems to limit the extension of the distal interphalangeal joint during the impact phase of the stride.

Dr. Stephen O'Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles

Figure 1. Kerckhaert straight bar shoe

Dr. Stephen O'Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles

Figure 2. Example of a trimmed foot showing guidelines. Black line equals widest part of the foot. Red line shows proportions of foot on either side of widest part of foot.

Dr. Stephen O'Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles

Figure 3a. Straight bar shoe fitted to the foot with shoe placed in middle of the foot (Black line)

Dr. Stephen O'Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles

Figure 3b. Shows the heel base of a fitted straight bar shoe. Note the sheared heel.

Dr. Stephen O'Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles

Figure 4. Welds smoothed with a grinder and the heel base is boxed.

I use a tremendous amount of straight bar shoes in my practice. Historically, bar shoes had to be forged from bar stock or a bar had to be welded between the heels of the shoe but recently many types of well-designed bar shoes have become available commercially. I exclusively use the Kerckhaert straight bar (Figure 1) for many reasons but especially for its ability to stabilize the hoof capsule and with the straight bar shoe there is no excess leverage applied to the heels which is often the case when egg bar shoes are applied. Some of the conditions I use a straight bar shoe for are palmar foot pain, sheared heels, quarter cracks, white line disease, distal phalanx fractures along with a continuous rim and any condition where the stability of the hoof capsule needs to be enhanced. The straight bar shoe is often combined with a leather pad and impression material placed in the palmar section of the foot to treat weak heels.

Before fitting and applying a bar shoe, it is necessary to briefly discuss the trim. The trim forms the foundation for either routine or therapeutic shoeing therefore if the trim is not appropriate, whatever shoe is used will be less that optimally successful. In short, there are only three basic variables that can be altered by the trim, the depth of sole, angle of the dorsal wall, and mediolateral symmetry. The length of the wall at the toe is predicated on the depth of the sole; the wall is either level or slightly longer than the adjacent sole. The length of the heels is then predicated on the length of toe and the angle of the foot-pastern axis. Placed in practical terms, a line can be drawn across the widest part of the foot, the toe/quarters are reduced according to the sole depth and the heels are trimmed such that the heels of the hoof capsule and the frog are on the same plane. The proportions on either side of the line drawn across the foot should approximate each other (Figure 2). It should be noted that if the frog protrudes below the hoof wall following the trim, if possible, the horse is placed on a hard firm surface for 24 hours without shoes. This will place the frog and the hoof wall at the heels on the same plane before applying the straight bar shoe.

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