What are those strange-looking horseshoes I see?

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On a trail ride a year and a half ago at Tri-Co Saddle Club near Canton, Ohio, I talked to a girl about a new type of horseshoes she was trying on her horse.

As someone who has had two older horses get ringbone, I was interested in the theory behind these new style shoes that were coming from England.

Odd-looking shoes. I called Felsen Diemling, the area Cytek representative, and had him come and shoe my horse. The shoes really made his feet look odd, as they are not in the traditional round shape and have a rolled toe, square front. They sit farther back under the foot to give the coffin bone and heels the correct support.

Setting the shoe back and getting the weight of the horse off the toe allows for a more natural breakover and more support for the leg. The coronary band is free to produce hoof without being restricted by pressure from the toe. The result is a major improvement in quality, balance, and blood supply throughout the hoof capsule.

The shoes didn’t seem to affect my horse’s Tennessee walking gait, and after trying the shoes for several months, Bruce and I went to farrier classes to learn how to put the shoes on correctly.

Cytek is different from traditional shoeing and you have to take the class in order to be able to buy the shoes and nails. Eighteen months ago, there was one Cytek farrier in Ohio, now there are more than 30.

With the Cytek horseshoeing, there are a fewer steps that need to be done. There is no bending the shoe to fit the foot, and after the first shoeing, there is usually less hoof that needs to be cut off because the horse has been wearing the toe off by itself.

My horse had a flair deformity on the one back hoof which required some bending of the shoe with a regular shoe. When you accommodate a flair by shoeing, it continues to flair, putting stress on the outer hoof wall. With the Cyteks, there is no adjustment of the shoe, and the foot is encouraged to grow normally. After a year, the flair is now gone, and because the hoof wall has grown down tight to the coffin bone, the shoe size has actually decreased.

The outer dimensions of the shoe are designed to allow the hoof to develop for what the coffin bone requires.

Back to school. Warick Bloomfield, a Cytek international training farrier from England who flies around the world conducting classes, was at our second training class. (You may go back to the classes as many times as necessary to help you learn more about the workings of the shoe and the horse’s legs and feet.)

In the classes, the theory of the shoe is taught, and a horse’s leg and hoof from a slaughterhouse are dissected. After seeing the dissection, it amazes me how our horses hold up with all the pressures we put them through. Often, they don’t.

It has taken 20 years of research to develop the Cytek shoe for the horse’s welfare. In the past five years, Bloomfield alone has shod over 9,000 sets of Cytek shoes.

“We are not trying to discredit or undermine regular farriers and their job, but we know that regular shoeing is incorrect for the horse,” Bloomfield said.

Radical change. “Cytek flies in the face of everything farriers were ever taught, including me,” he added. “With a long traditional toe, the horse can never achieve its correct point of breakover, with a devastating effect on the horse.”

Traditional shoeing, he said, protects the outside wall and loads the toe wall excessively, creating an exaggerated lever effect, which can lead to a number of different lameness problems. With Cytek shoes the horse can determine its own toe length leading to a more comfortable horse and less injuries.

He refutes the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

“With Cytek, we are not worried about the cosmetics of the foot, and it is ‘broke,’ you just can’t see it.”

When the foot was dissected in class, you could definitely see it. I watched two of the hooves being dissected and each one had injuries to the sensitive laminae that joins the hoof wall to the coronary bone. Contrary to what we’ve always been told about picking out the hooves, with Cytek, unless there is something wedged in the shoe, you leave the dirt in there to help protect and support the sole.

The heels of the hoof are lowered to allow the frog to do its intended work, which is to contact the ground. The frog is a very important part of the whole hoof system; without it, the hoof can not function properly.

After the theory is explained at great length, the class goes to work on horses. Each farrier is given a horse to shoe with an experienced Cytek training farrier leading him through each step.

Trimming toes OK. Most of the horses at our classes were buggy horses with exceptionally long toes. It is quite shocking to see how much toe can be removed. If a hoof is in really bad condition, it will take several shoeings to get it trimmed back to where it needs to go. Without the long toe, the horses can breakover more comfortably and don’t have to throw their legs so far forward to compensate.

Going without shoes would be the most natural thing for a horse, but with all the riding we do in rocks and rough terrain we haven’t found that feasible.

If you would like more information, you can contact Felsen Diemling at 330-852-4991.

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