Some interesting thoughts concerning flared hooves by Cindy Sullivan of Tribe Equus

Flares by Cindy Sullivan




Flares due to medial/lateral imbalance

Are you obsessed with chasing flares? Is your horse coming up sore as a result? STOP! Step away from the rasp!! Think!!

You are fighting what you perceive as flares. But are they really? One of the biggest problems I see out there – more and more recently – are people going insane over flares, but not having a clue what that means. There are flares, but there is also (and these are my own terms) dorsal divergence, directional extension, and expansion deviation (aka “belling”).


If you have been routinely aggressive in removing flares,  concerned yourself with “cleaning out” around the frog perhaps seeking to encourage that elusive concavity, you may only have succeeded in taking away the adaptive support the horse was desperately trying to put down setting it up to go flatter, or remain flat. The thinning of the wall, as in an aggressive effort to remove “flares”, or relieving it from its job as a weight bearing structure reduces containment in the distal aspect of the hoof capsule.  Inner structures then expand the capsule outward where the wall is too thin and the foot becomes flatter. From the dorsal view with the foot on the ground, it appears as a bell shape which is misinterpreted as flares.


But it cannot be a “flare” if the wall isn’t there in any substantive measure and the whiteline is intact. This is what I call “belling”  the capsule angle turns outward at the bottom like a bell and it is entirely human created by over thinning the outer wall. If your horse has that form naturally and is sound…then don’t try to read something into it.



My take on it is that if you are constantly chasing flares, look to the cause, which in most cases is likely medial/lateral imbalance, and address that.


  1. I have a competition horse who is 7 years old. She was shod for 5 of those seven years. She is quite badly pigeon toed and i’ve been barefooting her for the last 12 months and have been battling dirt compacting into the lanimer line and forcing the wall and white line apart.
    Under instruction of my vet, i’ve been cutting the wall back to were the infestation of compressed dirt begins in atempt to eliminate the groove so that no other dirt can pack there in the future. However, as she is pigeon toed, most of the wight is bared on the outside of the foot
    and is the primary area were the dirt packs in between the white line and the hoof wall.
    And when i trim the wall back as instructed it only seems to exasabate the problem as it allows the outside of the hoof to be shorter and bear more weight.

    Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated as i’m a little sceptical of the advice i have thus far recieved.

  2. Jackie – Try looking at your white line problem the other way around. The dirt is not forcing the white line apart – it is instead getting into a white line that is separating. This often happens because the horse/pony has too much sugar in its diet. This includes molasses and easily digested starches. Try removing ALL sources of sugar and easily digested starch from the diet and your white line – with correct trimming and appropriate exercise should start to tighten up. Then you won’t have dirt in it any more.

  3. What about a bullnosed hind? I have just acquired a very ouchy navicular horse with some pretty bad distortion in his fronts (classic long toe, low heel) and I’ve been pretty agressive with bringing his toe back under him with excellent results (walking sound three weeks after pulling shoes!) However, his hinds have an odd bullnosed appearance (I’ve not brought these toes back, his angles appear correct), is this some kind of separation?

    • Hi Jen,
      Well I hope you understand neither of your questions has to do with flares and you just posted on this post randomly. 🙂 Bullnosed hinds tend to be somewhat common. I’m not sure why but it may have to do with trying to shorten the toe so much to prevent grabbing or overreaching that it distorts the hoof capsule shape. Often on a shod horse the toe is dubbed from far up the wall and this can cause that dubbed appearance. The other possibility is that the coffin bone is at a negative palmar angle. This should be confirmed by xrays. If the back of the CB is lower than the front, you’ll have to adjust the trim and get the heels to grow. You may need to seek professional help for that.

  4. I just posted a comment on another article about flares, my farrier leaves my mare’s hind feet ‘flared’ I read so much that flares are bad but she is sound on almost all terrain now (last year was very footy on gravel, is doing much better now)he is a very good farrier so he must do it for a good reason. I want to ask him but I feel quite silly, does anyone know are flares not as evil as we have been led to belive then?

Leave a Reply