The Importance of Shoes to Horses

Last Updated on September 5, 2020 by Allison Price

Providing good hooves for your horse is important. Taking care of your horse’s hooves also means taking care of its health. Such as, its strength, respiratory, circulatory and immune system. Also, hoof care also affects your horse’s conformation, work load, age, stabling and living situation. A poor functioning hoof can bring down the horse’s entire system. While, a proper functioning hoof can nourish and revitalize the horse.

Here are some of the reasons why a horseshoe can be beneficial to your horse:

  • Protection.

Horseshoes provide protection. It can prevent weak hooves from wearing and splitting. Particularly if the horse perform arduous rides on hard surfaces. 

  • Reduce wear on weakened hoofs.

Horses kept in stalls or small turn-out areas are exposed to urine which contains ammonia. This exposure weakens the keratin-made hoof wall. While shoes do not prevent damage from exposure to ammonia, it reduces the wear on weakened hoofs.

  • Address medical issues.

There is a wide selection of horseshoe. Some are designed to address hoof problems. Some examples are the ones that can hold medication on the hoof and protects the hoof from swelling. There are also horseshoes that can adjust the shape of the hoof and even adjust the hoof angle.

Tip: Sometimes, an unbalanced diet contributes to more foot and hoof problems. Feed them with enough nutrition.

  • Gait Alteration

Extreme shoeing adjustments can affect a horse’s gaits and alter them. The shoes affect the way the horse moves by changing the height and angle of the hoof.

Reminders: If you do not take proper care of your horse’s hooves, you can almost guarantee that he will go lame.

Do all horses need shoes?

It depends. Domestic horses usually have weaker hooves because of intermittent exercise. They are often on softer and damper ground. And sometimes exacerbated by an unbalanced diet. Which is why they need to wear protective shoes. The usual development Horses are usually developed in arid climates. But, when they became domesticated they were moved to wetter climates and farming areas. Softer, heavier soils, and wet pastures soften the hooves and make them prone to splitting. Wild horses, on the other hand don’t need shoes as they amble long distances daily. They are usually over rough grassland, which builds up hard hooves.

person holding brown horse near dirt road during daytime

Some points to consider for not using shoes:

A horse may not use shoes if it has strong hoof and legs and the horse forages for most of its feed. If the horse’s workload is minimal, it can go barefoot. Further, horses’ with trimmed hoofs can go barefoot too. This is to avoid excessive/irregular hoof wear and foot injury. This also apply, if the horse can live and work without shoes.

A competent farrier can help determine if a horse will be better off going barefoot. Also, horses that go barefoot may not be able to walk comfortably. Usually on rough or rocky ground directly after shoe removal. Most hoofs get degenerated to some degree. From wearing shoes that was nailed on and the sole often gets thin. The feet of the horse need some time to heal and adjust and grow a strong protective sole callous.

Common Hoof Problems

grayscale photo of animal feet

One can detect damage and injury on horses through visual clues. Such as, lameness, wounds, lacerations, cracks in hoof wall, and tenderness to the touch.

Here are other problems that may occur:

  • Hoof abscesses– infections on a soft part of the hoof. This often starts as a result of a puncture wound or injury.
  • Grass cracks- it often occurs in unshod hooves. When the hoof wall is not trimmed in regular occasions, it becomes too long. Then it cracks because of percussive force.
  • Sand cracks– it usually occur as a result of cuts and injuries to the coronet.
  • Bruises- it occurs because of improper shoeing or hoof trimming. It is also caused by rocks and other foreign objects.
  • Navicular syndrome- this disease begins with inflammation. This is a gradual deterioration of the bone tissue of the navicular bone.
  • Underrun heels and thrush– a painful bacterial infection of the frog. This results a foul smelling, dark, clay-like material in the area surround the frog. This is the result of the frog being always packed with manure, mud or moist bedding. And combined with lack of basic hoof care such as regular picking and brushing.
  • White Line Disease– this disease is a bacterial or fungus infection. The bacteria or fungus causes the white line to disintegrate. The disease starts at ground level and works its way up to the white line to the coronary band.

Proper shoeing and trimming are integral part of orthopedic disease treatment. Some examples of these diseases are navicular disease, twisted toes, and tendonitis. Doing so will also help you deal with the other types of problems. Such as cracks of sand, flat feet, corns, sole bruises, and other painful and stressful diseases.

Different Types of Horse Shoes

Properly designed shoes help reduce the stress and protect the legs and hoofs of horses. The following lists are different shoes available for your horses:

  • Regular Horseshoe– is what the vast majority of horses wear. This shoe helps and protects the normal hoof under standard riding conditions.
  • Trailer Shoe– reduces pressure on the heels and posterior tendon of a horse’s foot. It also supports the lateral side of the horse’s leg. This is not suitable for horses who kick because the trailer can become dangerous.
  • Rim Shoes– are popular for sports that involve fast turns and speed. It has a deep, wide groove through the middle that allows the horse to get a little more traction.
  • Bar Shoe– it consists of some sort of extra “bar” on the back part of the shoe. It is generally to increase support in the back of the hoof, heel, or leg. It can also help hold the hoof together. Excessive hoof movement is counter-indicated, which might be the case in a hoof injury.
  • Heart Bar Shoe– are often used for horses with laminitis. It offer the same advantages of the other bar shoes, only with the addition of frog support, as well.
  • Egg Bar Shoe– is often used for horses with navicular disease. It provides even more support to the back part of the hoof and leg by extending beyond the heel.
  • Square shoe– it helps shift the break over point without affecting the coffin bone.
Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!