Trimming vs Shoeing – Best Case Scenarios and Limitations From a Farrier’s Point of View

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price

Do I trim my horse or should it be shod. You should ask this question to someone with enough experience and training to provide a practical and accurate answer.

Horse hoof care – Farrier at work

Our common sense (horse-sense) will help us to see when horses should be shod or when they just need to be trimmed. Each horse has its own needs.

Horse owners should never intentionally harm their horses, but they could unknowingly inflict injury on their horse if they make a poor decision. Horse owners must not harm their horses by trimming or shoeing.

Trimming vs Shoeing

After being trimmed and shod, the horse should feel more at ease. For centuries, horses were used as a primary means of transport and work animal. They were useless if they had injured, sore or short feet.

Some horses do not require shoeing. Horseshoes are not required in our area due to the soil and occasional use. The soil in the area we used to live was so hardy that horses required shoes even when they were out on pasture.

Every horse’s situation should be assessed individually. Consider these considerations when assessing your horse’s hooves to determine if they should be shod, or just trimmed.

There are no need to trim shoes.

1. Wear exceeds hoof wall growth

A horse’s normal growth rate is 1/4 to 3/8 inches per year. The hoof is essential for the protection of sensitive structures and bones inside the horse’s feet. If a horse doesn’t wear down its hoof at the rate that it grows, and the horse is kept on a regular basis, excess hoof should be cut to preserve soundness.

2. A trim is necessary to preserve the integrity of the hoof.

Hooves can’t all be grouped into one category. Except for genus and species, domesticated horses are not like wild horses. Although genetics are the main reason for a hoof’s strength, management and environment can also have an impact on its integrity. Some feet are extremely strong. Some feet require more than just trimming.

3. Only trim the horse’s conformation

When trimming or shoeing horses, it is important to consider their individual conformation. The horse’s conformation can affect both hoof growth as well as wear.

Pros to shoeing when trimming is not enough

1. Hoof wear can be caused by abrasion.

Horses are often used on abrasive surfaces, so the hooves wear faster than normal and don’t provide enough protection. A horseshoe can be useful when the foot requires protection.

When shoes are needed

Horses may be beaten by the ground they are working on. This can cause the horse’s hoof to wear down quicker than it can be replaced.

Shoes may be required for horses that are only used in one season. Horses that are used on trails may not require shoes, for example. Abrasion can result from their use and the ground they work on, which may wear the hoof down quicker than it can be replaced.

Horses are only shod during the season, then the horseshoes and hooves can be pulled.

2. Protection is needed for the foot and hoof

Horses may need foot protection. A horseshoe or pad can help. For temporary protection, hoof boots are popular in certain areas. Horses may need protection for many reasons. An abscess is one example. It needs protection while it heals.

3. Weak feet can indicate a compromise in the hoof integrity

The hoof can become weak if a horse is deficient in vitamin A. The hoof integrity is affected when the horse is subject to a nutrient toxicity, such as selenium. It depends on the soil and diet.

Clips may be required to support the hoof if it has suffered from nutritional or genetic problems. A horseshoe may have to be glued on in extreme cases. It is cruel to force a horse to go barefoot.

4. Skeletal support is essential for horse conformation.

Horseshoes are a great way to help horses. Support in the right place can influence conformation. A wider horseshoe on the outside would be beneficial for a fetlock varus, or toe-in, conformation. This helps to distribute weight around the legas centre of gravity, taking the stress off the outside joints and making the horse feel more comfortable. Horseshoes are useful if the horse’s condition requires weight redistribution under the foot or horse’s limb centre of gravity.

5. Horses require more traction.

Consider traction when a horse must perform in certain disciplines. The footing and surface on which they work can influence their hooves.

When the horse needs traction

Winter riding outside on a horse may require additional traction to ensure safety for horse and rider.

The use of a backyard horse is not the same as that of a performance horse. Horses may need more traction than the hoof can provide.

Many types of handmade and manufactured horseshoes are available that offer increased traction.

Winter riding outside on a horse may require additional traction to ensure safety for horse and rider. Extra traction makes horses feel more secure when they are on the pavement.

6. Horses require less traction.

A wider web horseshoe can help reining horses. It decreases traction. This allows horses to perform the tasks they have been trained and bred to.

A wider horseshoe with no stamped nail holes and a flat surface allows for the horse to slide more easily. This prevents the horse from sinking too quickly into the ground.

Did you know?

Although the horse’s hoof might look solid and tough, it is actually not. Each layer and structure in the hoof has a specific function.


These points will help you make an informed decision based on your individual circumstances. Ask a professional farrier if you are still unsure. Because it is cheaper, some horse owners choose to trim rather than shoe their horses. You should consider the reasons and questions behind trimming or shoeing, as well as cost. The cost of trimming or shoeing should not be the only factor. The horse’s welfare should be the main concern.

Our common sense (horse-sense) will help us to see when horses should be shod or when they just need to be trimmed. Each horse has its own needs. Horses with high quality hooves, which wear at a similar rate as their growth and who are ridden in low-abrasion environments may not need to be shoed. Horses with weak feet, such as those bred selectively, may need to be shod every day. Every two months, hooves require attention. Monthly attention may be required for problems or diseased feet.

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!