Horseshoes prevent wear on the hooves and provide traction on some surfaces.
Whether your horse needs shoes depends on the quality of your horse's feet and the type of surfaces on which your horse will be kept.
Many hoof problems can be avoided by properly evaluating the feet and taking appropriate precautions.
Various corrective shoes are available for specific lameness or hoof problems.
Should I Shoe My Horse?
One of the first questions you have to answer after getting your first horse is:“Does he need shoes?” The answer depends on the quality of your horse's feet and the type of surfaces on which your horse will be kept. Horses working on hard or rough surfaces require shoes for protection, as do horses with bruised or tender feet. Some horses have very thin soles and shoes protect their feet from bruising.
Many hoof problems can be avoided by properly evaluating the feet and taking the appropriate precautions. When you evaluate your horse's feet, consider the following. First, examine the hoof wall for cracks. A brittle wall can allow entry of dirt, bacteria, and fungi, which can lead to abscesses (pus-filled swellings), seedy toe, and white line disease, all of which cause lameness. A brittle, cracked wall is primarily a genetic problem. If your horse has this problem, shoeing will help because the horseshoe holds the foot together, reducing chipping. Adding biotin and methionine to a horse's diet also helps to produce a better, thicker hoof wall. These additives are inexpensive and easy to find.
The second consideration is the shape of the foot. Is there too much toe? Is the heel too far under the foot, indicating under-run heel? Is the sole of the foot too close to the ground, indicating flat-footedness? Shape abnormalities predispose horses to lameness. Corrective shoeing can help minimize these problems.
The third consideration is the type of ground on which your horse is kept. Many horses with poor feet do fine on clay but go lame when moved to a sandy soil. This happens because the sand fills the bottom of the foot, putting pressure on the sole. Thin-soled horses or those with flat feet don't do well on sand. Horses with brittle hoof walls don't do well on sand in warm, dry climates because the hoof walls become more brittle unless they are cared for properly. Clay soil holds moisture better than sand and adds more moisture to horses' feet.
Various corrective shoes are available for specific lameness or hoof problems. For example, horses with lameness may need a shoe that stabilizes or slows their gait. Horses with splayed feet or cracked hooves may need a barred shoe for support. Veterinarians, farriers, and trainers can provide more information on corrective shoes.
Hoof and Shoe Care
The hoof horn grows continuously but is worn down in unshod horses on hard surfaces. Because shoes prevent the horn from wearing down, a farrier has to trim excess horn at each shoeing before replacing or refitting shoes. This is required every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the rate of wear and growth.
If your horse has shoes, they should be routinely checked for wear and tightness of the nails.