Whether you’re a new rider or an experienced equestrian, understanding the importance of horseshoes is essential for your horse’s well-being. But horseshoes don’t have an indefinite lifespan, and sooner or later they’ll need to be replaced.
You may be asking yourself ‘How will I know when to replace them?’ or ‘How often do horses need new shoes?’.
Luckily, I’m here to answer all of your questions and set your mind at ease. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about your horse’s fancy footwear. You’ll be a pro in no time.
Why Do Horses Wear Shoes?
Horses wear shoes for a few important reasons, especially when it comes to the horse’s hoof health and comfort.
First, a horse’s hooves are made of a tough material called keratin (what our nails are made of), but they can still be sensitive and prone to damage. Wearing shoes can help to protect their hooves and prevent them from getting injured or damaged.
Horseshoes also provide additional support to a horse’s hooves, which are primarily responsible for carrying its weight. The shoes help to distribute the weight evenly and reduce the strain on the hooves, making it more comfortable for horses to walk, run, and carry the extra weight of a rider.
Speaking of riding, horseshoes have fantastic traction on different types of terrains. This will help to stop the horse from slipping or sliding on wet grass or muddy trails. In turn, this helps to lower the risk of injury.
Lastly, a horse’s hooves naturally grow and wear down over time. Horseshoes can help to regulate the wear and tear process by creating a protective barrier. This way, the hooves wear more evenly and can be properly maintained by a farrier.
The Pros And Cons Of Shoeing A Horse
If you’re accustomed to barefoot horses (those without shoes), you may be wondering if there’s any benefit to your horse wearing shoes. After all, wild horses run around without them all the time!
The simple answer is yes, there are several benefits to protecting your horse’s feet with high-quality and well-fitted shoes. And while there may also be disadvantages, they are far outweighed by the pros. Still, horseshoes aren’t mandatory for horse owners, and there are plenty who don’t use them.
To help you make an informed decision on whether your horse should have shoes, I’ve compiled a short list of the pros and cons of horseshoes.
Protection: Horseshoes provide a protective barrier for horse hooves. This protects them and reduces the risk of injury from sharp objects, uneven terrain, or hard surfaces.
Support: Shoes provide extra support for the hooves, and can reduce strain for your horse. This may be particularly important for horses with hoof or leg issues like laminitis and arthritis.
Extended working life: Regular shoeing, along with proper maintenance and care, can help to extend a horse’s working life. They do this by minimizing wear and tear on the hooves and preventing hoof-related problems.
Correcting imbalances: The right horseshoes can help to correct a horse’s hoof balance. Customized shoes and corrective shoeing techniques by farriers can also improve alignment and correct certain gait abnormalities.
Better performance: Well-fitted shoes can improve a horse’s traction, stability, and overall performance. This may be particularly useful in demanding equestrian activities like jumping or racing.
Cost: Having customized horseshoes or hiring someone with proper farrier training can be costly compared to standard trimming.
Risk of hoof issues: If horseshoes aren’t properly fitted or maintained, they can cause various hoof problems. This may include sole sensitivity, bruising, or even hoof infections. Incorrect shoeing techniques may also result in discomfort or gait issues.
Hoof dependency: Shod horses may develop weakened hooves that rely on shoes for protection. A regularly shod horse may be more vulnerable when it’s barefoot, which can lead to difficulties when transitioning to alternative hoof care methods.
Why Do You Need To Reshoe A Horse?
Horses need to be reshod because of the continuous hoof growth they experience – even when they wear shoes. As the horse’s hoof grows, the nails that hold the shoes in place can become loose.
It’s important to remember that loose nails are a surefire way for your horse to lose their shoe, which can be pretty uncomfortable! Imagine if your shoes were coming loose or falling off. It wouldn’t be comfortable, right? Well, your horse feels the same way!
This is why regular reshoeing is important. It can help to replace any loose nails and keep your horse’s feet and hooves in good condition.
In some cases, horses need reshoeing if their hooves grow too much and extend past the shoe, if they have a hoof injury, or if the shoe gets twisted.
When Should You Reshoe A Horse?
The frequency of reshoeing a horse can vary depending on several factors, but a good rule of thumb is to trim their feet every four to eight weeks. Most horse owners will wait an average of six weeks before trimming them. Your farrier can then make an assesment if the shoes can go back on or need replaced.
However, there are some cases where you may have to change your horse’s shoes earlier or later than expected. Here are some factors to consider when determining when to change your horse’s shoes:
Growth rate: Horses have different rates of growth for their hooves. Some horses will have faster horse hoof growth, while others may be slower. If a horse’s hooves grow quickly, they may need more regular reshoeing.
Workload and activity level: Horses with heavier workloads may experience more wear and tear on their hooves. This may include horses used for sports or extensive riding. In turn, they will need to be reshod more often to ensure good support, traction, and protection.
Horse’s hoof quality and health: Horses with weak hoof walls or more brittle hooves may need more frequent reshoeing to prevent hoof damage or lameness.
Seasonal changes: During spring, horses may experience more growth in their hooves than in the colder winter months. As a result, they may need to be reshod more often.
Farrier recommendation: Farriers are professionals who shoe horses to provide them with protection and support. These professionals can help to create the ideal reshoeing schedule for your horse based on its individual needs.
Horses with a high workload on hard ground will need their shoes replaced more often.
How The Reshoeing Process Works
The reshoeing process begins with having the farrier examine the hooves and evaluate the balance and movement of the horse. Typically, this involves observing the horse walk or trot and closely inspecting the foot.
Once the assessment is complete, the farrier will remove the old shoes and trim the hooves. Using special tools like hoof knives and nippers on the hoof capsule, the farrier will trim off sections of the outer hoof wall. Then, they will shape the sole and the frog, and file down the hoof for a smooth and even surface.
The correct shoes are then fitted onto the horse’s feet and hammered with nails into the hoof wall. These nails are important for grip and stability, which will keep the shoes in place. But don’t worry! The hoof wall doesn’t have any nerve endings, so this process won’t cause any pain to your horse.
Do horses need shoes?
Not all horses need shoes. And if you need any proof of that, look no further than wild horses who roam around barefoot all day long!
Still, some domesticated horses may benefit from the extra protection and support that shoes offer. This is particularly true for horses who have poor hoof health, who are exposed to different terrains, or who have higher workloads.
If you’re unsure of whether your horse needs shoes, you can consult a farrier for a professional assessment and advice.
Are there alternatives to traditional horseshoes?
Yes, there are some alternatives to traditional horseshoes. One of the most popular alternatives is barefoot trimming, where the hooves are regularly trimmed and shaped to maintain their natural form and function.
Another option is to use hoof boots, which are temporary protective coverings that can be worn when more support or protection is necessary. These boots can be removed when they’re not being used, allowing your horse to move more naturally.
Can I extend the lifespan of horseshoes?
Some horseshoes may wear down more quickly due to the workload of the horse or certain terrain. For example, hard, rocky terrain will wear out a horseshoe more quickly than the soft grass found in a pasture.
Of course, all horseshoes will eventually wear out and need replacing, but you can increase the lifespan of the shoes by using these easy tips:
Regularly inspect and maintain the shoes
Make sure to clean and pick out your horse’s hooves to prevent buildup, which can shorten the life of the shoes
Try and change your riding routes to avoid abrasive terrains
Always ensure that the shoes are properly fitted and of high-quality