Why do horses actually need horseshoes? We people have so many options when it comes to shoeing our feet. We can wear special shoes for when we’re walking, running, and hiking. Bowling, football, golf, tennis, baseball, basketball – you name the sport, and there’s a shoe for that. There are little shoes for newborns and big shoes for the giants among us. There are shoes that offer extra support throughout the workday, and there are shoes that are for nothing but style. Shoes offer protection, and they help us move.
Sometimes they don’t fit right and cause us to stumble or develop sores. Shoes wear out and need to be replaced, and that can be costly. With all the shoes that are available, there are still some people who prefer to go barefoot. No matter what, if your foot gets hurt or develops a problem, you won’t feel much like walking. Much of the same can be said about shoes and feet when it comes to horses.
There are many options when it comes to shoeing a horse; however, there are some owners who prefer to leave their horses barefoot. So many factors should be considered before you decide to shoe your horse. Knowing the pros and cons that a horseshoe will bring can help you make the right decision for your particular horse.
Why do Horses need Horseshoes?
A horseshoe offers added protection to the horn of the hoof. All feet endure stress and depending on what your horse does on an average day will help you determine whether or not your horse will benefit from shoes. Does your horse pull a carriage on pavement regularly? Is it hiking through hot sand on a Florida beach? Will it need to gallop across the desert floor or trudge through snow? Maybe your horse is a large breed; maybe it is overweight.
Horseshoes can help protect the horn from harsh environments and the repetitive shock of the hoof striking the ground. They can help keep the horn from cracking and the sole from bruising. Just as with the different shoe options available to humans, horseshoes come in many different types for the variety of disciplines for which a horse can be used. When they were wild, horses didn’t require this protection. The ancestor of today’s horse didn’t cover much territory. They primarily moved to forage for food or to flee from danger.
You may have a horse that doesn’t cover much territory daily. Perhaps you have an older animal that roams a lush pasture every day. Horses such as these may not benefit from horseshoes. A regular trim to the horn every month or a Hoof and Coat Formula may be all they require.
What are Horseshoes for?
Some choose to shoe their horses because they feel that the horseshoe allows the horse optimal traction. On the other hand, some leave their horses barefoot because they feel a horse has the best proprioception when it is left barefoot. Their theory suggests that without shoes, the horse has a greater awareness of the way each of its feet is positioned as it moves across a terrain. How well the horseshoe works also depends on how good of a job the farrier does in affixing the shoe to the horn.
The Importance of a Farrier
For this job to be done, the farrier first trims the horn, cleans out the hoof, and levels off the edges of the horn. This in itself takes great skill as the farrier must know how to hold each of the horse’s legs to do this and how to use special equipment for the job. An even greater skill is required to adeptly choose the right horseshoe for the size of the horse and for its use or discipline. Horseshoes can be made from a variety of materials including plastic, steel, and aluminum.
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The farrier has been trained to reshape new shoes to properly fit an individual hoof. The farrier must also know how to drive the nails through the horn to fasten the shoe to it. One drawback to shoeing a horse is the expense. The horseshoes must be replaced every four to six weeks. A good farrier may cost a great deal but saving money by hiring cheap help or doing it yourself may result in a poorly fit horseshoe that could cause problems such as stumbling, bruised heels, corns, or worse. Horseshoes that don’t fit correctly can cause lameness, but lameness can also occur in a barefoot horse that sustains an injury to its foot.
Meet with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns for your horse’s foot health. Having a good farrier and vet on your side will assist you in making the right decision for your horse. As you care for your horse, be sure to make an inspection of the feet part of your daily routine. Getting into the habit of cleaning out each foot on a regular basis will make it so that you quickly notice the first sign of a problem.