Hoofcare / Shoeing

When I was shoeing I never put more than 4 nails in any shoe no matter what size of foot. The shoes I used were as thin as I can get away with and wide enough to take in the sole pressure as well as the wall. Also they had a rolled edge all the way around the ground surface. Any horse that I shod which subsequently changed to barefoot seemed to find the transition quite easy.

This method of shoeing produces feet that:

  • Have no cracks or flares.
  • Allow as much expansion and contraction as I believe is possible in a shod horse.
  • Allow a certain amount of sole callusing, but unfortunately did not assist in the eradication of white line separation at the quarters, and did very little to increase the density, size and efficiency of the frog and digital cushion. Although the addition of a tongued bar shoe often added stimulation.

I was trained as a farrier in the conventional way, believing that:

  1. Ridden horses are better off shod.
  2. Most hoof ailments are improved by the attachment of a surgical shoe, whether for laminitis, Sidebone, overreaching, brushing, cracked feet, tendon damage, soft soles, thin soles, collapsed heels, corns, abscesses and even muscle wastage.

I have successfully used surgical shoes for most of the above; however, I have also seen every one of those ailments caused by the shoeing itself!
Since studying the workings of the feral foot including nutrition and condition, it has totally changed my approach to my work; I now believe that we should be looking far more at what the feral horse’s foot can teach us about shoeing, trimming, and the natural healing process.

I do hope that before long a Farrier’s training will include a section on understanding how certain feral horses maintain trouble free feet, so that when qualified they will be in a position to offer other options to shoeing for those who want it.

As someone once said ‘If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’.

The 3 most deadly tools we farriers carry are: A knife, hoof trimmers, and a rasp.

They all remove hoof tissue - use them wisely! I go through as many wire brushes as rasps. As farriers we often find it easier to remove hoof tissue than to leave it, and we can worry more about the aesthetics of our work rather than the effect it has, to the extent that we are assessed on aesthetics, for example during examinations and competitions.

There will be a profession, not a craft (as farriers are currently labelled) involving putting something on the bottom of a horse’s foot for many years to come. In time the material may change, and the method of attachment may be different. Above all what ever is attached I am sure will gradually evolve to cause less impedance to the biomechanics of the equine digit.

I do believe the use of boots will get more and more popular in the UK as they are in the USA and Australia. With the advance in materials and fitting techniques, owners are finding it much easier to get the right boots for their horse.

I will always strive to keep a horse barefoot, but I am fully aware of the advantages some horses get from wearing boots, even if only periodically.

Shoeing came about because we wanted to keep our horses close to us, either in times of war, or as now, in times of leisure. In doing this we changed their environment and diet, and found their feet could not survive.

Hence for the shod horse, always the treatment never the cure.