Why do horses need shoes? Thoughts.

only_me

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Although being sat at some of these fences and having a shoe fly past your head I would be quite concerned about.

It's also easier on my bank balance ;) :D
No disagreement on the bank balance, but will admit being concerned about a shoe sailing past your head as you jump the vicarage eve would be the last thing on my mind :p
Have to say in 20 odd years of riding shod horses I don't think I've ever had or ever heard of a shoe flying past someone's head while mid air on a jump! :D
 

Cheeky Chestnut

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No disagreement on the bank balance, but will admit being concerned about a shoe sailing past your head as you jump the vicarage eve would be the last thing on my mind :p
Have to say in 20 odd years of riding shod horses I don't think I've ever had or ever heard of a shoe flying past someone's head while mid air on a jump! :D
Ive seen a few as a spectator, was actually quite worrying :) which was how I wrote the post, having seen slips and falls with a set of shoes and studs on I'm not 100% convinced they are the only option but I still don't think they should be required jumping big on a surface or at high level flat work which is always done on a surface.
 

DabDab

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Why did we start putting shoes on horses? Well because that's what humans are brilliant at - using our intuition to engineer the natural world around us to better suit our needs.
Shoes take a lot of the variation and chance out of working horses - you in effect only have to condition a horse's feet to work on smooth, stable metal, which is far easier than conditioning for a variety of different surfaces. The analgesic effect of the nails and lifting the sole off the immediate ground mean that sensitivities heightened by a less than perfect diet no longer impact the work a horse can do. And then there is the added bonus that metal doesn't chip or and wears at a predictable rate.

However, in this day and age and considering what most people use their horses for, there is only one reason I can find that a horse would need shoes, and that is to put studs into. XC above about BE90 is a bit hairy without studs. But shoes can still be used to make the rest of life 'easier' I suppose.

I think that the notion of a horseshoe is actually not a bad one, but steel plates and nails is just a bit of an outdated way of doing it, and nobody has invented a decent alternative yet.
 

matt_m

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Why do horses need shoes - I thought this question has been answered long ago; they don't.

My main concern with shoes is that they take away the shock absorption ability of the hoof, particularly when on hard surfaces such as tarmac. This surely must have an adverse affect on joints throughout the body a simple understanding of physics would suggest. If you were wearing metal plates attached to the bottoms of your shoes and jumped up and down it would jar your body on impact.
 

Hoof_Prints

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I used to have all of mine barefoot, purely because it is better for their legs regarding concussion and shockwaves. I even hunted two barefoot for a while, but their feet were not standing up to the work so now they are all fully shod. I tried team chasing one barefoot and ended up having a very nasty slip behind so I needed the stud holes. I feed a typical "barefoot diet" and they have great feet, but stones chipping caused cracks and some of my ponies were going "footy" on stony ground. I now have one barefoot who has never had shoes, he is only 4 and hacks over all ground fine so far.. I only shoe if I must !
 

FfionWinnie

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But there is no rule to say you can't compete a horse unshod - it's just unusual at high levels. You can't wear hoof boots, that is a rule in some, but the horse can compete without shoes. At high levels competing the risks are higher, the stakes are higher, the cost of training is higher - one slip and you could be out! so you want to minimise any potential risk you can and having shoes on helps with that as can put studs in to suit ground.

Your horse may slip less, but some may slip more, hence why being unshod works for some and not for others. At 1.60m or coming into the vicarage see at badminton I'd want to be very sure the risk of slipping is at it's minimum! Will still happen regardless, but studs will reduce risk.
There was a situation I think at Blair Horse trials where a horse was chucked out of the ring because the judge wouldn't ride it. That's my memory which could be wrong but it was reported in the media at the time. Think it was a hunter possibly.
 

Dubsie

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horses feet wear down with work. if they do more work than their feet can cope with they need some help. that's either shoes or boots. I've seen barefoot horses struggling because they are doing too much and shod horses who don't need shoes, it depends on the horse, the weather, the terrain and the work.
Definitely this, one native pony my daughter used to ride had to have shoes with a certain level of work or got footy, the other native his hooves were hard as nails and was essentially self-trimming, the farrier almost never trimmed his from March to November, both ponies did lots of road work/hacking.
 

amandaco2

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ive shod mine. for grip when doing competing on grass. until the previously shod horse got a better shape to her feet, she slipped on grass. she has shoes off in winter when she was just hacking, the next summer she didn't slip at all.
she had shoes on in summer for 3 months last yr after 4 yrs BF as she was very footsore and I couldn't get her comfy.
my other mare who never had shoes on until she started jumping xc on grass last yr- she was slipping and losing confidence. she had them on for 9 weeks and was footy after they came off- 9 yrs of BF and she was sore when the shoes came off after 9 weeks....hoping not to use them again.....
 

Zipzop

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I will never get my head around the fact that a horse is born into this world completely naturally - no shoes, no metal.
Then we come along with our infinite wisdom and decide that it can't function in our world without having metal nailed onto its feet and then for the rest of its days being expected to walk around on metal plates.
Metal - of all things. Unyeilding, concussive and unforgiving. We don't run around in metal shoes for good reason, but it's not questioned when we put our horses through that.
Quite frankly it's barbaric. Who the hell do we think we are?
 

DabDab

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I will never get my head around the fact that a horse is born into this world completely naturally - no shoes, no metal.
Then we come along with our infinite wisdom and decide that it can't function in our world without having metal nailed onto its feet and then for the rest of its days being expected to walk around on metal plates.
Metal - of all things. Unyeilding, concussive and unforgiving. We don't run around in metal shoes for good reason, but it's not questioned when we put our horses through that.
Quite frankly it's barbaric. Who the hell do we think we are?
Haha, I'm the same.....there's something very Victorian about it - nailing bits of metal to an animal's anatomy to suit our purposes.
 

huskydamage

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A necessary evil for some horses I think.
however I did know someone with multiple horses who were not in work at all and just went from stable to field. All had full set of shoes, seemed like a total waste of money to me. That I don't get at all
 

Zipzop

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Haha, I'm the same.....there's something very Victorian about it - nailing bits of metal to an animal's anatomy to suit our purposes.
Yes quite! It's the old, very dangerous saying 'it's always been done that way', and we just carry on. Just because it was started when we didn't know any better doesn't mean it is ethical or right.
 

pansymouse

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I go with what my farrier recommends; he says my mare doesn't need shoes so she doesn't have them; if he thought she needed them she would have. He's the expert, I trust his judgement. The mare is an active riding horse but I do not compete so don't have to comply with any blanket rulings.
 

scats

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We've tried to get my sports horse barefoot, but he just can't cope. It would make life so much easier as he is a bit of a pain at keeping shoes on, but he can't even walk on soft ground without being crippled.

We tried waiting until soft winter conditions, using hoof boots to get him to and from field etc, but to no avail.

So he has fronts on.
My mare is barefoot and will stay that way if she can.

One size doesn't fit all is a rather apt expression for this topic.
 

Gloi

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Neither of mine are shod. One has feet like concrete and nothing bothers him, so easy, I wish they were all like him. The other doesn't move straight and wears his feet unevenly and hasn't the best feet so I boot him for anything beyond short rides. He was shod in the past but that further weakened his feet and the walls were constantly breaking up. His feet though still not the best are much improved since we stopped shoeing him.
 
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Sukistokes2

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When I had my first pony it was practically unheard of not to have a horse shod, you'd get looked at funny like. It never occurred to me not to shoe my young horses when they got to four. It's what you did. Now maybe we are more enlightened, my last youngster was never shod, never will be, because he will never need them. If his young rider wants to do XC she can invest in boots! He is a traditional so she's never going to go that high anyhow. I've taken my Clyde barefoot because my farrier thought it was the best route for him. There are disadvantages, crossing a wet clay field barefoot is like dicing with death !! However, while I do think it's well worth considering, dismissing shoes as coming from the dark ages, is almost like being as blind as we were back in the the olden days. They have there place and there use and to go for something, all or nothing, is not an enlightened it's really rather condescending. Everyone is entitled to their views and entitled to follow their beliefs but not to assume that anyone who does not totally agree is completely wrong and barking up the wrong tree.
 

Coblover63

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I do think that ponies and horses that have never been shod cope better. Once they have had shoes on, a lot of them will have trouble reverting, even with the right management and correct conditioning.
 

Goldenstar

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I do think that ponies and horses that have never been shod cope better. Once they have had shoes on, a lot of them will have trouble reverting, even with the right management and correct conditioning.
Not always IME one of mine goes in and out of shoes with no problems at all .
 

Mrs B

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Some do. Some don't.

It really is as simple as that. When it comes to the individual, the final outcome can be bog all to do with what diet, what routine, what soil type, what forage, what supplements, what farrier, what work level etc

And to insist it does merely makes some owners feel guilty when their horse can't be comfortable without shoes.

We've interfered so much in the breeding of horses that what works and makes a 'rock-cruncher' - bloody hate that phrase! - out of some, hasn't a snowball-in-hell's chance of working for another. Simply put, if in the wild if your genes mean you can't run fast enough to escape a predator because your feet are sore, you don't procreate.

If your feet are hard enough to run fast enough over all terrain to escape, you live to breed another generation.

As in everything with horses, you can start from the same point if you wish with 'no shoes' but in the end, you have to work with the animal in front of you.
 

paddy555

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Having had a number of unbroken horses, I would say that a primary reason why it became the norm to shoe is that the young stock don't have enough movement/foot stimulation. Then they are broken at three or four, suddenly asked to work the feet and they aren't ready for work. They go footsore, they are shod, soreness goes, hey presto the horse needed shoes, didn't it?


It's very chicken and egg. People shoe youngsters in order to be able to work them. But feet need work in order to perform without shoes on.
to a point yes but it is not the end of the story. Food also comes into it. The same horse will be quite sound doing a lot of mileage as a 2 yo. Much of his grub will be going into growth. As his growth slows (as he matures) his need for feed for growth becomes less but many are still fed the same plus many horses are broken in spring of their 3rd or 4th year just when the grass is coming through. Especially in their 4th year when riding really starts they need serious feed adjustment. A year later when they can do the mileage it doesn't matter so much but at 4 they are probably limited in their mileage plus even more limited by how far they can go at that stage of breaking. Plus the fact it is probably road or track work which is more wearing on the hoof rather than open fields/common with soft going. I think some of these would do better if they could go onto a track with restricted grass at 3 for a couple of years until they can do the work to keep the weight off. Booting also helps (in conjunction with some barefoot to get the feed conditioned) That way the mileage can be increased so the horse can be worked but the barefeet can progress gradually until they are ready to perform fully bare.
 

Equi

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Well for the first time since i have had him, i put the back shoes on. For those who don't know, he was xrayed and found a very small outgrowth on his RH which was making it uncomfrotable for him to put his leg under, hence he would not canter in the correct canter lead. That was fine, we just never did it from then on. Today, he went into the arena for a run about after farrier had been and for the first few canters he was unbalanced, disunited all the usual stuff. Then he went..did a little buck and corrected himself...and went into a beautiful and CORRECT canter. Back to trot and then struck off correctly from the off. This may be a fluke, he might have just did it by mistake, but until i ride i wont know. On one hand if he has been able to be "fixed" as much as he can be by one shoe, ill kick myself for not getting them sooner on the other hand i will be ecstatic. Time will tell.
 
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dozzie

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This is really interesting as I have been thinking about this myself. I am of the old school where you had them shod every six weeks all round to cope with road work. Maybe I am of the generation where people had shoes put on and left on for 3-4 months or more. Honestly, it happened. So shod every 6 weeks was better. We had it drummed in that shoes were a must and every 6 weeks was essential. I now find myself questioning this. My mare has shoes and is shod every six weeks and occasionally hacks out. My pony is unshod. She is a field ornament. My youngster is shod in front and the only reason I can see to shoe her behind is if I need to sell her. I keep her shod in front as I need to use stony tracks.
 

Equi

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This is really interesting as I have been thinking about this myself. I am of the old school where you had them shod every six weeks all round to cope with road work. Maybe I am of the generation where people had shoes put on and left on for 3-4 months or more. Honestly, it happened. So shod every 6 weeks was better. We had it drummed in that shoes were a must and every 6 weeks was essential. I now find myself questioning this. My mare has shoes and is shod every six weeks and occasionally hacks out. My pony is unshod. She is a field ornament. My youngster is shod in front and the only reason I can see to shoe her behind is if I need to sell her. I keep her shod in front as I need to use stony tracks.
I think farriers love someone who shoes every 6 weeks lol but i don't think every horse needs it. Maybe some that are worked really hard and on the road, or racers etc but I have had them long enough to know when they DO need it, but its definitely not every six weeks.
 
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I will just agree with the earlier poster way back who took a shoe holiday. If you can, do. Agree its all about the horse, terrain, work etc but if you can do a 3 month break every couple of years or so, it really can improve their overall strength and hoof and frog health. Just dont think its a whole 'breast is best issue'. It isnt, some really cant cope at all unshod, so whatever is best for your horse goes.
 

Merrymoles

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Most horses have a miniscule workload now compared to horses in history. I believe that even the Romans shod horses who were doing long distances day after day. However, we now have more options as workloads have decreased, we don't rely on our horses to earn their keep in the same way and most of us have the luxury of being able to not to have to work a horse with an issue.

Our little DIY yard is owned by a farrier who is definitely not a "shoe at all costs" man and is far more interested in what is best for the individual horse. Mine, an Irish cob, is usually shod in front to cope with the stony tracks around us and, having been there for three years, I expect he will probably want shoeing in front again this summer but will wait and see. His fronts are off for the winter and it is fascinating to see the contrast between his rock-hard back feet and the way the fronts are flaking etc as they adapt - we are doing a minimal amount of school and roadwork but he is still working regularly.

His Irish draught fieldmate has always had dreadful feet and has had remedial shoes for the past two years to address a tendon issue. Our farrier suggested taking the lot off for the winter to see if he could cope for a few weeks and that would mean he had some hoof to nail into when it was time to increase his workload. He is "footy" on the stony part of the yard and in the gateways which have been stoned but is coping remarkably well with the roadwork - sound on the road and with no sign of any tendon soreness either.

However, his owner can decide not to work him if he is sore or to have him shod if felt necessary.

They are both due for trimming in a couple of weeks (or more a look by the farrier to see how he thinks they are faring) so will await his thoughts with interest, particularly for fieldmate.
 
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