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The World Of Horseshoeing 

So having discussed the world of hoof trimming it seems only fair to say something about horseshoes. Since coming to Canada almost 4 years ago and coming from a racetrack world (where different shoes really matter) I’ve been amazed at the way horse owners and trainers here still have hand-made heavy concave-rim shoes or ready made similar shoes (called Baker shoes named after the company who’s made them since 1850) fitted to nearly all their horses. Back in the UK or in the USA these heavy shoes are not in such common use and it made me wonder if owners and trainers were aware of the alternatives.

I do believe that all farriers should be able to make horseshoes and when I trained we made all the shoes we used. You need this knowledge in order to modify ready made shoes. But as we are in the 21st Century and horseshoe design has come a long way since 1850, why would you put these heavy shoes on a horse today. To make a stark comparison even the Amish in the States use modern horseshoes.

Like the shoes we ourselves wear there are a whole range of specialist horseshoes available for our horses depending on what use the horse is being put to. In the same way that you wouldn’t put on a pair of steel toed work boots to go play soccer or run a 100m sprint why would you do that to your horse? Companies have teams of engineers spending years designing shoes to enable horses to perform better and last longer. With this technology available why would anyone not want to make use of it? With modern factory methods new horseshoes are forged thinner and lighter but stronger than handmades giving the traction needed without weight. And while it is true that handmade shoes can be made to incorporate heels, rolled toes and endless variations, they cannot compare for weight, thickness and sheer machine finish of the modern factory produced horseshoe. 

These horseshoes come in a range of sizes and require modification to fit each horse. The different styles are designed specifically to meet the demands of the different uses the horse is being put to with variations in weight, traction, breakover, and support.

The photo shows the difference in thickness between a Rim shoe, a Polo shoe and a Handmade/Baker shoe. No wonder these shoes can be refitted after 6 or 8 weeks.

So how to decide which shoe is best for your horse. Here are some general suggestions. Inevitably it depends on the individual horse as to which shoes work best.

Eventer shoe  and Eventer shoe with studs

Show Jumping/Eventing/CrossCountry: Safe successful jumping needs traction and support. Shoes that provide a powerful take off and a safe landing are vital. Eventer shoes are designed with this in mind. They are wide to give support, have an even quick breakover from a rolled toe all round and good heel support for landings while keeping the weight to a minimum. They are ideal for fitting studs to.

Eventer shoe 

Concorde shoe

Dressage: With the need for a range of movements and balance in this discipline I would go either with Eventer shoes or on occasion Concorde shoes. Both are light with a traction groove all round. The Eventers come with a rolled toe all round and are wider than the Concordes. The Concordes are lighter. It really depends on the individual horses feet and movement which is more suitable.

Heeled shoe 

Polo shoe

Barrel Racing: Want to shave some seconds off your time? The combination of Polo shoes on the fronts and Heeled shoes on the hinds will bring your time down. The Polo shoes make for a quick breakover with a raised inner rim providing extra traction for sharp turns. The Heeled shoes dig in for extra power in and coming out of sharp turns adding to your acceleration.

Polo: If you have a polo pony you need Polo shoes. The raised inner rim and light construction allow the horse to manouvre much more easily without losing footing. These horses are used hard and heavier shoes will be one more factor that shortens a polo pony's useful life.

Rim shoe 

Plain shoe

Trail riding: Depending on the trails you are on Rim shoes give all the same traction and wear that a heavy concave-rim gives but with a slightly rolled toe and half the weight. For rockier trails Plain pattern shoes give more of steel surface to the ground affording better wear without the need to use a heavier shoe.


Synthetic Horseshoes
So much for an introduction to modern steel shoes. There are hundreds of others on the market but most are a variation on these themes. If you really want to treat your horse to 21st century technology synthetic(plastic) horseshoes are the next best thing to going barefoot. For those horses who DO need to wear shoes this is can be the compromise you are looking for.

Some farriers see these synthetic (plastic) horseshoes as only for therapeutic use but they are used by Olympic jumpers and eventers at the highest levels because they keep hard working horses sound.

Shocks and vibration caused by metal shoes are cumulative over time and the damage may not be immediately apparent. Health care of a horse is no different from that of a human and prevention is always the best cure. Try hitting a metal shoe with a hammer, then try hitting a synthetic shoe with a hammer.  Feel the difference?  The synthetic shoe acts as a shock absorber for your horse.  This is important for horses on hard ground, rocks, or endurance or street use or for older horse with upper limb issues.

And unlike metal shoes, which restrict and impede the hoof from flexing, synthetic shoes allow the whole hoof to flex, much like a barefoot horse.  Research shows that this aids in pumping blood and yields a healthier foot.

When a horse is barefoot, the frog will always have ground contact and bear a substantial share of the load. This helps to ensure proper blood circulation and nerve development in the feet. If the frog has no ground contact, as when using U-shaped standard horseshoes, the function of the frog is reduced, often to zero. Over time this can result in a reduction in the size of the frog and can eventually lead to other heel and foot problems: contracted heels, flat feet, remodeling of the pedal bone, and a deteriorated digital cushion. As with a barefoot horse, the synthetic shoe lets the frog contact and bear some weight. In addition, the bridge at the heels gives the shoe stability when using studs for show jumping or other disciplines.

Easywalker horseshoes are probably the most popular synthetic horseshoes on the market today. Years of research and development in Europe led to their unique composite construction making them like “running shoes for horses”. 

The shoes come with rocker toes and toe and side clips to let them be used competitively. They can be fitted with studs and are excellent for jumping or dressage. Horses seem to like the incredible lightness of these shoes and cushioning effect they give. They can be nailed like an ordinary shoe or glued on if hoof wall quality is a problem and stabilised with just 2 or 3 nails-half the nail damage. And of course they even come in a choice of colors.

The EponaShoe was also designed to be nailed like a conventional shoe, or like the Easywalkers when you like to avoid the nail damage to the hoof wall, you can choose the glue option.

Again much lighter than metal shoes, the EponaShoe is a good compromise between the natural barefoot horse and wearing shoes.  It's light weight means that the horse moves with more natural biomechanics and the Eponashoe can be shaped with a mustang roll by the farrier to emulate barefoot. Good shoe for trail riding and older horses with sensitive feet or hip, shoulder or stifle problems.

So the modern world of horseshoeing can be a bit more complicated than one shoe fits all. It's not just racehorses that deserve special shoes, all our horses can have shoes that help then perform better and hopefully extend their useful life.

In writing this I'd like to help owners be more aware of the horseshoes 
they are paying for and help them to ask more questions about the shoes that they are putting on their horses. Always tell your farrier what you use your horse for and where you ride it and make him/her aware of any horse’s health history so we can make sure you get the shoes you need to get the best and longest use out of your horse.

(Note that no information given on this website should be considered
a substitute for consulting your veterinarian or farrier)

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