Horse Shoeing

In his natural environment, on soft grassy plains, the horse’s foot serves him well. It grows sufficiently to replace the horn worn down by daily wear and tear and provides enough grip for him to move about quite freely at all his natural paces. When he is domesticated and trained as a riding or draught horse, he is subjected to unnatural strains which, without precautions being taken, will result in damage to the foot and possibly other parts of the body. Shoeing was first practiced by the Romans some two thousand years ago. Whilst many attempts have been made to improve this practice over the years, none have been successful. Today the principle of shoeing the horse is little changed from Roman times.

The horse is shod for three basic reasons:

  • 1. To protect the foot from the unnatural wear and tear put upon it when the horse is ridden.
  • 2. To improve the grip on the ground, rather like running spikes or the studs in football boots.
  • 3. For surgical reasons. The skilled farriery, in conjunction with the veterinary surgeon, can shoe the horse to relieve some injuries or deformities that would otherwise detract from his usefulness.

All furriers are required to serve a four-year apprenticeship and to pass an examination for the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Furriers. Shoeing horses is an extremely skilled craft and should be attempted only by those who are experienced and qualified. A well-shod horse is the result of cooperation between the farriery, who brings his skill, and the owner, who trains the horse to stand quietly whilst being shod and provides a clean,well-lit area in which the farriery can work.

Horses usually need shoeing about every four to six weeks. If at the end of this time, the shoe is not worn out the horse will almost certainly require a ‘remove’, die the shoe removed, the foot trimmed back and the old shoe replaced. A horse needs to be shod if the shoe is worn out or loose; the clenches have risen; the foot has grown too long; or the shoe has sprung or twisted.

A well-shod foot will show the following characteristics:

  • 1. The shoe must be the correct design and the appropriate weight for the animal.
  • 2. The shoe must be made to fit the foot. the foot must never be rasped down to fit the shoe. This is called ‘dumping’ and is assigned to really bad workmanship. None of the soles may he cut away by the farriery, or any of the frog other than the part which is rotten or hanging off.
  • 3. The heels of the shoes must be neither too long nor too short: too long and they risk being trodden on and pulled off; too short and the bearing surface of the foot on the shoe is reduced, with the possibility that corns will be made by the heels of the shoes digging into the ‘seat of corn’.
  • 4. The feet should be level.
  • 5. Clean nail holes, evenly spaced between the toes and the quarters, should emerge in a straight line a third of the way up the wall of the hoof. There are usually three nails on the inside and four on the outside. They should be turned into strong clenches and rasped smoothly.
  • 6. The bearing surface must be regular between the foot and the shoe, and no daylight should show between the two.
  • 7. Toe clips on the fore shoe and quarter clips on the hind shoe should be bedded into the wall and fit flush. The shoe should appear to be a regular extension of the foot.
  • 8. Above all, the comfort and natural movement of the horse are paramount. The shoe is fitted to make his life easier and must never pinch or cause discomfort.

Horseshoes come in many different shapes and sizes, designed to suit a variety of animals and the various types of work that they are required to do.

Normally the hunter, the child’s pony, the hack, and the competition horse are fitted with the ‘hunter’ shoe. This is a fairly lightweight shoe made from faltered iron to improve the grip.

The hind shoe may be fitted with a ‘wedge heel and calking’ which helps the horse to keep his footing. Modern shoes are usually machine-made and are adjusted by the farriery to fit the individual horse. Most skilled furriers are, however, capable of making a setoff shoes from the basic iron bar. ‘Hot’ shoeing is to be preferred to ‘cold’ shoeing as it gives the farriery much more opportunity to adjust the size of the shoe and to burn it onto the foot thereby ensuring that it is well seated.

Various studs can be fitted to the horseshoe to improve the grip for competition riding. The farriery should be notified if the shoes are required to be ‘tapped’ for screw-in studs. A small permanent stud of the `Mora’ variety can be fitted to the shoe, which is useful when the horse is required to work a lot on the road.

See more: Horse Shampoo

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