Why Do Horses Need Shoes?

Posted by Christy Caplan
Horse Shoes

Each horse is different and has different needs. The best explanation for why horses need shoes is that horse hooves are sort of like your fingernails. Farriers (horse experts that put shoes on a horse) have to trim a horse's hooves so they don't grow too long and get injured. The metal horseshoes are there to protect the horse's hooves.  

Check out this YouTube video as the brief explanation provided is easy to follow.

What is a farrier?

Who exactly puts on the shoes? The farrier is responsible for making sure those hooves stay healthy.

AnimalsSmart.org explains what a farrier is for those of us that don't own horses!

"A person called afarrieruses small nails to hold the shoe on the hoof. These nails do not hurt the horse. The nails go into a tough part of the hoof where the horse can't feel them.

When a horse has shoes on, we say it is shod."

Farriers and other experts at Horse and Hounds tell us why horses should either go barefoot or not! Remember that all horses don't need shoes.

1. Balance issues 

The bottom line is if your horse has balance issues it would benefit from being shod.

"Conformational imbalances can be made significantly worse if the hoof capsule is not supported and balanced correctly. Assessment of the static conformation and dynamic foot flight is imperative in order to maintain the stability of the foot. This should be assessed regularly and addressed accordingly."

Horses can lose shoes so if balance is an issue you must check that they stay on.

2. Poor foot growth

What are you feeding your horse? Common reasons for a lack of growth can include an imbalanced foot or even a poor diet. Poor growth will likely result in a decreased ability to withstand concussive forces, particularly on hard ground. Experts confirm that this is a major reason a horse may need shoes.  

3. Age

Age is a factor too but it's not what you might think. Very young horses have a degree of 'plasticity' to their hoof capsule, which can be beneficial when trying to correct anatomical deformities. 

4. The weight of a horse

Some additional knowledge, for this reason, is needed. Hooves are designed to bear horses' weight and provide for comfortable mobility.

"They expand and contract as they contact and leave the ground, absorbing shock and distributing the bodyweight evenly. The external structures also work together to provide traction and protect more sensitive internal structures." 

A lightweight pony clearly won't have the same issues as a heavy breed on hard ground.

5. To correct a problem or disease (lame)

Horses with arthritis, laminitis or ringbone typically require shoes.

Practical Horseman Mag explains, "When you get into lameness issues and diseases, certain materials and types of shoes may be beneficial because the mechanical structures of the hoof aren't intact to deal with the problem."

Horses that are out on pasture don't necessarily need shoes. Many horse owners say barefoot is best.

So shoeing has its pros and cons. A horse's hoof is complicated and horseshoeing is an art and science according to most farriers. Wild horses don't wear shoes so many make the argument that barefoot makes the most sense.

Whichever direction you go it's all about horse care and hoof problems can literally kill a horse. Defer to the farrier about your horse's foot and what's best. If your horse simply needs shoes then work through the options when it comes to hoof care with the experts!

Do you agree with these five reasons listed above? Did we miss any major reasons?

Does your horse wear shoes? Share your thoughts below.

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Why Do Horses Need Shoes?