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Do Horses Need Shoes?


horse hoovesThe best way to answer the question of shoeing your horse is to first understand why we deal with horses' feet to begin with. Much like we rely on our human feet, horses spend nearly all their time standing, walking and running on theirs. Their hooves must be kept trimmed back just like our toenails, and if shoed, the shoes must fit properly and sit well on the feet. Imagine that you have allowed your toenails to grow out about an inch and then tried to shove your feet into shoes a size to small. Now imaging walking like that and you can somewhat understand why hoof care is so important.

Even if you do not shoe your horses, you must clip and file their hooves. Hooves that are allowed to go unclipped can become brittle, like our toenails, and break or crack. This can cause your horse to become lame and make it very painful for them to walk. A lame horse with bad feet can develop balance and spine problems. In the wild, these things would have happened naturally as the horses moved from terrain to terrain, but in captivity it is up to you, the owner, to make sure your horse is cared for. Remember! Proper hoof care is just as important for horses as proper foot care is for you.

So how do you go about finding out if shoeing your horses hooves is the best decision for your horse? Begin by finding a farrier that will examine your horse from a foal and help you decide, based on what the intended purpose of your horse is, whether shoeing is right for your horse. Breeding is beginning to affect the quality of horse hooves and while most breeders are busy focusing on the look of the horse, many are forgetting that the look is lost if the horse can't walk in its later years. What natural selection may have bred out on its own, horses are continuing to pass down through poor breeding programs.

If you plan to work your horses, chances are that you will be shoeing your horses for their protection. Your horses will need to have their hooves trimmed every six weeks and that is an excellent opportunity to speak with your farrier about how its hooves are doing and whether or not shoeing an otherwise un-shoed horse is a good idea. Let your farrier know what you plan to do so that he or she can give your horse the right shoes for the job. It is important that owners understand that shoeing a horse does not stop the hooves from growing, nor does it mean you can fore-go that six week trimming. Doing so can cause your horse to go lame.

If your horse is not a work horse, has tough and smooth hooves that don't get too long or deformed and your activities otherwise don't require special shoes (for example taking a rocky trail rather than a grassy one), then it is quite possible your farrier will tell you that your horse can go barefoot. Shoes do come with drawbacks such as extra cleaning, they can get caught on things, and it is even less fun to be kicked by a shoed hoof than an un-shod hoof, but only you and your farrier can make the best decision for your horse.


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