The Importance of Farriery for Hoof Health
Proper horse hoof care is the foundation of a sound horse. This can be achieved with experienced equine farriery, along with routine veterinary care.
A well-functioning hoof is vital to your horse's wellbeing. Ongoing hoof care is needed due to the fact that they grow continuously, much like a human fingernail.
A qualified and experienced farrier will help ensure that your horse maintains the correct hoof balance with regular trimming and shoeing. This will prevent overloading structures in the limb and allow the hoof to function optimally.
To ensure the best horse hoof health possible, a collaboration between your farrier and equine vet will be necessary.
Horse Hoof Trimming
Trimming is an important step in hoof care. As mentioned above, the hoof is constantly growing, and trimming allows for the removal of the excess growth. If left untrimmed, the growth will cause an imbalance in the hoof, increasing the risk of injury.
Some of the issues that a horse may experience with untrimmed hooves include:
- Chips or cracks from extra length.
- Bruising or abscesses due to a weakened white line (where the inner hoof structure meets the outer wall).
- Flares (outward deformation) from the hoof wall separating.
Before beginning to trim, the farrier will assess the angle of the hoof to help ensure alignment once trimmed. They will use a variety of tools, including hoof knives, nippers, and rasps, to trim the hoof down to an ideal length.
Because the external structures of the hoof don’t have nerves or blood vessels, your horse will not be in any pain during this process. You should, however, seek the services of an experienced, professional farrier, as excessive trimming can have painful complications, including lameness.
Proper Shoeing for Horses
While horseshoes may have originally been invented to prevent workhorses from experiencing soreness from carrying heavy loads, the horseshoes of today are used to protect hoof health and provide traction in the environment.
Farriers also use shoeing as a method to help correct conformational problems, assist in injury rehabilitation, and, in some cases, improve performance.
What materials are used for shoes?
Two standard materials are most commonly used in the creation of horseshoes: steel and aluminum.
Most horses are fitted with traditional forged steel shoes. Aluminum is lightweight and is commonly used for racehorses.
Other, less traditional materials are still undergoing research and trials, like composites and fiberglass.
The Placement & Shape of Horse Shoes
The appropriate size, shape, and placement of the shoe are crucial for avoiding complications and injuries from shoeing.
The shape of the shoe should support the entire hoof wall and fit properly on the horse’s trimmed hoof.
When a shoe is the proper fit, the toe of the shoe should be directly below the front of the hoof wall. From the toe, the shoe should widen slightly and follow the contour of the hoof toward the heel.
This fit is designed to allow for the continued growth of the hoof.
Shoes can be designed to address many different concerns, such as hoof health, balance, weight and pressure distribution, and breakover point (the area at the toe that the horse pivots on and pushes from as the heel leaves the ground).
Hoof Pads for Added Support & Protection
Farriers can add pads to shoes to protect, cover, support, or elevate structures on the bottom of the hoof. These pads can also be used to spread the load bearing away from the hoof wall.
There are many different types of pads, each with a unique purpose. A few examples are wedge pads, which can raise the angle of the hoof to correct poor conformation or assist injury recovery, and leather and pour-in pads, which help to absorb shock and protect the sole from bruising.
The Difference Between Nails & Glue-On Shoes
Did you know that there is more than one type of shoe for horses? While you may frequently see horses with traditional nailed-on shoes, there are also glue-on shoes.
For nailed-on shoes, the farrier will place nails in the hoof wall no farther back than the hoof’s widest point. To be set correctly, these nails must be smoothly cinched in a line parallel to the ground and should not cause any pain.
If a horse experiences conditions such as laminitis, brittle walls, or thin soles, glue-on shoes may be a better option to help reduce pressure on the lamina and provide more comfort. These shoes are placed using epoxy adhesive.
What if your horse is sore after shoeing or trimming?
Regardless of the type of shoe that your horse has, they should not be sore after shoeing or trimming. If they are, our vets recommend contacting your farrier right away.
Some common reasons for soreness after a farrier visit could be a significant trimming or a hot nail (a nail that was placed into, or close to, the laminae inside the hoof).
If soreness after trimming or shoeing is common for your horse, you should contact your equine vet to schedule an examination and diagnostics to get to the root of the problem.
How can you prevent your horse from pulling off shoes?
Shoes aren't likely to fall off your horse if they are correctly placed and the hooves are healthy, but there are some ways that you can help ensure they stay on.
Along with controlled turnout and dry footing, you should have your horse on an appropriate trimming and shoeing schedule to prevent the shoes from becoming loose.
If your horse loses a shoe, you should wrap their foot right away and contact your farrier to have them tack the shoe back on.
What is the appropriate interval between farrier visits?
Farriers generally recommend having regular visits for shoeing or trimming every four to six weeks.
This helps to maintain hoof balance while promoting a consistent hoof-pastern axis and reducing the risk of soft tissue injury.
While this is a standard schedule, horses' hooves grow at different rates depending on age and a variety of other factors like exercise, season, footing, and climate.
Speak with your farrier to determine the trimming and shoeing schedule that will work best to maintain your horses' hoof health.
How Farrier-Vet Collaboration Helps to Prevent Lameness in Horses
Lameness management in horses is an area of health care that is critical to the well-being of these large animals. Having cohesive care from your equine vet and farrier can help ensure your horse stays sound.
While a veterinarian can provide diagnostics, lameness evaluations, and treatment recommendations, your farrier will then use this information and a visual evaluation of your horse's stance and gait to determine the action to take while providing hoof care.
Our skilled lameness clinicians use their years of skill and education to localize the source of lameness in horses in Ocala, across the state, and beyond.
During a lameness evaluation, our vets at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates will conduct a visual assessment of your horse at rest, evaluate conformation and balance, and look for any signs of injury or stress.
If you have any questions about your horse's hoof care needs, speak with your equine vet or farrier.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please contact your vet.