Most people think the shoes that horses wear are very strong, they usually are. Horseshoes are very flexible and made from extremely hard skin. Most horse owners are aware of the importance of horseshoes on the health of their horses but not everyone knows their benefits.
So why do horses wear horseshoes? As mentioned, horseshoes help to protect the sole of the foot of the horse. The horse foot is often described as a misunderstood, often abused part of a domestic horse. A typical horse hoof comprises of the wall, frog and the sole.
The purpose of the sole and frog is to help the horse walk or trot easily. The frog is key to helping pump blood directly into the microvessels of the entire tissues and tendons in the foot.
When your horse is given a shoe to put on, the hoof is typically preventing it from sagging. The foot can only get the required micronutrient from the foot tissue microvessels when the horse moves around and circulation is created.
With a balanced foot, your horses will enjoy healthy feet. The foot of a horse is said to be balanced when the sole of the foot is level and flat while the toe is inclined with the coffin. Your horse will enjoy perfect balance and its feet will remain healthy.
However, if the horse is forced to walk in an unbalanced foot, it will affect its movement negatively and result in shoulder and back pain as well as inclined shins and tendons.
Getting a good farrier who understands the essence of balanced feet is easier than attempting to keep a sick horse.
Most riders believe that horses walking barefoot have no problems, especially when they are balanced and maintained properly. Cowboys designed horseshoes to avoid getting the foot-worn out after walking extremely long distances on rough roads.
Another popular practice is the use of horseshoes to help correct imbalances of the foot. But the truth is that if the foot is balanced properly, you have nothing to worry about.
You do need to be properly trained to put on a horseshoe on your horse – having a prefect horseshoe size is not just enough, you have to understand the fit and the function of the horseshoe and the impact of its feet to its movement.
So a certain level of knowledge is required to properly shoe a horse. This is typically what a farrier would do, but they usually need at least four years apprenticeship or even more.
How to Shoe a Horse
- Straighten the claws: The claws are the bent nails around the hoof wall. Hammer and a pad are used to straighten them. Pliers can be used to remove the shoe.
- Use a grater to level the hoof’s surface: The growth of horse hooves is similar to our nails, so always use hoof cutters to cut excess growth. Lastly, use a drawing knife to cut out shredded pieces of the frog and the sole. The horse wouldn’t feel any pains – it’s similar to cutting our nails. At this point, the horse is ready for the shoe.
- Hot or cold shoeing should be considered: Use accurate measurement and ensure the shoe is made off-site using cold shoeing. Remember, you can only make very small adjustments to the cold shoe. The most versatile and common is the hot shoe. The farrier can either wear straight pieces or a range of horseshoes with various sizes, which is shaped with the horse foot. Hot shoeing makes it possible to accurately shape the shoe at the foot.
To do this, the shoe has to be positioned in the forge until the metal becomes extremely hot. The claw is held with the use of a pritchel against the hoof’s surface. This typically looks dramatic when seen for the first time because the hot steam and smoke escape directly from the shoe, filling the air with a burning smell. However, the horse would not be harmed.
There will be a sight burn on the foot to indicate the actual point the change is to be made, and the shoe will be removed by the farrier, who will then have it shaped on an anvil. This will be a repeated process until the adjustment process is fulfilled. If the farrier is satisfied with the adjustment, the horseshoe will be immersed in a cold water budget.
The shoe can now be attached to the horse’s foot. Usually, nails are used to attach the horse’s foot, as much as seven, but the condition of the hoof will determine the amount needed. The farrier drives the nail in so as to ensure it is tilted externally, with part of the nail allowed to stick to the external area of the hoof. The farrier cuts the excel nails and a grater is used to sharpen the sharp point. A clamp is then formed with the nail.
In the meantime, if the horse still has its shoe, the farrier has to come back six weeks later to get the shoe set replaced.
Why are shoes important for horses?
Since horses have to consistently go to different terrains and areas to get food, the hooves of the horses tend to become very hard, smooth, and in a uniform condition. Although domesticated horses do not really walk long distances and they tend not to have hard feet.
However, nutrients like carotene can be necessary for healthy hooves, and carotene can be found present in high quantities of living vegetation, as against dried or processed foods.
History of horses and the first shod
The delicate nature of horses’ hooves made it difficult to go long distances, so people in ancient Asia covered hooves in leather and rawhide before riding their horses.
Both metal and leather were combined together by the Romans to shoe their horses at the time in order for them to journey through the Roman roads. During the sixth or seventh century, metal shoes emerged in Europe. The popularity of hot shoeing increased in the fifteenth century.
Caring for Your Horse’s Feet
It is important to regularly check the feet of a horse that is very mobile and always on the move. If not, the hoof will become very large, and brittle, and you may start to see cracks. If there is a deformation of the hoof, your horse might suffer leg injuries or significant damage if walking abnormally. Asides from the fact that this will not be comfortable for him, it will also not be suitable for him.
Horses that do not work must also be checked and ensure their hooves are trimmed as often as possible.
Typically, horses have to be shoed every six weeks, and it is important that a farrier makes an arrangement to stick to this arrangement. In some cases, shoes that are not yet worn can be reused and later replaced when clogs are already cut.
Clogs tend to grow at different paces, which is determined by the time of the year, for instance, there can be growth spurts as a result of fresh spring grass.
The interesting thing with horses is the fact that they don’t get sick like other animals regularly do.
Nevertheless, because of the nature of their bodies and because they stand almost all the time and cannot lie down for extended periods of time, their hooves are extremely important to them.
Diseases Often Associated with Horse Shoes
The importance of horseshoes cannot be overemphasized and ensuring hooves can stand the test of time is essential.
A disease frequently associated (1) with horse’s hooves is the white line diseases, which affects a section of the foot in which the hoof typically meets the foot and starts as just a white line, which may not appear too critical.
The white line implies the hoof has started deteriorating and if this is not noticed on time, it will begin to eat up your horse’s hoof and result in excruciating pain for your horse.
If you do not resolve this situation on time, your horse may no longer walk and you will be left with no choice than to take drastic action regarding its health.
- White line Disease in Horses. (Link)