Lost Shoe Syndrome

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Bayard Fitzpatrick
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Q: What can I do about my horse loosing shoes?


A: Lost shoes--the farrier's and the horse owner's nightmare. You want to use your horse but you go out to saddle him up or to take him to a show, and you notice he has lost a shoe. This isn't the first time and now you are frustrated and maybe angry at your farrier. He can't get there until Tuesday. You want to know now, from The American Blacksmith, how you can avoid these frustrating calamities.

First of all, you need to determine why he lost the shoe. So lets look at some of the major causes of the Lost Shoe Syndrome.

1. Wear. Maybe the shoes were left on so long that they finally fell off. Is your horse being shod on a regular basis, every 6 to 8 weeks or when his feet dictate that he should be shod? When shoes are left on too long, they wear down to where the nail heads are worn off and there is no longer anything holding them on the horse's foot, so they fall off.

2. Hoof quality. The quality of a horse's hoof determines its suitability to keeping shoes on. A hoof that contains strong, flexible healthy horn is less likely to loose a shoe. Healthy hooves are generally the result of a horse that is fed a balanced diet, that is exercised on a regular basis, and that has a team effort of horse owner and farrier maintaining a proper hoof care regimen

3. Conformation. Horses with short backs & long legs tend to pull shoes. Horses that are base narrow tend to step on their own feet, pulling shoes. Horses with low heel, long toe syndrome tend to pull shoes. Conformationally balanced horses have a better chance of performing without overreaching, forging or pulling off shoes.

4. Footing. Horses traveling through mud, snow, tall grass, extremely deep arena footing, sand, and water frequently come up with pulled shoes because they can not get the front feet out of the slowing environments and the hind foot steps off a shoe.

5. Illness or lameness. Is your horse healthy? Horses with bad teeth tend to keep their heads elevated and their strides shortened and clumsy. They tend to pull shoes. A sore back will cause a horse to travel very erratically, carrying himself in a manner that does not engage his rear end or extend and soften his front end, resulting in lost shoes. Unhealthy horses not having muscle development and stamina tire easily and pull shoes. Horses with injuries or diseases of the foot and injuries or soreness of the legs are not striding correctly and the result can be a lost shoe. The health and soundness of your horse is absolutely necessary if he is not going to be stepping on his shoes and ripping them off.

6. Poor riding. Most horses will not put out the effort it takes to adjust their balance to compensate for the weight of a rider. Left to their own devices, they move along with their weight over their front legs, slowing the front feet down, just asking for a back foot to pull off a shoe. It is the rider's job to learn how to help the horse stay balanced.


7. Circumstances sometimes take ahold. Any horse can become startled, lazy or distracted and occasionally take a misstep and pull off a shoe by stepping on it. Sometimes another horse will step on his shoe, as in a trailer or crowding under a small tree for shade.

8. Correct shoeing. Sometimes shoeing the horse correctly can allow the horse to pull his shoes. Leaving the correct amount of expansion in the quarters and length of support in the heels will give the horse something to step on. This is a gamble that many farriers and horse owners are willing to take in order to develop healthy feet and lessen strain on tendons.

9. Incorrect shoeing. A horseshoer who has failed his client by not taking into consideration correct shoeing methods, for instance not balancing and leveling the foot or not shoeing the horse properly for the job he is being asked to do will certainly have a high incidence of lost shoes.

10. Shoe getting caught in fence. Horses frequently pull off shoes by pawing at gates and fences or "climbing" woven wire fences (actually stepping on the squares and sliding the fence down the posts) to graze over them. The heel of the shoe gets caught, the horse pulls free and leaves the shoe behind.

I am sure that by now you have many thoughts on how to stop your horse from losing shoes.

I have a few additional suggestions. Review your selection of farrier. Become more active in the daily cleaning and inspection of your horse's feet. Learn to recognize hoof and shoeing problems such as a loose shoe, overgrown hoof, a loose or bent nail, thrush or puncture wounds, what constitutes a good shoeing job and what doesn't. Discuss with your farrier and your veterinarian your losing shoes problem. Review the above major causes and eliminate as many as possible. If you have a particular problem and you would like to e-mail it to me, I would be happy to go over your problem in depth.

Geronimo Bayard
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.