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
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.
The American Blacksmith