Nails Cause Cracks in Draft Horses Feet

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Q: I drive Draft horses, mostly Percherons, in the historic district of Savannah, GA. We have a problem with shoes. Most of our horses take rubber shoes, but some of the horses feet are to big & we have to use metal. Our farrier uses nails & this is causing the hooves to crack. I saw a program on the Discovery channel about an adhesive for horse shoes, even for Draft horses. I am trying to get more info. Do you know were I can find this product , or do you have any suggestions?


A: To the best of my knowledge, adhesives for draft horse shoes are at this time just a wishful fantasy. There are some adhesives on the market that will hold shoes on light horses somewhat, but not on the big guys.

I think we need to address your problem, which is that the nails are causing your Percherons' hooves to crack.

Suggestions that I could possibly make are the following:

First of all we must concern ourselves with the basics. 1) Competent farriers. 2) Shoeing properly which means shoeing on a schedule to be determined by the horse's feet; balancing, leveling, beveling and safeing the correct sized shoe with clips, and using nails only large enough to secure the shoe to the foot. Oftentimes farriers will use nails too large for the foot when shoeing draft horses. This tends to split the walls.

Constant washing of horses will cause their feet to have the natural oils flushed away and will cause the horse's feet to dry out and crack or split.

Hoof dressings can sometimes be of a benefit towards keeping the hoof wall flexible yet strong. Hoof dressings are most beneficial when they are applied to the coronet and bulbs of the heel and massaged. This massaging should consist of at least 3 minutes per foot. I know that this seems extreme, but you are asking what can be done to save your horses' feet. This is one of these things.

The horse's diet should be given serious consideration. The kinds and amounts of supplemental vitamins and minerals should be discussed thoroughly with your veterinarian. Generally speaking, the correct amount of moisture and the quality of the hoof wall is largely determined by the horse's diet.

Until you are able to determine what your horse's needs are internally for developing good strong hooves, your farrier could try strengthening the nailing area of your horse's feet by applying Equilox before the shoes are nailed on. I should think you would only need to apply Equilox in the area where the nails come through the wall and just slightly above. The nails should be exiting the hoof approximately 1/3 of the way up the hoof wall. If the Equilox is applied from slightly above that down to the ground surface of the hoof, it should strengthen and support the walls so they will not crack when the farrier nails on the shoe.

I sometimes apply Equilox to the hoof wall after the shoes have been nailed on. I fit the shoes a little more full than normally necessary, then fill in the extra area with Equilox. This has done an excellent job of holding the foot together.

Equilox is expensive but it shouldn't be necessary all of the time. I have used Equilox on Belgian/Suffolk crosses that are used for logging here in Oregon. In two and a half years we have had to use Equilox on only 3 hooves, one time each. The Equilox has stayed in place and grown out with the horses' feet.

These draft horses are wearing size 7 Kerckhaert draft shoes with clips. They are fitted with 1/2" square heel and toe grabs, with hard surfacing applied to the heel and toe grabs. I have had no trouble keeping these shoes on with number 9E nails. In all the time I have been SHOEING THIS LOGGING TEAM, we have never lost a shoe working these horses shod this way.

HOT SHOEING your draft horse will assist your farrier in driving the nails, by softening the horn from the heat of the shoe, thus reducing the probability of splitting.

Sometimes it helps to set small washers over the point of the nail where it exits the wall before clinching, so as to dissipate pressure of the exit hole on the wall. Although this seems extreme and may be a real "pain" to do, it could be the single most important thing to aid in preventing your horses' hooves from splitting.

Although I have only experimented with it on one horse, Kerratex Hoof Hardener has strengthened the hoof wall on a large Thoroughbred that started with very poor quality horn. This might be something you should consider trying.

Let me say in conclusion: No foot, no horse.

Good luck to you and your big horses.

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.