Ride With Lost Shoe?

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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:  I am a relatively new horse owner and was told by my trainer that if my horse loses a shoe, the best thing is to not work him (limited turn-out) until the farrier can replace the missing shoe  -  I was told that, even though we have the option of working in an indoor (with relatively soft, deep footing), it is unfair to work the animal when he's uneven.  Plus he risks injuring his sole/frog on the unshod foot.

Now, my dilemma come in the fact that as I meet more horsy people I get very differing opinions, including those folks that would argue it's perfectly ok to continue working your horse when he's lost a shoe  -  in fact it's more cruel to let them sit frustrated in their stall when they are used to working.

Any advice?

A:  Welcome to the world of horse ownership where every question will bring you a different answer from each person you ask! And congratulations to you for continuing to seek the answer that is best for your horse.

First of all I can tell you that you can discard most of the "work 'em anyway" opinions because these are the same people that will work a barefooted horse even though he is very sore footed because there is no
visible limp. If both front and/or both hind feet are sore the horse won't limp because there is no leg that is NOT sore to carry extra weight. These are the same people that won't schedule a shoeing appointment until the horse has lost a shoe, even if it has been two months or more since the shoes were put on. These are the same people that hire the cheapest farrier to work on their horse rather than the best one.

Chances are that your trainer knows your horse and its stabling situation better than anyone else and I would tend to agree with her opinion. It is not only not fair to the horse to work him when he is uneven, but besides the risk of injuring the sole/frog of the unshod foot you also risk injuring tendons from uneven support.

Now the exceptions. If you can not turn the horse out with a shoe missing because the turn-out footing is hard and/or rocky you really should get the horse out of the stall every day. If the horse has pretty good quality feet and the footing in the indoor is indeed soft and free of rocks you could give the horse a light relaxing ride-mostly or all walking would be the best for most horses. Use the time to work on bending or stretching down or standing when mounted, etc. If the horse's feet are of poor quality or the foot was damaged when the shoe was pulled off you can longe him in the indoor or even just walk him in hand for 15 or 20 minutes.

You can give the unshod foot some protection by bandaging the hoof with several layers of duct tape. There are also boots you can pull on and off the horse's hoof that will offer protection. I generally do not recommend the brand called Easy Boots because they tend to do more damage to the hoof
than they prevent.

Regardless of the decision on work/exercise you need to be using a first-rate farrier (preferably a Certified Journeyman Farrier). Most good farriers will make time to replace a lost shoe within a day or two of being notified of the problem. Because shoes do not just fall off you should expect to pay the farrier for his time and effort spent replacing the lost shoe. Even if you are charged $25 or $30 to get the one shoe put back on, it still only compensates the farrier for a fraction of the time and gas it takes him to change his schedule and make a special trip to do the work.

Be sure and read my Q&A "Lost Shoe Syndrome" in order to learn how to keep lost shoes to a minimum.

I also suggest that you read all the other Q&As and the Articles on my web site.

When you have read and digested all the information you will be better educated than most of the people who have been giving you advice. You will also be able to prevent many lameness and behavioral problems from occurring and be able to discuss intelligently with your vet and farrier any problems that do come up.

Good luck with your horse. Do not hesitate to contact me again with any further questions you might have.


Geronimo Bayard
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

Q:  Thank you so very much for your quick & thorough response! I have printed it out and will share it with friends at my barn, and I look forward to reading the other articles on your site!!

Thanks again!! I really appreciate it!

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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.