Should Young Horse Have Shoes?

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Q: Hi, I live in Apache Junction, AZ, and have bought my first horse. A 14 month old filly, Rocky Mountain Horse. She has had regular trims, no shoes and has been pastured on desert land since birth. My question is, I am going to be stabling her on wood shavings and will be turning her out daily in a dirt arena. When would you suggest shoes for her, or should I wait to shoe until I start trail riding her or exercising her in a more rugged terrain? Can you recommend a qualified farrier in my area?


A: Congratulations on your first horse! You have a new life with horses in front of you and a multitude of exciting things to learn so that your little filly will be healthy and happy and you will be able to enjoy her that much more.

You are correct in thinking that you should wait until your girl is ready for serious training before you shoe her. Allow her to be a youngster. Give her the opportunity to enjoy her youth and mature mentally as well as physically before starting her under-saddle training. I recommend (and so does my wife who trains here in Oregon) that your Rocky Mountain Horse should be at least 2 1/2 years of age before this training begins.

Equine specialists in the field and at vet schools all recognize that the thinness and immaturity of the hoof wall of young horses make it unsuitable for shoeing. Also, shoeing tends to restrict the natural growth of a horse's foot, as did the binding of young girls' feet in China. Therefore it is best to put off shoeing until the horse has reached most of its growth. Early shoeing impedes bone, sensitive laminae, vascular, and elastic structures, as well as horny wall structures from developing normally. Generally speaking, shoeing should be done in young horses only for pathological reasons.

Lets be sure and get your little girl a qualified farrier, and he should be able to discuss your horse's needs with you. You need to make it your business to educate yourself concerning your horse's needs so that you can intelligently understand and discuss those needs with your vet, your trainer, and your farrier.

Be sure and read all my Q&As and articles. I recommend that you subscribe to at least one horse magazine such as Equus or Western Horseman. Another wealth of information are your tack catalogues. Just reading the item descriptions is an education in itself. The internet, as you are already discovering, has an incredible amount of information for people who are seeking knowledge concerning their equine friends. Just be sure that the person offering the advice is qualified as many self-proclaimed experts have found the internet to be the perfect podium because it is difficult to really check out a person's credentials.

Now let's see what we can do about finding you a qualified farrier. My suggestion is that you contact Al Curry in Phoenix. He is the 1995 president of the Arizona State Farrier's Association. Al is a really great guy and a terrific horseshoer and a lover of horses. He will do everything in his power to find you a good farrier in your area. He can be reached at 16006 North 47th Place, Phoenix, Arizona 85032-4214, or phone 602-971-0385.

I also recommend you contact the American Farrier's Association at 606-233-7411, or e-mail farriers@aol.com and ask for a copy of their "Choosing a Farrier" brochure. It is loaded with good information and pointers that a horse owner should be aware of. You can also access their Member Directory on their web site at www.amfarriers.com.

Good luck with your first horse. If there is anything I can do to further assist you, I will be glad to do so.

Geronimo Bayard
The Village 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.