To Shoe or Not to Shoe

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Q: I have a three year old quarter horse mare. I bought her two months ago and am a little concerned about her hooves. While trail riding, we occasionally come across small stones and rocks. I have been very conscientious as to avoid as many rocks as possible. Lately, she has began to stumble, (or tip toe) across rocks when other horses seem to be having no trouble with them.

I had the local Farrier take a look and clean up her hooves. He seemed to believe that her hooves are in top shape and that she has no stone bruises and did not suggest shoeing her. He believes that she is just sensitive with her feet and has assured me that I am doing no harm. I still feel that there is something wrong. Could you please help me?

A: First of all, my heart goes out to this little horse, and you are to be commended for having the insight to feel there is something wrong. When a horse is tip toeing across rocks she is telling you she needs shoes! It is always advisable to not shoe if shoeing is not necessary, but when the work asked of a horse is more than it can take without feeling pain, shoeing is in order. Not seeing the horse with my eyes does not in the slightest diminish my opinion that this horse needs shoes. If your farrier does not want to shoe her, get someone who does.

The farrier needs to be sure there is no sole pressure from the shoes. When your farrier is finished shoeing your horse, you should be able to slide a match book cover between the horse's sole and the shoe. If you cannot, you are going to end up with sole bruising and a lame horse. Also the shoes should be boxed and safed because these young horses that have not been shod before are unconfirmed in their way of going and will walk all over themselves. If the farrier shoeing your horse does not know how to relieve sole pressure and/or safe and box the shoes, then you definitely need to read the AFA brochure on selecting a farrier. There are other fine points to the shoeing job, but we need not go into them at this time unless your farrier needs my guidance which I would gladly give at your request.

Because your horse is sensitive in her feet, she could need pads to allow her soles to recover. To avoid having to put pads on such a young horse, I would recommend painting the sole of her feet daily for about a week with 7% iodine or a product called Durasole. Durasole can be obtained from your local farrier or from me.

Be very thorough in your selection of a farrier. You haven't asked for this, but I would suggest anyway, that you contact the American Farrier's Association at 1-606-233-7411 and request their free brochure on selecting a farrier and read it thoroughly. I would also suggest the articles and Q&As on my web site.

Good luck with this little horse. Please get back to me after a week or two of riding her with shoes and let me know how you are both doing.

Geronimo Bayard, Journeyman Farrier
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.