To Shoe or Not to Shoe II

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Q: Does a horse have to be shod? I am beginning to suspect that steel shoes may be the cause of soundness problems such as navicular. If the frog needs to come in contact with the ground to circulate the blood, how does this happen with shoes?

I have owned in the past a shelly footed horse whose feet would just break down to the nail line until there was nothing left to attach a shoe to. The horse developed navicular at 7 years of age.

I have my horses trimmed every 6-8 weeks and until their hooves show signs of chipping or cracking I would rather go without shoes. I have one horse jumping barefoot 2' 9'' fences on the show circuit all year with no evidence of chipping and cracking. The show rings are all sand.


A: Steel shoes are never the cause of unsoundness problems such as navicular. The IMPROPER APPLICATION of those shoes could be very much responsible for unsoundness, but not the shoes themselves.

Whether the frog needs to come in contact with the ground or not is still in debate by renowned equine universities and master farriers worldwide. Some say it must, some say it needn't.

Your horse that developed navicular at 7 years of age could have developed navicular for a number of reasons, some of which are genetic, hard use such as jumping, improper shoeing, or possibly an injury.

I am happy for you that you now have a horse that is jumping barefoot with no evidence of chipping or cracking. However, this is one horse and certainly nothing that you could call a complete study. Count your blessings for this one horse.

I realize that I am very biased towards shoeing horses. This is what I do. However, after 48 years of shoeing horses and being a continuing student of farrier science, I must conclude by saying once again, in my opinion horses have only benefited from being shod with steel shoes. You certainly are entitled to your opinion and I would suggest that you continue experimenting and learning.

I suggest you take some time and read all the Question & Answers on my web site, especially "To Shoe or Not to Shoe" and those dealing with navicular. You will find them interesting and educational.

Thank you very much for your question. I hope to hear from you again. Meanwhile I would like to turn you over to my wife, Mary Bayard who is twice the Northwest Champion at 3-Day Eventing.

Respectfully,
Geronimo Bayard

Hi!

I am Geronimo's wife, Mary. As far as whether a horse should be shod or not, I couldn't resist giving you my point of view as a trainer, instructor and competitor.

I rarely ride a horse more than a few times without shoes. Even in our indoor arena which has very nice footing with a nice cushion on top and no stones, I can tell the difference when the horse is shod.

A barefoot horse can appear sound and happy and even feel good to me as I ride it. However, when it is shod and I ride it the very next time I can ALWAYS feel a difference and usually see one, too. The horse is simply more confident in its way of going because it realizes that it needn't guard against the occasional hard object.

As an instructor I have also found that many riders, and especially those with limited experience, can not tell when a horse is slightly sore-footed. Usually the tenderness is bilateral (both front feet) so the horse does not limp. If there is no limp the rider thinks that everything is fine. If you protected one foot as with a shoe or did a nerve block on one foot you would probably be able to both see and feel at least a slight limp on hard surfaces. Sand is very abrasive and I could just about guarantee you that your horse is somewhat tender-footed. He must have good quality feet since they are not chipping, but that doesn't mean that he is really comfortable.

So, my feeling is that if the horse is being asked to work on a regular basis, especially on hard or abrasive footing, I would want it shod. Yes, you might have to continue shoeing it whenever it is in work from then on, but it is worth it to me to have a horse that isn't afraid to give me 100% effort.

Remember that the "natural horse" does not carry the weight of a rider, does not work for hours in hard/abrasive surfaces, and does not jump numerous obstacles which would put extreme stress on his front feet.

Ultimately the decision is yours. Since you obviously care for your horse, I am sure you will make the best decision.

Sincerely,
Mary Bayard
Owner/trainer Dodge Creek Stables
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.