by Ralph Casey
A few common remarks I often hear from horse owners are; “The country I ride my horse in
is not rough or rocky” “ I saw on the internet that we should keep our horses natural
and without shoes” and “ I only ride in the summer, so why shoe year round?” or the best
one in the far south is,” We only ride in the sand.”
The trouble with these comments and articles being written about not shoeing the horse
is simple; they truly don’t understand why a horse needs to be shod for the activities
that horses go through on a daily basis. So, why do horses need to be shod? My answer
is “The main reason for shoeing a horse is to keep the bony column in alignment, so
when the foot strikes the ground, the entire bony column including the spine,
equally absorbs the concussion.” If this plan of action were taken every time a horse is s
hod or trimmed, then every horse would stay natural from birth. Keeping your horse
trimmed and shod properly will keep your horse natural like he was when he was born.
By the end of 5-6 weeks he becomes unnatural due to excessive wear and stress on the
hoof due to his conformation.
In Photo 1, It is obvious to see that one heel is lower than the other and the angles are completely different.
In photo 2, if you draw a straight line
across each foot at the hairline or
coronary band, we see that one toe
is longer than the other
What causes all of this you might ask? Let’s take a look at ourselves. Our
conformation dictates how our feet land on the ground. If we are toed out, we will
break over on the inside toe, wear the inside toe down more and land on our outside
heel, wearing it down more as well. Stand up and try this yourself to get a
better understanding. This would be considered a natural walk for a toed out person and
there is no way to change it. If we leave ourselves natural, or barefoot, we would only
wear it down more. A horse is similar with the exception, that when the farrier places a
new pair of shoes on, he has the knowledge to shape the hoof back like it was when the
horse was born. The horse was not born with one low heel, one high heel, one toe
longer than the other and the foot not symmetrical, and one leg longer and so on. A toed
out horse is not much different in that there is no way to change the way it normally
walks, but the farrier can help with corrective shoeing on a routine basis, IF the horse
owner will allow the farrier to take the extra time in doing so, which will normally cost a
So as you look at photo 3 from the front, you can see how we corrected and re-balanced both feet and re-shod the horse wherein his bones will now be in alignment, therefore equally absorbing the concussion when his foot strikes the ground.
There is only so much corrective work and hoof removal we can do at one shoeing, and
it will take the whole summer and into the fall to get him back to what is normal for him.
In this case, the foundered foot grows more rapidly so there is plenty of hoof growth
but not in the correct direction. Alas, this is where the farrier, who is the caretaker of the
lower limb and hoof, comes in!!
It behooves me why people cannot understand why their horse can’t win, why he gets sore
in the spine, and overall why he cannot perform at his best. When all we have to do is
look at ourselves. If we were running a track meet, we sure could not expect to win if
our heels and toes were uneven. So now when I do my clinics, I help people not
only understand the horse, but themselves as well.
The Farriers’ National Research Center & School
14013 East Hwy 136
LaFayette, GA 30728
Catch us on Horseshoe'n Time