10 Reasons NOT to shoe your horse
Lisa Walker, holistic Hoof Care, N. Clarendon, VT

Most people don't really understand their horses hooves and how they work. They are simply the farriers territory and other than picking them out we don't think much about them. I think that people should understand exactly what they are doing to their horse when they nail shoes onto their hooves.

  1. Shoes keep the wall from wearing - While this may seem like a good thing you must realize that if your farrier has not balanced the hoof correctly the horse will be stuck with that improper hoof form for at least the next 6 weeks.
  2. Vitration - If you ride on pavement, hard packed dirt roads, or even rocky trails the shoe will vibrate when it impacts a hard surface. Just like farriers often have damage to their nerve endings in their hands from pounding on and shaping metal shoes, horses may get nerve damage from the vibration of the shoe.
  3. Impaired hoof mechanism - One of the ways in which the hoof acts as a shock absorber for the leg is by the hoof walls expanding on weight bearing. With the hoof nailed to a metal shoe it is not able to expand as much as it would without.
  4. Unnatural weight - Adding extra weight to the horses hoof produces centrifugal effects, leading to strain and damage to joints and ligaments in the foot and leg, all the way up to the shoulder. There is an old farrier saying, "One ounce at the toe equals one pound at the shoulder."
  5. Alters natural break over and movement - The horse left on its own would wear its hoof in a shape that best suits it. With shoes often the horses break over is further forward than it should be. This can result in ossification of the lateral cartilages and their ligaments, as well as joint, tendon, and ligament overstressing, often accompanied by arthritis.
  6. Reduces nerve function - The horses ability to sense the ground is compromised, leading to tripping, injuries etc.
  7. Traction - Sometimes with a shoe on a horse has too much traction, such as when on grass or dirt if the horse makes a quick movement the hoof may dig in and not pivot when the leg does, bowed or strained tendons are the result. other times such as on wet pavement or rock, the shoe offers too little traction and injuries happen.
  8. Deforms the hoof - The shoe is nailed on while the hoof is lifted and thus in its narrowest non-weight bearing state. After several shoeing cycles it is not uncommon for the horse to go down in shoe size, meaning that the hoof is getting smaller or "contracting." it also should be noted that a horses coffin bone does not stop growing until the horse is 5 years old. If the shoes are nailed on when the horse is younger than 5 it is similar to the practice of Chinese women who bound their feet to keep them small.
  9. Nail problems - Nails physically destroy the wall, and vibrate with the shoe. Metal conducts cold into the corium of the hoof, decreasing hoof temperature.
  10. Increases risk of injury - The presence of the shoe is a danger to the horse itself, and to other horses. Because of the centrifugal effect of the shoe the horse may over-reach and injure itself, and when playing in the pasture a harmless kick could result in a broken leg.
If you feel that your horse "needs" shoes, there are many new removable hoof boots on the market now that are much more like our shoes. They protect the hoof yet can be taken off at the end of your ride so that your horse may have bare hooves as nature intended.
This information is printed here with permission from Spring Hill Horse Rescue.