Horses’ feet did not evolve sufficiently to travel long distances on rough ground. Wild horses spend the majority of their time grazing, moving on only to find food or to elude danger. Domestic horses are often expected to cover relatively long distances, often over hard ground, so shoes are used as a form of protection. Horses that are not worked regularly on hard ground may not need to be shod. Expert advice should be obtained before considering working a barefoot horse.
Ready-made shoes can come in various sizes for different sizes of horses. Most shoes have a groove in the underside called fullering; this groove makes the shoe lighter and allows for a better grip. Nonfullered shoes are called plain-stamped. The shoe should always match the horse’s intended purpose.
Nails come in various sizes to match the shoe sizes; they also come with different head shapes. It is imperative that the correct size nail is always used. Studs are used in predrilled holes in the heel of the shoe to increase grip. Studs must be removed for work on hard ground because they will tilt the foot and reduce the area in contact with the ground.
Horses should be reshod every four to six weeks, but it is important to check for signs that shoes need to be replaced because of the potential discomfort it can cause the horse. There are certain signs to let you know that re-shoeing is necessary. For example, a shoe may become loose, in which case you will be able to move it with your fingers. A nail may come loose or fall out. It is also possible that the shoe can become worn down; don’t wait for the shoes to become worn out before you call the farrier.
Removing a Shoe
1) In an emergency, when the farrier cannot come immediately, it is better to remove a loose shoe than to leave one partially fastened to the foot because it may lead to injury. If you see a raised clinch, you may be able to knock it down and keep the shoe on until a farrier arrives. Stand the horse on a hard surface then knock the clinch down with a few firm downward strokes with the hammer. To remove a front shoe, hold the foot between your knees to leave both hands free. Straighten the clinches using a hammer and buffer.
2) Grasp a heel of the shoe with pincers so that the jaws are between the shoe and the hoof. Loosen the show with a sharp strong movement toward the toe. Repeat the same process with the other heel.
3) If it is difficult to free the shoe, remove one or more of the nails. This is easiest with nail pincers, but you can also use ordinary pliers. Loosen the shoe gradually down both sides levering toward the toe.
4) When you reach the toe, remove the shoe completely. Lever it off sideways to avoid splitting the hoof. Be sure not to leave any nails on the ground, where the horse could step on them and hurt or injure its foot.
5) When you have to remove a hind shoe, hold the leg up over one knee rather than between your knees. Stand with your back to the horse’s head, and let the hoof lie on the inside of your knee. Press your side into the angle of the hock to restrict the horse’s ability to kick. Remove the shoe in the same way that you would remove a front shoe. It is more difficult to hold a hind leg than a front leg; this procedure will take some practice.