shoeing a horse

An Introduction To Shoeing A Horse

City Sights and Stable Feet: A Deep Dive into Carriage Horse Shoeing Techniques

Hoof health is essential when working with some of the most enormous equine feet in the world. With an average of twenty draft horses in our herd, that’s a lot of horse’s feet to be trusted with. And our horses’ feet are huge. How huge? See Major’s size twelve horse hoof trimming and shoeing here. A draft horse’s hoof can measure over fifty cm, nearly double that of an average-sized horse.

Our trained horse farrier customizes giant shoes to support the heavy builds of our animals to keep them happy and healthy. Endorsed by the American Farriers Association as a Certified Journeyman horse farrier, Will Clinging has been a key member of the Tally-Ho team since 2016. Watch a video of him answering the question, “Doesn’t it hurt the horse?” in our Farrier Friday excerpt.

Read on to learn why properly shoeing a horse is vital to maintaining our family’s overall health at Tally-Ho.

Anatomy Of A Horse’s Hoof

Understanding the anatomy of a horse’s foot is the foundation for proper care. Shoeing has evolved to allow horses to carry heavy loads and travel long distances. It promotes biomechanical efficiency and can prevent lameness.

The hoof wall is composed of an outer wall, inner wall and white line. Inside a hard outer horn layer, about one cm thick, lies soft tissue, bone and blood. A cupped-shaped sole inside the white line protects the sensitive tissues beneath. A flexible pad, the frog, absorbs shock, provides traction and promotes circulation. Alongside the frog, bars strengthen and protect the heel, controlling the movement along the back of the hoof. Bones inside the hoof include part of the short pastern bone, the pedal bone, and the navicular bone.

Cleverly engineered to work together, the thinner heel hoof wall expands as it meets the ground. On impact, the frog cushions the supporting joints, protecting the bone from pressure. Then, when the weight comes off, all the parts snap back into place like a spring.

Why Shoe A Horse?

Proper footfall placement is important in maintaining healthy joints and muscles, and balance starts with the hoof. Every horse is different, and a shoe that works well for one horse might be the wrong choice for another. Customizing a shoe based on a horse’s need will ensure the correct alignment for a smooth gait and sound body posture.

Besides having sound feet, a correctly shod horse promotes a healthy, functional foot and prevents many of the following conditions:

  • Prevents wear
  • Prevents the hoof wall from splitting
  • Provides traction
  • Prevents and treats hoof diseases and defects
  • Prevents bruising

According to Veterinary World, shoeing a horse is the simplest routine procedure to prevent lameness.

What’s Inside Your Farrier’s Toolbox?

You can expect to see a few of these items as your farrier prepares the foot.

  • Pincer – used to lever the shoe, remove nails, and draw and tighten the clenches
  • Hammer and Anvil – used to twist off nail heads and to nail on the shoe
  • Clinch Cutter / Buffer – used to cut or knock off clenches and punch out broken nail tips
  • Hoof Knife – used to trim the frog and sole
  • Nipper/ Hoof Cutter – used to cut off excess hoof wall
  • Rasper – used to level the bearing surface of the foot
  • Toeing Knife – used to cut off overgrown portions of the foot wall

These common materials and tools allow farriers to maintain the natural movement of the horse.

Shoeing A Horse – The Basics

Proper hoof care starts with a well-drained paddock and a clean, dry, stable floor. Over time, hooves exposed to excessive moisture can lead to cracked and chipped feet. The horse owner is the first line of defence when it comes to identifying foot issues. An ideal routine includes checking and cleaning hooves before and after working the horse. But at a minimum, inspection and cleaning should occur twice weekly.

Farrier checkups should be part of your horses’ regular care routine. Depending on your equine needs, a four to eight-week schedule is normal.

Remove Old Shoe 

The farrier takes the foot between his knees and removes the clinches using a buffer and driving hammer. Then, pincers are used to carefully raise the shoe to avoid breaking the wall.

Prepare Foot

After a visual inspection to define the level bearing surface of the foot, trimming occurs. A drawing knife cleans the frog and the sole and removes loose debris. Rasping then occurs to level the surface based on foot conformation. Note: Heels should be trimmed no lower than where the frog meets the flat surface of the ground.

Fitting Of Horseshoes

The shoe should be simple and lightweight, providing support, traction and protection specific to the horse’s job. A shoe’s shape is based on the trimmed hoof. Ideal placement allows the shoe to sit below the hoof wall at the toe and spread to follow the foot’s contour toward the heel. A correctly positioned shoe provides the space for the hoof to grow and the heel to expand. Custom shoes are crafted using cold shoe or hot shoeing techniques.

Nail On The New Shoe

Farriers secure the shoe with the fewest number of nails and the smallest nails that will keep the shoe fitted tightly to the hoof. Nails are placed directly into the hoof wall and the front half of the hoof capsule. Avoid shoe placement farther back than the widest point of the hoof. After the shoe is secured, nails are clinched to the wall and rasped smooth.

Just like humans, a horse’s feet often don’t match. Custom horseshoeing accommodates feet that lie flatter or have a slightly different shape and can prevent lameness. Many situations call for therapeutic shoeing or corrective horse hoof trimming. If your horse is showing signs of discomfort, working with your vet and farrier will help identify the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Tally-Ho Carriage Tours – Where A Well Shod Horse Equals A Happy Horse

Not every horse needs horseshoes all the time. At Tally-Ho, as part of our farrier-endorsed horse hoof care practice, we encourage our horse family to roam barefoot in the winter, taking a well-deserved break.

But no matter what the season, your enjoyment, along with our horses, is our priority. Tally-Ho’s majestic carriages are equipped with convertible roofs and warm faux-fur blankets to maximize your comfort in all weather. Let Tally-Ho, Victoria’s original transportation company, make your holiday memorable.

With outstanding service dating back to 1850, Tally-Ho Carriage Tours will help you craft the custom horse-drawn experience of your dreams. Contact us today for a quote.