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Old 09-01-2014, 10:13 PM
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Are tame horses always shoed/shod?

Do horses used for riding and working always wear shoes, or are there only certain conditions under which they wear them?

I can see that you'd want shoes on a horse that was regularly walking on pavement or cobblestones, to stop the hoof from wearing down too fast.

What about a horse that was always walking on soft dirt? Would it be shoed?

What about one walking on half-forested, half-rocky terrain?
Old 09-01-2014, 10:21 PM
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Our trail horses are always shod since you never know what kind of surface they will be walking on...
Old 09-01-2014, 10:24 PM
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You do not have to shoe a horse that is mostly on softer soil (actually, if the soil is very soft you may need to have a farrier come out to trim overgrown hooves rather than shoe them). Horses that are not heavily ridden may not need shoes. Sometimes, they only shoe two of the horses hooves (when I worked at a horse stable many of our ponies only had two shoes, not four).

A lot depends on the terrain the horse is on, and whether/how hard the horse is worked. Both very rocky AND very soft and wet terrain may require shoeing - very wet environments can weaken the hoof, leading to problems.

Shoes not only prevent hooves from wearing down too fast, they can also prevent hoof cracks and splits which can be disabling for a horse, or even fatal if the damage is severe enough. Specialty shoes can also provide additional traction on slick or icy surfaces.

Back when I worked at the horse stable we had one horse with deformed hooves who required custom-crafted horseshoes. Unshod the poor thing could barely walk. With properly fitted shoes she could walk, run, and gallop like other horses so in some cases horseshoes may be medically needed. (Needless to say, such a horse would never survive in the wild.)
Old 09-02-2014, 12:24 AM
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As Broomstick said, not all horses need to be shod. Horse hooves are somewhat adaptable, in that they can grow stronger or weaker dependent upon the terrain they're in. Horses kept in hard-packed paddocks, for example, have stronger hooves than those pastured on a soft, loamy soil. For this reason many horses that are ridden on terrains either softer or comparable to their pasture don't require shoes. However, horses ridden on surfaces harder than their pasture should be shod. Horses that are kept stabled the majority of the time will almost always require shoes, as their hooves tend to be somewhat weaker. Regardless of pasture conditions, some horses with poor conformation require shoes to correct gait problems.

With unshod horses, it is important to pay special attention to their hooves and feet. Any small crack that develops can quickly escalate, leading to significant problems. We never had shoes on any of our horses, with two exceptions. We had one percheron who had had an accident in her younger years that left her lame without a special shoe on her right rear, so she was kept shod constantly. We had another horse that had hooves that always stayed weak, developing splits at the drop of a hat. When we got him, he'd been very badly malnourished and I always wondered if that contributed to his poor hoof health. My personal horse, Simon, had been adopted from the BLM adopt-a-horse program when he was three, and never, ever had shoes. I used to barrel-race with him, go on all-day trail rides, do parades, and just take off and go wherever we felt like it, on all kinds of terrain, with no problems whatsoever.
Old 09-02-2014, 12:51 AM
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What I don't get, is what protects the sole ("frog") of a horse's foot, when out on rough or rocky terrain. The shoe is just a U-shaped thing nailed onto the toenail, but what protects the frog if the horse is stepping on rocks?
Old 09-02-2014, 12:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senegoid View Post
What I don't get, is what protects the sole ("frog") of a horse's foot, when out on rough or rocky terrain. The shoe is just a U-shaped thing nailed onto the toenail, but what protects the frog if the horse is stepping on rocks?
That's why the shoe is ribbeted.
Old 09-02-2014, 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
That's why the shoe is ribbeted.
.... Ribbited?
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Old 09-02-2014, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senegoid View Post
What I don't get, is what protects the sole ("frog") of a horse's foot, when out on rough or rocky terrain. The shoe is just a U-shaped thing nailed onto the toenail, but what protects the frog if the horse is stepping on rocks?
The frog can toughen up/form a callous to some extent. Wild horses living on hard terrain either develop hard hooves/tough frogs or they don't survive.

There are also shoes that have a protective cover over the frog. You have to be careful with such shoes, as moisture and/or gunk accumulating between the protector and the hoof can cause all sorts of serious problems, but as a temporary measure they can be quite effective at protecting the soft parts of a horse's foot.
Old 09-02-2014, 11:40 AM
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This has all been enormously useful. Thanks, everybody.
Old 09-02-2014, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senegoid View Post
What I don't get, is what protects the sole ("frog") of a horse's foot, when out on rough or rocky terrain. The shoe is just a U-shaped thing nailed onto the toenail, but what protects the frog if the horse is stepping on rocks?
The sole gets calloused from normal work but essentially nothing, the sole or frog can get bruised by a rock... it's called a stone bruise and it makes the horse lame. Horses working on rocky soils should usually wear shoes or boots. You can also toughen the sole using Venice turpentine but rocky footing isn't good for the hoof itself either.

My old horse was only shod in front for jumping, and only in competition season. The rest of the time she worked barefoot -- arenas or wooded trails. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. In snowy areas, most people pull shoes for the winter if they can; snow gets packed into the shoe space and the options to avoid this add to the expense.
Old 09-02-2014, 03:14 PM
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Probably the majority of horses are NOT shod.

Some of the groups that are not:
- brood mares in the pasture
- stallions retired from work and now used only for breeding
- older, retired horses
- young horses (weanlings, yearlings, and many 2- & 3-year-olds)
- 'pasture pets' -- horses kept by people as pets, and never or rarely actually used.

Generally, the only horses that are commonly shod are those in use: riding or showing, ranch work, farm work (somewhat rare these days). Especially any that have to deal with stressful terrain; like carriage-ride horses in the city, police horses, etc.

Last edited by [email protected]; 09-02-2014 at 03:14 PM.
Old 09-02-2014, 06:09 PM
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The presence or absence of shoes is a good indicator of a horse's use. For example in a (not very good) documentary series I watched at some point last year, the voice-over guy was waxing rhapsodic about the alleged majesty of the wild mustangs, the footage of the rearing "wild stallion" clearly showed a shod gelding pawing at the air.

Fft. Like we wouldn't notice.
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