The magical properties of iron should conjure up their finders and owners with an unbelievable amount of luck. But this does not only apply to people – but also to the actual wearer – the horse – iron is supposed to make life easier. We are now getting to the bottom of the question of whether this is true and whether and when horses really need horseshoes.
The Point of a Horseshoe
Basically, the purpose of attaching a horseshoe is to protect the horse’s hoof. The metal shoe is intended to prevent excessive wear on the horn and the breaking out of the support rim. He can also correct misalignments and heal diseases of the hooves and legs.
The History of “Horseshoes”
Actually, ever since humans discovered a loyal companion in the horse, he was concerned about the early wear and tear of the animal’s hooves. That is why the search for a horseshoe was already dedicated to the ancient world – the result was the hippo sandals. These were hoof protectors woven from plant fibers, but they were walked through quickly.
A positive effect was nevertheless evident and leather sandals reinforced with metal for the horse’s hooves were created in a timely manner. It was only a matter of time before the first real horseshoes were made. These had a corrugated outer edge, which is why they are also known as “wave horseshoes”. Their successors already had handles and cleats and were around 1000 AD. mass-produced and used.
Horseshoes – Yes or No?
It’s a fundamental question horse owners need to ask themselves. Many argue against the irons, as horses living in the wild do not need any. But this is not entirely correct, because the wild horses also have no riders and usually move significantly more than their bred relatives.
In contrast, horn production and quality are decisive for or against the fitting. If this is not sufficient, the hooves wear out excessively and cause pain and hoof abrasion in the horse in the long term. To prevent this, hoof protection (e.g. in the form of horseshoes) is important. It is best to clarify with your farrier whether your horse can be ridden barefoot or not.
By the way: Incorrect hoof positions can also be corrected with horseshoes. Special orthopedic irons may be suitable for this if there is a physical problem with the bones or leg joints. These orthopedic horseshoes can have different thicknesses or combinations with other materials. It is best to get detailed advice from the farrier so that he can adapt the irons to the needs of your horse.
Fogging: That Must Be Taken Into Account
When it comes to fogging, a basic distinction is made between hot and cold fogging. The latter only allows minor changes to the iron. In the case of hot shoeing, on the other hand, the horseshoe is very heated and can be bent into any shape – so it can be perfectly adapted to the individual horse’s hoof. But don’t worry, the horny layer of the hoof prevents the hot irons from hurting the horse in any way.
Depending on why you have chosen horseshoes, they have to be specially adapted. For example, if the horse has forward-reaching hind legs and therefore kicks off the front irons very quickly, the leg ends of the horseshoes may only protrude to a small extent beyond the corners of the heel.
Fixing the Horseshoe
Usually, the farrier will fix an iron to the hoof with six to eight nails. The nails are driven in at a distance of about 2 cm from the horn wall and reach about the middle of the hoof. This ensures that mobility in the back of the hoof is not lost. Once the irons are firm, the farrier will use a file to remove sharp edges from the iron.
By the way: In the past, when iron itself was believed to have magical properties, horseshoes were always attached with seven nails. The number seven should bring luck – just like the iron itself. Many farriers still use this traditional approach today.
After the Farrier
After the farrier has inspected the horse in motion and at rest and checked the new irons, it is dismissed. However, riders should refrain from longer rides for the next eight days the first time they shod. The animal must be given time to get used to the new irons – just as we humans have to break in our shoes.
Care of Horseshoes
Once a horse is shod, it is not done. Every four to six weeks, the horseshoe must be checked and replaced if necessary. If this does not happen, the hooves can grow too long and become sick, for example, from stuck stones. In the worst case, such negligence leads to ulceration.
You can also check whether the iron is properly seated when you scrape out the hoof. To do this, simply drive the hoof pick gently between the iron and the hoof – you will notice whether the iron has loosened.
Difficulty Misting Up
If a horse refuses to shod at the farrier or if it even assumes bad virtues such as kicking, climbing or bucking, the farrier must be informed beforehand. So he can take appropriate protective measures. In general, however, it always makes sense to have such difficult cases work extensively before visiting the farrier. If the horses are exhausted and sluggish, they are more likely to be shod.
Lost Horseshoes – But Why?
Losing a horseshoe can be for a number of reasons. The wrong iron was chosen most often. If this is too long, too heavy, or too far, it will quickly detach from the horn. At least as often is the wrong nailing – if the fitting is too low or if the nails are outside the white line, the irons are quickly lost.
Deep soils are also a danger zone. Here the irons can literally be “pulled off”. So it is best to be careful when riding, avoid muddy puddles and check the paddock often. In general, you can prevent losing it by regularly checking the hold and fit of the horseshoe when scratching it out.
Alternatives to Horseshoes – Hoof Boots
If you are not looking for an orthopedic correction of the hoof or gait, the hoof shoe can be a real alternative. This is simply “buckled” to the hooves when it is foreseeable that you will undertake a ride where a high level of horn abrasion is to be expected (e.g. when riding over asphalt).
Types of Hoof Boots
Basically, a distinction is made between shoes with open and closed soles. There are also different types of closure. For example, a tension lock or a form fit can be used. Depending on the terrain, different soles make sense: a light profile for smooth asphalt, spikes for steep, uneven ground, or screw studs as anti-slip protection are the most common types.
Benefits of Hoof Boots
In contrast to the firmly nailed irons, the hoof boots are really only used when you need them. They also have the advantage that they significantly dampen the footing on hard ground. Thanks to their structure made of hard-wearing plastics, the impact vibration is significantly reduced.
The horn capsule damaged when shod is also protected with hoof boots. In addition, closed soles offer protection against the entry of stones, and the risk of ball kicks can be minimized. One last advantage? In the long run, the cost of hoof boots is cheaper than shoeing.
However, it takes a lot of practice to get the horse ready for the ride quickly. In the beginning, buckling up your hoof boots can seem tedious and complicated. With a little patience, it will definitely be faster.