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What Does The Pattern of a Horse's Shoe Wear Indicate?
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What Does The Pattern of a Horse's Shoe Wear Indicate?

The 14th International Hoof-Care Summit was held in Cincinnati, Ohio. During the third of four intensive days of ongoing education (on 26th January 2017), veterinarians and farriers held roundtable discussions to compare notes and proffer advice to their peers. In one well-attended session, farriers talked about shoe wear, what it says about the horse and what can affect its performance. Further, attendees discussed how particular health conditions and the riding discipline may have an impact on shoe wear.

The vice president of International Association of Professional Farriers, Adam Wynbrandt, was the moderator of the session. He recounted how he had personally observed shoe wear patterns signal imminent health problems. He advised the audience that as they acquired more knowledge, they would find it easy to learn more about a horse just by looking at the shoe wear.

There are a wide range of factors that affect the wearing down of a horse's shoes including -turnout surface or area footing; -the material of the shoe; -the way of walking and conformation; -continuing medical issues; -the tightness of the shoe; -the saddle fit, and much more.

Understated changes

It is essential for the farrier to inquire from the owner about the activities that the horse is performing and if there are any recent changes. For instance, it would be useful to know if there have been any changes in the weight of the horse or the rider or even in the skill level of the rider. The farrier can also ask if there any riders currently riding the horse. All the above-mentioned factors can result in the horseshoes wearing in a different way from normal.

According to one attendee, if a horse has historically demonstrated a certain pattern of wear on one side but this suddenly stops, it may suggest that the owner has changed something in the horse’s routine. Another farrier reported that a horse he was fitting with shoes had medial (in the direction of the body’s midline) toe wear. It emerged that the horse was experiencing hock problems, and after the vet had injected the affected joints, the medial toe wearing pattern disappeared.

The surface beneath

Farriers also talked about the way footing affects shoe wear. For instance when a horse is ridden in a ground where heavy sand has been added in the recent past, then steel shoes may begin to exhibit increased wear. Conversely, many were in agreement that one of the surfaces that are the easiest on shoes is chopped rubber footing.

Another thing that can result in changes in the patterns of shoe wear is the addition of stone dust or a related material to a paddock or field so as to assist in dealing with mud problems. The abrasive surface results in faster wearing down of a shoe than where there is normal terrain.

One particular farrier who prefers using shoes made of synthetic material observed that they wear down in a similar manner to steel shoes and provide the same kind of information. He further noted that shoes made of higher density synthetic material wear down faster.

Factors that depend on the horse

In regards to horses that show changes due to shoe wear, the farriers explained how recovered laminitic horses or those that have experienced a setback recently may have unusual shoe wear.

They talked about the differences between the various disciplines like how endurance horses wear down shoes very quickly and may need a reset after only one race. One answer to the problem of excessive wear is to apply borium.

One farrier offered the general suggestion of adding weight to the shoe so as to reduce wear since the horse will raise its feet higher when moving.

Usually, horses that are not using their hindquarters or have not been conditioned for the kind of work they are doing wear down their shoes faster. Conversely, dressage horses, which must use their hindquarters as they work, have a tendency of wearing down the shoes on their hind legs faster. This means they may need to have those reset more frequently than horses that belong to other specialties (disciplines).

One farrier of standardbred racehorses said that he could trim down the side of a horse’s foot that showed additional wear since the horse was definitely off balance. However, he would sometimes trim the other side more in order to shift the hoof’s center of gravity to the medial branch.

In regards to standardbreds, farriers observed that pacers have a tendency to wear down the inner side of the hind feet whereas trotters wear down the outer side.

Where a horse wears hard on the toe, one farrier stated that rocker-toed shoes may be a great option to use. Another one concurred, adding that he experiences this with trail horses, making him put them in concave shoes. Concave shoes provided horses with more purchase, and this helps to avert excessive wear.

The bottom line

Irrespective of the breed or the discipline that is served by the farrier attendees, they were in agreement that it is critical to make a record of shoe wear as they prepared their notes since it is not easy to remember. Keeping an eye on shoe wear and any changes over time is an important way of ensuring that farriers learn about the horses of their clients.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. jst4horses
    This is a great article. I was very fortunate for decades to have a shoer who had gone to veterinary school, and dedicated himself to corrective leg and hoof care after he found himself putting down way too many horses for severe leg and hoof problems that could have been corrected earlier. Even for your barefoot horses, it can indicate what is going on and get you to call your shoer and/or vet in time. Our vets also did corrective shoes and pads for young foals to help correct problems that could turn into crippling or disabling leg and hoof problems if not corrected in the young legs and hooves.............
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