Of Horse

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To Shoe or Not to Shoe -- That Is the Question
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To Shoe or Not to Shoe -- That Is the Question

There still seems to be a raging controversy about whether or not shoeing our horses is the best thing for them. The “pro” argument says that it’s better for the horse to be as much in a “natural” state as possible, like wild mustangs. The “con” debate points to the very different lifestyles our horses have from wild horses.

Take a look at what Buck Brannaman has to say about wild horses and their feet:

“The Mustang migration is relative to the feed, the weather and the ground conditions. Going into winter, a Mustang will have pretty long feet, because they’ve got to paw through the snow all winter long. By spring their feet are getting very short, and they’re getting sore-footed. But about that time they’re ready to have their foals, and they go have their foals where the snow melts first, in the bottoms of the canyons, where the ground is really soft and there are no rocks and the feed’s good. So their feet start growing all over again.”

Conversely, if yours is a working or riding horse, you might ride him many miles over rocky ranchland or trails, possibly much farther than a mustang will travel. Add your weight and gear, and you’re going to have a very uncomfortable horse, possibly one in pain, which is just plain cruel.

Common sense seems to dictate that if you have a horse-pal that spends his days pastured, strolling along soft ground to graze -- and if his legs and feet are sound to begin with -- you might get away with not shoeing him. But if your horse is active, you ride a lot on unpredictably hard surfaces, or he’s working your property with you, it would be a blessing to him to hook up with a good farrier and be shod with the appropriate shoes.


Photo: LTphotography.com


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  1. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    Good advise I am thinking. Nice piece. Voted.
    1. MReynolds
  2. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    I actually have been researching and debating this very issue myself. Which would be better unshod or shod. I'm not for shoeing, however like you said, on hard rocky ground, pavement etc. it would be best to have some kind of shoe on even if it's a rubber/plastic shoe or hoof boots. It really depends on how hard you ride, where you ride and how your horse's feet respond to the demands. Good blog, Voted. :)
    1. MReynolds
      You're so right -- it depends on how you ride or what your horse is involved in. Thanks for your comment and vote!
  3. jst4horses
    Good advice. ASK your farrier and vet. I often have horses shod fronts and bare rears. They work, but in deep sand arenas, no roads, not too much rock and are not competition horses.
    1. MReynolds
      Thanks for our excellent comment!

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