Shoeing for Different Disciplines

Shoeing for Different Disciplines

Chances are in your work, you come across clients who want their horses shod for a certain discipline. Especially if you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to get a handle on all the different quirks and problems each discipline presents, and to figure out how much you should change your style to suit the horse’s job. Good basics are good basics, but there are often ways in which farriers can help support hooves that work in special conditions and are placed under unique stresses.

Barrel Racing

Quick acceleration and the ability to turn quickly are the most important assets of a barrel racer. A light shoe will help the horse lift its feet more quickly, as will a shorter toe. Barrel racers are prone to hock problems and interference, and it might take some experimentation to find a shoe that gives enough traction but not too much torque.

Tip: Keep the feet concave enough that they can grab more easily at the ground.


These horses are generally worked in ideal footing, and can often be left barefoot, or bare behind. A common site of injury is the suspensory ligaments, and therefore the heels should offer support. A balanced and level trim is essential to ensuring quality movement, and if shoeing, clips are necessary for upper level horses doing a lot of lateral work.

Tip: Wider shoes will keep the horse more balanced in arena footing that’s deep.


Driving horses contend with hard and often slippery surfaces, and high concussion is a daily part of their work. A long wearing shoe that reduces the risk of slipping is key. A rocker toed shoe can lessen the stress on the hoof structures, as well as increase the durability of the shoe. Since ringbone is a common complaint in driving horses, wide shoes should be avoided.

Tip: Rubber or polyurethane anti-slip shoes are also an option to keep the feet secure.


With lots of miles to go over varying terrain, endurance horses need shoes that are lightweight and hard-wearing. Fitting the shoes closely is a must, as are quality pads and hoof packing to reduce sole bruises. Roller shoes can relieve joint stress as the horse moves quickly over uneven ground.

Tip: Drilling the nail holes right through the pad, as well, can increase their shock absorption.


Shoeing for Different Disciplines

Speed and stability are important factors when shoeing the eventer. Light, long-wearing are ideal, as these horses need to be fast over long distances on grass. Eventers can suffer from digital flexor tendon problems as well as suspensory injuries, so the heels should be kept short, but not underslung.

Tip: Pads that have some grip on the ground surface can improve traction without adding too much extra weight.


Polo requires plenty of control and agility as the horses spin, stop, and accelerate quickly in a short amount of time. Limiting strain on the hoof structures is an important consideration. Close fitting concave shoes are generally used, with a single stud for easier turning action. Many farriers will use “polo plates,” with a higher inside rim, to help the horse to turn while maintaining traction.

Tip: Place the stud hole on the outside of the rear shoe to allow the horse to turn more easily.


High speeds and quick acceleration are requirements for this sport. Shoes are concave and very light, with narrow nail holes and bevelled heels. Horses that race on turf use a sturdier shoe, but both types of racehorse need a closely fit shoe that will absolutely not come off in a race. Prone to hyperextension of the fetlock and tendon and suspensory problems, these horses usually need a low heel and a short toe to minimize injuries. Harness racing horses need to be shod to reduce the possibility of leg interference.

Tip: Glue on shoes can limit the damage of the frequent shoe jobs needed for “refined” racehorse feet.


Reiners need shoes that will let them perform their most impressive movements—the spin and the sliding stop—flawlessly. The stop is helped by sliding plates that are wide and offer extension to the heel, and sometimes the toe. A slightly rockered toe on the hinds can be useful, and a close fit will help the horse in its spins.

Tip: Keeping the hind nails flush with the shoe gives the horse an advantage in its stops.

Show Jumping

Concussion is a big stress these horses undergo in their work, as is strain on the flexor structures of the leg. Their toes should be kept short and the heels substantial enough that they can weight bear. Overreaching is a high risk with hind feet, so hind shoes can be set back. Stability in shoeing is important; clips, studs, and pads that improve shock absorption are all a critical part of the shoe job.

Tip: A rockered toe shoe can help these horses break over more easily, especially during turns.


These horses deal with tough surface conditions, and will often have to cover a lot more miles than in other disciplines. Balance in trimming is key, as is a solid break over on front shoes. The hind shoes can be set back a little to minimize the risk of overreach injuries.

Tip: Leave a few nail holes free so that the rider has a spot to fix the shoe if it becomes loose on a trail.


Castelijns, Hans. “If the Shoe Fits: Preventive Shoeing for Different Equestrian Disciplines.”

“Comments on Dressage Horse Shoeing.” Hoofcare and Lameness. 1998.

“Discipline Specific Shoeing: Horseracing.” Farriers Pages. Forge and Farrier

Herbert, Karn. Interview. Polo +10. 25 Jan. 2013.

McRae, Doug. “Champion Shoeing.” Barrel Racing 101: A Complete Program for Horse and Rider. Ed. Marlene McRae. Guilford: Lyons P, 2006.

“Remember These Pointers When Under Dressage Horses.” American Farriers Journal. 3 Jan.  2010.

Swann, Keith. “Some Thoughts on Shoeing the Endurance Horse.” Australian Farriers & Blacksmiths Association

by Cindy McMann

image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Richard Masoner (Creative Commons BY-SA)


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  • deborah francis
    deborah francis November 25, 2016 at 11:27 AM

    should a show jumper have toe nails or not please. My farrier has put 4 nails in with the two nails up near the toe. I have been advised that they should have 3 nails on each side and set back

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