First, let’s assume your horse doesn’t need shoes for therapeutic reasons and that you’re not trying to correct an issue. If you are, only your vet and farrier can help you answer that.
With that out of the way, there are so many different kinds and styles of horse shoes out there, and new, sometimes weird, fads pop up all the time on the internet. How do you know which kind of shoes will help your horse, or maybe shave off a second or two in your next competition?
Lots will depend on what kind of work your horse does. Every job that horses do makes different demands of their hooves, and different kind of shoes are all made to help the horse meet that demand.
There are a couple basic things to think about, though.
The most common types of shoes are rims and flat shoes. I prefer the rims because the groove all the way around helps give horses a little extra grip. These work great for almost everybody, from cattle penning and barrel racers to ranch horses and trail riding.
The only uses I can think of for plain, flat shoes would be sliding plates on the hinds of reiners. Sliders are like skis to help them slide farther.
Clips and corks are usually added to rim shoes for hunters and jumpers. Your farrier will drill and tap holes in the heels of the shoes, so you can screw in corks to give your horse even more grip. The clips help keep your jumper’s feet together when he lands a 4 foot jump.
Heel and toe shoes have a raised strip up around the toe and heel calks (which are just raised areas on the heel ends of the shoes). Heel shoes only have the heel calks. Both add a little extra grip, but not as much as corks. I’ve only ever seen them on the hinds of some polo horses.
My favorite brands of shoes come in regular and light. I’ve found there really isn’t much of a weight difference and they wear down the same. Some farriers prefer the lighter ones because they bend easier cold. For farriers, that just means you don’t need to pull out your forge if you don’t feel like it.
If you really need to speed your horse up, try aluminum rims. They’re much lighter than steel, but will wear down much faster. Track horses usually need their shoes changed every four weeks, even if their feet haven’t really grown much.
On the flip side, if you have a heavy draft horse, heavier shoes might make more sense so your farrier doesn’t have to nail in the same nail holes every time. The hoof will grow before the shoe wears out.
Let your farrier know exactly what you’re doing with your horse and how often you do it. That will help both of you determine the best shoe for your horse.
This is our monthly feature, “Ask a Farrier,” a Q and A with farrier Karen McMann. Karen has been a full-time farrier for 17 years. She graduated in 2002 from the Canadian School of Horseshoeing, where she studied under Pat Cullen. She serves on the Advisory Board of Equi-Health Canada and Equi-First Aid USA as a Farrier/Hoof Health Support specialist. Karen lives and works outside of Okotoks, Alberta.
If you have a question you’d like to ask a farrier (about horseshoeing, farriery, hoof and horse health, blacksmith tools, working as a farrier, etc.), email or leave it in the comments below. Every month, we’ll pick one question to answer in our feature.
Feature image: Jametlene Reskp