There are many different reasons that might contribute to your horse losing his shoes. Let’s look at a few:
Weather and Environment
It could be the weather and the environment you’re living in. Do you get a lot of rain? Any horse could potentially lose a shoe or two in thick heavy mud. Do you live or ride somewhere with lots of rocks, (for example, a rocky river bed)? The heel of a horseshoe could get caught on a rock and get pried off that way.
Horse’s hooves naturally expand with water and moisture, which could cause the nail holes to expand and the clinches (the ends of the nails that are folded down against the hoof wall) to pull away and stick out. When the hooves dry up, they shrink back down, but the nails may still be loose enough that it wouldn’t take much to pull the shoes off.
Time Between Trims
How often does your horse get trimmed and have his shoes replaced? The general guideline is every six to eight weeks, but that doesn’t apply to every horse. Young horses’ hooves usually grow faster than older horses and most hooves grow slower in the winter. Do you give your horse extra supplements and nutrients that could speed up his hoof growth? I have some clients’ horses who need to see me every six weeks and a couple who I only have to rasp the rough edges off of every six months.
Ideally, it’s best to call your farrier when the hoof has grown enough to avoid nailing into the old nail holes. The quarters, or sides of the hoof, where nails are placed, are the thinnest part of the hoof wall, and are usually the first to chip and break off.
Some breeds, like thoroughbreds, for example, usually have thinner hoof walls all around than most other breeds, which might make keeping a shoe on more difficult. If you have your farrier out too soon, you risk nailing into the existing old nail holes or very close to them. Too many nail holes too close together can cause more of the sides to break off, leaving nothing to nail a shoe to.
How well do the shoes fit your horse? Shoes that are too big will stick out around the hoof, especially off the heel, making it easier for them to catch on something and rip off. If too much of the shoes stick out around the sides, your horse could step on one with one of his other feet, and possibly pull his own shoes off. This is most common in horses with narrow chests, where their steps are closer together. The heels of the shoes shouldn’t stick out farther than the heel bulbs, unless you have a reining horse with sliding plates on.
Some farriers say hot shoeing will help seal shoes to the hooves better. Others argue burning shoes on only draws moisture out of the foot, causing more cracks and breaks. Some farriers will tell you that side clips on shoes will keep them on longer, where others say that clips restrict the necessary expansion and contraction the hoof needs for blood flow and good health.
Last Thoughts on Losing Shoes
This is a difficult question to answer without more details. I’ve watched a horse walk up to a fence right after the farrier finished shoeing her, put the heel of her shoe over it and pry it off herself.
I also have some scars from horses who didn’t want to stand to have shoes on and pulled away whenever I tried to nail them in. If your farrier can barely get one nail in on each side of the shoe before the horse acts up, your horse’s shoes might not end up being as secure as your farrier wanted them to be. Make sure your horse will stand quietly for the whole shoeing job.
The best suggestion I can give you about your horse losing shoes is to find all the lost shoes. More than likely, they’re all in the same mud pit or along a fence line. If we can see the thrown shoe, the nicks and bends can tell how it came off in the first place, and how to help keep it on better.
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