Written by Rachael Kraft
Wild horses grind down their hooves wandering the plains. But domestic horses need more help! That’s why your horse should be seen by a skilled farrier every 4 to 6 weeks. They will help evaluate your horse’s hooves and address three key issues: correction, traction, and protection.
You may also be interested in reading: Glue-On Horse Shoes: An Alternative for Horses with Damaged Hooves
The process of changing horse shoes is often referred to as “shoeing” a horse or having them “reshod.” This basically means that a farrier (a person trained to shoe horses) will come to remove the old shoes, trim the horse’s hooves, and then fit new shoes. How often do horses need new shoes? This process needs to be done every 4 to 6 weeks.
Farriers are really important members of your horse’s health care team. Just like a veterinarian, a farrier helps keep your horse healthy and sound. They do this by maintaining the length, balance, and integrity of the hoof capsule and the hoof.
Just like with humans, horseshoes give your horse support during their regular activities. For instance, a jumping horse without shoes might end up with sore feet. A trail horse moving over rocky terrain without shoes might end up with chips and chunks broken out of their hooves. A racehorse without shoes might not be able to gain proper traction to race his best.
So, how do horseshoes work? Well, they basically serve the same purpose as human shoes. They protect and support the horse’s feet while helping them to perform to their highest ability.
Your horse’s hoof has many weight bearing parts. These affect how the horse moves and whether or not he can have athletic success. A horse who is not shod correctly will not be able to move freely and comfortably in the show ring. They may even pull up lame.
The outer part of a horse’s hoof is called the hoof wall – while the inner part includes both the sole and the sensitive v-shaped frog. Most horses are regularly shod, but not all of them. Some horses do fine barefoot for all or part of the year.
The reshoeing process starts with a farrier evaluating the horse’s hoof balance. They might watch the horse walk or trot to see the horse’s overall movement. Then, they look more closely at the foot by holding the horse’s leg between their legs or using a pedestal.
A well-behaved horse can stand tied for this process. Some more antsy horses need a handler to hold onto them or even need sedation from a veterinarian. It’s worthwhile to train your horse to stand quietly and let the farrier hold his legs for long periods of time. Curious how often do you change horse shoes? You’ll be going through this process every 4 to 6 weeks!
Once the farrier has come up with a plan, they can remove the old shoe and begin the trimming process. A variety of tools like hoof knives, nippers, rasps, and various hammers are used during the shoeing process. The farrier will trim off sections of the outer hoof wall, trim the sole and frog, and then file down and shape the hoof so it is even and smooth.
Very long horse hooves make it difficult for the horse to walk naturally. That’s why it’s important to get your horse’s feet trimmed regularly even if they don’t wear shoes. Once the foot is trimmed down to a natural length, it’s ready to be fitted for the shoe.
There are many options for horseshoes. Your farrier could buy a machine-made shoe or they could choose to make a shoe on their own. The shoes can be made from many types of materials including aluminum, steel, plastic, rubber, or even wood. Steel and aluminum shoes are most commonly used.
The type of shoe your farrier uses is going to depend on the type of activity your horse does most often. Their riding discipline and your horse’s hoof health is going to determine if they need all four shoes or just two shoes on the front legs (or if they can go without shoes!)
A new horseshoe needs to be properly fitted to the horse’s foot. This is done by placing the shoe in a hot furnace which makes the metal more malleable. The farrier will then use a hammer to shape the shoe to match your horse’s foot shape.
From here, the hot shoe is burned or seared onto the hoof. This might sound painful, but horses don’t have any nerve endings on the outer section of their hoof – called the hoof wall. So, they don’t feel any pain.
Nails are then pounded into the hoof wall to secure the horse shoe onto the hoof. Once the shoe is applied, the hoof will continue to grow. It’s just like a fingernail with nail polish – it grows regardless of what is attached! That’s why your farrier will need to return in a few weeks to repeat the whole process.
The process of removing and reapplying a horse shoe is sometimes called resetting or re-shoeing. Sometimes the same shoe can be reused and sometimes a brand new shoe will be needed. The metal in the shoe wears down over time, so your farrier will let you know if the old shoes are too thin to be reused.
If you’re wondering how long do horseshoes last, the answer varies. The type of terrain your horse walks on will play a role in how quickly the shoe metal wears down. A horse who spends a lot of time on pavement or rocky surfaces will need their shoes replaced more often than one who only walks on turf and grass.
(Just a note: buying new shoes will make your farrier bill that month just a bit higher, so be prepared!)
Look for the following urgent signs to know that it’s time to call your farrier:
Any one of these signs means you need to call the farrier as soon as possible. A horse with a loose shoe is actually at risk of injuring himself, so it’s much better to get on a regular schedule with your farrier. Have them come BEFORE any of these signs appear.
Changing horseshoes isn’t a job just anyone can do. People who want to become a farrier have to attend farrier school. Then, they usually do an apprenticeship with someone with years of experience. Surprisingly, there’s not a U.S. regulation for farriers. This means that anyone can buy the tools and the shoes.
This is handy if you need tools to quickly and safely pull a loose shoe from your horse so he doesn’t injure himself. But it also means that you should vet any new farrier carefully before you trust them with your horse.
Look for a farrier who has been certified by the American Farrier’s Association (AFA.) Some farriers also earn a “therapeutic endorsement.” This means they have advanced skills to correct lameness problems using special shoe types.
The most prestigious farriers may be asked to serve as the official farrier for large events like the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event.
Some horses don’t need to wear shoes regularly, but they should still be seen regularly by a farrier. This way, their hooves can be kept a good length and maintain a proper, balanced shape.
Some owners will choose to put their horses in shoes during the peak riding season and then let them go without shoes – or ‘barefoot’ – over the winter months. Talk with your veterinarian and your farrier to decide what is best for your horse.
A horse wearing shoes needs to be seen by a farrier every 4-6 weeks. This way, the old shoes can be removed, the foot trimmed, and new shoes safely attached. Horse hooves will grow regardless of if the horse is wearing a shoe or not. Domestic horses can’t naturally wear down their hooves and poorly maintained feet can cause lameness in horses.
It will cost about $30-$80 for a farrier to trim your horse’s feet and $80-$200 for them to apply four new shoes. This cost will vary according to your location, your level of equestrianism, and your relationship with your farrier. Sometimes used horse shoes can be reset on your horse, so your fee will vary visit to visit depending if new shoes are needed. A farrier needs to see your horse every 4-6 weeks.
A long and overgrown hoof wall means your horse’s hooves need to be trimmed. You should get on a regular schedule with your farrier and have them come every 4-6 weeks. Here are some urgent signs that new shoes are needed:
You should have your horse see a farrier every 4-6 weeks on average. This might vary depending on how quickly your horse’s feet grow and whether or not they are wearing shoes or going barefoot. Talk with your farrier to get on a regular schedule. Don’t wait for urgent problems (like a thrown shoe) to call the farrier or else you are risking injury to your horse.
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