Hoof Care–Addressing the Individual

The manner in which we deal with equine hoof problems (shoes/no shoes) depends on the individual case.

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Hoof Care--Addressing the Individual
Photo: Erica Larson

We have greatly altered the lifestyle of our domesticated horses. These changes have had some negative impacts on the horse, one example of which is the health and quality of the hoof capsule. The majority of the equine population is overweight, underworked, and genetically selected for traits other than hoof capsule quality. This combination leaves us with a weak, poorly adapted hoof capsule. The manner in which we deal with this problem (shoes/no shoes) depends on the individual case.

I really enjoy rehabilitating feet and setting them barefoot. Whenever possible I try to keep horses barefoot. For example, last year I tried getting all of my polo ponies barefoot, even though they were all sound and their feet looked great. However, I found they were not able to be as competitive as the other horses on the field when they were barefoot. They were slipping and not able to turn as fast. In fact, when playing faster polo, I felt it was actually dangerous and decided to shoe them again for the safety of myself and the horse.

Shoes can be overused and misused. Feet can be shod poorly and nailed too shallow so that the walls break up. Feet can also be trimmed out of balance. The wrong shoe type or traction devices can be used, causing strain on other structures of the limb/foot. Does that mean that all shoes are detrimental to the horse’s feet? Of course not. On one hand there is nothing better than a healthy barefooted horse. I think we all agree on that; however, many horses need shoes to stay competitive at high levels in various disciplines, to stay sound, and as a therapeutic device to relieve discomfort and rehabilitate various disease

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Written by:

Scott Morrison, DVM, is a podiatrist and shareholder at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where he sees a variety of foot and lameness-related cases. He graduated from Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999.

2 Responses

  1. re: Hoof Care–Addressing the Individual

    Thank you for this article.

    In addition to the altered lifestyle of the domestic horse is the lack of good breeding principles.  In my opinion this is highly evident in the Thoroughbred racing industry resulting in the poor hoof quality tha

  2. re: Hoof Care–Addressing the Individual

    Boots can help a horse also and the owner can take them on and off without any special skill.

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