Once regarded as pretty radical, bar shoes now are experiencing something of a renaissance. In particular, egg bar shoes are being fitted to more feet now more than ever before-even those belonging to horses in high-intensity athletic careers, such as racing or showjumping. The reason? Simple–they work!
The term “bar shoe” encompasses any type of shoe with a closed heel rather than an open heel, including the straight bar shoe, which is a regular shoe with a bar of steel or aluminum welded across its heels. The straight bar shoe has fallen out of favor these days, in deference to the egg bar, which provides better support of the horse’s weight with less direct compression on the heels. An egg-bar shoe, so called because of its oval shape, can be made by forging two shoes together so they form a continuous ring. It’s nailed on the foot in the normal way, but the posterior portion of the oval projects beyond the horse’s heels.
There are an infinite number of types and variations on bar shoes used for therapeutic applications. Most notably is the heart-bar shoe, which features a central triangular projection that covers the frog. Although bar shoes were once a custom-forged item, they now come ready-made, in materials ranging from aluminum to steel to titanium, in a kaleidoscope of sizes, shapes, and designs-a testament to their ever-increasing popularity.
Veteran farrier Chris Zizian, of Milton, Ontario, increasingly finds that egg-bar shoes are a good solution for many horses with problem feet. “The more research I do, the more I like them,” he says. “They’re useful for a lot of problems. Some horses need them for a few months on a therapeutic basis, but others just stay in them.”
Zizian notes that “hardly anyone who’s ‘up’ on the literature uses straight bar shoes anymore; there’s too much potential for crushing the bulbs of t