Tough. Resilient. Protective. Whether on a human foot or a horse’s hoof, a shoe supports weight and helps one overcome environmental hazards. With today’s technology, equine footwear can “stick” to a hoof without the traditional nails. Tough synthetics allow a shoe to adhere to the bottom of the hoof, or fit around the hoof wall. A shoe doesn’t even have to exist as a pre-formed shape — a talented farrier can sculpt a customized form to address your horse’s unique hoof problems.

Adhesive substitutes for metal shoes have generated a specialty area of hoof care. Ongoing research has utilized new technology to deliver nail-free materials and methods.

Helping the Hoof

Veterinarians and farriers are always looking for ways to help hooves bear weight. Healthy hooves should breathe, flex to allow normal foot movement, and support the horse’s weight in any environment. In some cases, glue-on shoes help the hoof do these things better than a traditional shoe.

The glue-on shoe has many applications, and more are being discovered. Glue-on shoes can help maintain a hoof’s natural function of support and flexion as they attach through bonding rather than rigid metal being nailed to the foot. For horses with a quarter crack, low-grade laminitis, or weak horn capsule, a bonded shoe can make a significant contribution to the overall treatment regime. For any function that a nailed-on shoe can perform, a glue-on shoe has been developed. For example, a young horse that needs support to correct a limb deviation might wear a glue-on cuff with a toe, side, or heel extension.

Ric Redden, DVM, specializes in hoof care at his International Equine Podiatry Center in Versailles, Ky. He says, “The iron shoe seemed to be a panacea in the days of the Romans. But there are drawbacks in the iron shoe with nails.”

Some hooves can’t tolerate nails. Nai