Can Shoeing Improve How Show Horses Move?

Do you want to improve your dressage horse’s gait score or emphasize your hunter’s “daisy-cutter” trot? A veterinarian offers insight into how good farriery and strategic shoeing can affect movement.

No account yet? Register


Can Shoeing Improve How Show Horses Move?
When shoeing horses we need to consider the horse’s job and conformation. We should strive to shoe the horse according to his hoof and leg conformation while considering what he does for a living. | Photo: iStock
Q. Can how a horse is shod improve how he moves in the show ring?

A. Shoeing can improve how a horse moves in the show ring in many ways. When we can consider horseshoes’ impact on movement, we must consider three factors: conformation, hoof trim, and type of horseshoe. We should examine them separately so we can understand how each factor contributes to the whole.


Once a horse reaches maturity, there is very little shoeing can do to safely alter a gait related to limb conformation. Trying to alter a less-than-ideal gait can add extra stress on joints, bones, and hooves, so any benefit will be short-lived and ultimately not appropriate for the horse’s health. The same can apply to hoof conformation to a certain degree. In these cases, we need to assess the hoof to discover if a hoof abnormality is due to excess hoof length or inappropriate trimming, which are very fixable, or if a permanent conformation problem exists. An example of the latter is a club foot. These horses tend to have one foot at a lower-than-ideal angle and a club foot with a very upright conformation. The difference in angle between the feet makes it impossible for the two legs to move similarly. Trying to alter the angles can lead to similar pressures on limbs, joints, and hooves as we see when we try to alter gait in a poorly conformed horse. We can try to make them closer to ideal, but usually the change is negligible. Many horses do very well with mismatched feet, but the difference in stride length may have negative effects on hunter or dressage scores.


The key to any shoeing job is how well the hoof is trimmed. The goal is to trim the foot to match the conformation of the leg and offer maximum weight-bearing support under the limbs. Some farriers, usually under the instructions of a trainer, will try to alter the trim (e.g., raising or lowering the heels) to make a stride more appropriate for a discipline. This can give a short-term fix, but when we alter where the hoof should be, we are adding pressure and stress to focal parts of the hoof. This excess force can lead to such problems as quarter or toe cracks, sheared heels, and flared walls. No matter how hard we try, we can’t use trim to overcome the forces of

Create a free account with to view this content. is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


No account yet? Register

Written by:

Dr. Mike Pownall is co-owner of McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Toronto as well as a business consultant for fellow veterinarians through his company, Oculus.

Leave a Reply

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

Do you use heated water buckets for your horses?
309 votes · 309 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with!