Study: Horses Find ‘Comfort’ After Trimming and Reshoeing
Does your horse enjoy a good foot trim? According to a new study, he just might. Researchers recently observed that in the week following trimming and reshoeing, horses tend to take more steps than before the trim, and they spend more time in a relaxed position.

“I think it’s akin to the feeling you get after you trim your fingernails and toenails,” said Jay A. Daniel, PhD, professor of animal science at Berry College, in Mount Berry, Georgia. “They just feel a bit better.”

In the study, led by Daniel’s undergraduate student Rosemary Groux, scientists fitted seven riding horses with accelerometers on one hind limb, which the horses wore 23 hours a day for more than two weeks. All seven geldings—Quarter Horses, a Thoroughbred, and a Warmblood—lived in pastured groups of about 12 horses on the Berry College campus.

Halfway through the study period, three of the horses underwent trimming and reshoeing, in line with their regular six-week farriery schedule, Daniel said. The other four received all the handling associated with trimming and reshoeing by the same farrier but, as the control group, did not actually get their feet trimmed or reshod.

They found that the horses with fresh trims and new shoes took more steps per day than they did before the farrier treatment, Daniel said. “There was clearly more voluntary movement in the paddock, which tells us they were more comfortable on their feet,” he explained.

Interestingly, said Daniel, they also noted that the reshod horses spent more time lying down after the trim than before. While that might sound like it contradicts the theory that the horses were more comfortable, Daniel said that, for their research team, it reinforced the theory.

“The time lying down wasn’t abnormally long,” he explained. “It was just longer than it was before the trim. We believe they were just more relaxed after the farrier visit.”

Although time lying down could indicate foot soreness, the horses showed no signs of tenderness in the feet or lameness, said Daniel.

The scientists had originally planned for 10 horses in the study, but three of them developed warm areas under the accelerometers, so the researchers pulled those horses from the study in case they were getting sores from the equipment, Daniel explained. While the researchers acknowledge that the study group was small, it’s still the first time post-trimming behavior has been studied in free-moving horses, he said.

“This study should reassure owners that trimming and shoeing by a qualified farrier don’t appear to make their horses uncomfortable,” said Daniel.