Are Metal Horse Shoes Ever the Answer?
I’d like to start this month’s Monthly Musing post with a little background information on me and my horses, for those of you who might not know. Until about eight years ago, I kept my riding horses shod for most of the year. My farrier/ husband talked me into pulling the shoes for the winter (when I usually didn’t compete) and I saw the sense in this because of the snow and ice and all. But other than that, I never thought twice about metal horse shoes and whether they were good or bad for my horses’ feet.
This all changed when I met a barefoot trimmer while attending Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute. Barefoot was an interesting concept and it sure sounded easier than shoes. So I started doing some research and before long, I became convinced that barefoot was absolutely the best option after I read Pete Ramey’s, Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You. I decided to learn how to trim my own horses and really haven’t looked back since.
But occasionally, I will read a case story online or someone will tell me about an instance where shoes were ‘needed’ in a particular situation, and this always catches my attention. Are metal horse shoes ever the answer? I will admit, shoes can sometimes make things better. Or rather make them APPEAR better. Shoes seem to take away the pain–and that’s what we all want to see, right?
But I realized a while back that the shoe isn’t actually taking away the pain. It’s merely masking it for a while, kind of like a big ole’ metal band-aid.
I’m not saying we should ignore horses who are in pain. Something needs to be done. But that doesn’t necessarily mean applying metal horse shoes. Yes, some horses need protection, but there are far better options these days.
My first suggestion would be to get a barefoot trimmer (or learn how to trim yourself!) Educate yourself on how to have a healthy, barefoot horse. And your horse may very well benefit from wearing hoof boots. Despite what you may hear, there are some great ones out there. Not every brand works for every horse and you may have to do some trial and error. One particular brand (which many people rave about) kept breaking when I turned my horse out in them, but another type of hoof boot lasted for several years (until a dog made a chew toy out of one). The Hoof Boot Swap page is a good place to buy and sell used boots, by the way.
There are also horse shoes being made from flexible materials now, such as rubber and even plastic. These are better than metal simply because they can move and flex with the hoof. While I wouldn’t condone their long-term use, they might be a short-term solution in some instances.
Whether it be laminitis, navicular, cracking and chipping, thrush, or any other issue, shoes will never be the solution. Nailing a metal shoe to a live hoof which is meant to move and flex and pump blood back up into the body will not fix anything. And there’s a good chance that it may make things worse.
Are metal horse shoes easier than dealing with your horse’s problems or taking the time to do research on what may be best for your horse? Absolutely. That’s why they are so popular. They’re also just what people do. Let’s face it–people are often like sheep, just doing what everyone else does. I was like this too.
But when we take the shoes off, we get the truth. The truth about the horse’s nutrition (and what may be lacking), the truth about the environment in which the horse is kept, and the truth about any underlying issues in the hooves.
So next time you think that metal horse shoes may just be the answer, I ask you to consider all your options and think about what’s really best for the horse.