Why Do Horses Wear Horseshoes?

horseshoes close up

Most people are familiar with the trotting sound of a horse as it walks and runs majestically around. It’s the sound of its horseshoes as it touches the floor.

However, have you ever wondered why all horses (except the wild ones) wear shoes? Especially when other common farm animals like the duck, or a cow don’t wear one? Well, read on to find your answer!

Why Do Horses Need Horseshoes?

You will realize it’s importance if you learn a little about the structure of horse hooves.

Horses are strong and majestic animals that run quickly and do lots of work. They have thick, tough hooves that protect their legs and work as shock absorbers against their massive bodies’ when they move.

However, there is a problem here. Their hooves are of the same tough protein keratin that makes your hair and nails. The difference between the two is that the horse’s multi-layered hooves are exceptionally strong.

Besides, just like your nails and hair, the horse’s hooves keep growing all the time. They grow as much as a new hoof practically every year. With time, the horse’s hard work and running tend to wear down the hooves quicker than it grows. It led to the invention of horseshoes as a solution to the problem of worn hooves.

Once attached, the horseshoe helps slow down the rate at which the hooves wear down. Besides, they provide additional shock absorbency and traction to help horses move and work more confidently.

There is another reason for horses wearing shoes. The hooves have a soft and tender inner part called the frog that can get injured while working. The shoes protect and keep them healthy by reducing the chances of any injury.

Horses especially need to wear horseshoes if their hooves are in frequent contact with rugged and tough surfaces like concrete. There is a high chance of the uneven and rough flooring damaging the horse’s hooves.

farrier is shoeing a horse

What are Horseshoes Made of?

Horseshoes are generally of some sturdy metal like steel or aluminum. For example, racehorses wear aluminum shoes because they are lighter and ideal reaching better speeds. A tough material is needed to ensure the shoes maintain the shape.

However, you have to select your horseshoe style based on your horse breed. Some horse breeds use different shoes on their front and hind legs. You may also find some horses’ hind legs fitted with a horseshoe called a caulk. The specialty of caulk is that it’s extra steel materials help prevent excess wear and tear damage.

Do Horseshoes Harm or Hurt Horses?

As horseshoes are nailed directly to the horse hoof, many people wonder if applying and removing it can hurt the horse.

You will be happy to know that they do not experience any pain at all. It’s, in fact, it’s a pain-free process because the horse’s hoof doesn’t have any nerve endings. The only thing they may feel while applying and removing hooves is the same sensation we feel while trimming our nails!

horse is galloping close up

How Often Should Horseshoes Be Replaced?

You generally have to reshod or replace your horse’s shoes once every four to six weeks. It’s because their hooves grow even with shoes on.

The nails holding the shoe to the hoof tends to get loose as the hooves grow. This is in turn really painful to the horse. Reshoeing helps keep their hooves in good condition.

There are some signs which indicate it’s time to reset your horse’s shoes. They are:

  • An out-of-shape hoof when compared to the horseshoe.
  • Thin or worn out shoe.
  • Loose nails protruding from the hoof.
  • The horseshoe warped onto the hoof.
  • A loose shoe that may easily come off.
  • The hoof seems to have overgrown the shoe.

It’s better to schedule a reshoeing appointment when you notice any of these signs. Failure to do so can lead to damaged hooves and even bone problems.

How are Horseshoes Put On the Horse?

Its professionals are known as farriers who put horseshoes on horses. They use nails to fit the horseshoe to the outer part of the hoof.

Don’t worry. As there are no nerve endings here, hose’s don’t feel any pain while nailing on the horseshoes. Once the shoe is nailed on, the farrier bends the nails over to look like a hook.

They then file away the nail’s leftover sharp points and a part of the hoof so that the shoe fits well.

It’s the farrier’s job to customize each shoe to fit each hoof perfectly. With the hooves continuously growing, the farrier has to trim, adjust, and reset the shoes regularly to ensure it works properly.

What About Horses That Don't Wear Shoes?

It’s not just wild horses that don’t wear shoes. Some working horses don’t wear them too.

It’s usually because they have some problems with their feet. They may have too brittle hooves or a broken hoof making it difficult to affix the shoe properly.

However, these horses can still go trail riding or work on the farm but with some work limitations In the case of wild horses, there are two reasons for not wearing horseshoes.

The first is that since they don’t work as much as domesticated horses, their hooves wear out slower than it grows. Secondly, they don’t have anyone to look after them, and put on shoes if they suffer from an injured frog.

farrier is fitting the shoes

Importance of Horseshoes for Trail Riding

Horses doing trail rides are back horses, and they need horseshoes. It’s because trail rides are on paved surfaces or hard-packed ground where their hooves tend to wear away faster than they grow.

It gets painful and is the reason why horses won’t be able to work. So it goes without doubt that back horses need horseshoes to keep their hooves protected. In terms of safety, you may also consider investing in horse boots to provide more protection and comfort.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, horses wear horseshoes mainly for protection and comfort reasons. Shoes protect their hooves, which are regularly exposed to rough or hard flooring.

Anyway, horses don’t feel any pain while nailing horseshoes. It’s much better than injuring and hurting their hooves with regular exposure to rough and hard flooring!

Got a new horse? Read the article that reveals the main tips on breaking in a horse.

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David Garcia

David Garcia

David Garcia is a vivid writer and a big fan of equestrian sports. He founded Horse Riding Center – the blog where David shares his knowledge and experience about horses, tack, equestrian riding equipment, taking care of horses, and other useful guidelines.

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