Q: I have my horse’s shoes replaced or reset every six weeks, no matter what. Yet I’ve heard that it’s best to let your horse, rather than the calendar, be your primary farriery guide. What signs indicate that my horse needs new shoes?
A: Each horse’s needs are different, and the right time to reshoe is a function of individual hoof condition and a horse’s level of activity. Horses subjected to a demanding performance schedule, as well as those with weak or injured feet , require frequent reshoeing —perhaps as often as every three to four weeks. In contrast, horses with strong, healthy hooves, who receive only light use, may require a farrier’s attention as little as every 10 weeks.
To see if your horse is on the right shoeing schedule, start by studying the shoes themselves. It’s time to call the farrier if it has lost half of its original thickness, or if its nail heads are worn down to nearly nothing.
Next, examine the hooves for:
· Cracking in, around or between nail holes
· Flaring (bending outward and upward) of the foot’s bottom edge on the iron
· Protruding “clinches”—nail ends the were bent flat against the outside of the hoof at the time of shoeing but that now extend away from the hoof wall
· Excessive space (a quarter-inch or more) between the shoe and the edge of the sole—noticeable when cleaning the foot with a hoof pick
· Areas of overgrowth where the hoof wall extends beyond the shoe’s edge.
Waiting too long to have your horse reshod can have serious effects on his performance and soundness. Old shoes may begin to press down on and damage the sole, straining the joints of the foot and precipitating hoof-wall breakage. I n addition, they’re likely to become loose and fall off. By learning to recognize the signs of worn-out shoes, you can help prevent hoof problems and shoe no less—or more—often than necessary.