To Shoe or Not to Shoe: Part 1


The foot of a carriage horse as seen last year in Oklahoma City, OK. Among many reasons the owner chose to shoe his horse, one reasons was the application of these special “lift” shoes to make the horse appear taller and therefore more appealing to potential customers.


In this seven part series I sat down with one of this country’s leading farriers to tackle the age old debate of shoeing your horse verses leaving him or her barefoot. The series is both controversial and enlightening and in the end, my goal is to provide information on both sides of the fence so that you may make an informed decision about your horse’s shoeing needs.

Part 1 (Series Introduction): The last time I purchased a horse was over a decade ago. I had followed all the correct procedures that included a trial period and a pre-purchase exam but one area that I did not pay all that much attention to, aside from noting that she was wearing them, were her shoes. I certainly don’t remember asking why her previous owners made the decision to have them put on and once the decision was made to purchase her I didn’t ask anything about them at all above when her next farrier visit was due. In my mind she wore shoes then and would continue to wear them in the future.

pestcontrol 300x250

It has been that way with all of my horses. They wore shoes when I got them and, unless there was an issue that required it, I would continue to follow the status quo. Little did I know that less than a year after her purchase, following a bout with severe laminitis and founder, my way of thinking about shoeing would change.

Recently I attended a conference with other horse owners that started me thinking about the shoeing needs of my horse and horses in general in further detail. Beyond seeing that our horses adhere to regularly scheduled visits with our farriers have we ever asked ourselves why we make the decisions we make in regards to our horse’s podiatry care? According to Jeremy Davis, CJF, Dip WCF and Farrier in Residence at The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, horse owners should be putting quite a lot of thought into the care their horse’s feet receive.

Davis says, “Hoof care can be the single most expensive form of health care that your horse receives. Generally speaking the average horse sees the veterinarian one time per year while he will see the farrier an average of 8.7 times per year.” With trimming rates varying nationally from $12 – $80 per horse the expense quickly adds up. Many horse owners are not aware of all of the options available to them beyond simply choosing for your horse to wear shoes or be barefoot. Within each choice he says that there are “multiple options” and one goal of every farrier is “to keep the horse useful, healthy, and happy regardless of the option chosen.”

Davis shares, “the earliest reference to steel shoes for horses is 400 B.C. with references to protection for their feet going back much earlier.” But when asked by an owner whether or not their horse needs shoes or some other alternative his most common response is, “I don’t know.” While this isn’t the response that most owners expect, it does take into account a long list of factors that the horse’s team of caregivers needs to consider before reaching a conclusion. This team of caregivers should include: the owner, the trainer, the veterinarian, the farrier, the rider (if other than the owner), and farm management (if other than the owner). While all should play a role in the decision-making process, the most important member of the caregiver team is the owner. 

In next week’s post I’ll cover initial shoeing factors. Stay tuned for future weekly installments to include: information about the healthy hoof, pasture verses barefoot trims, selecting and keeping a quality farrier, and optimal hoof care. 

About the expert: Jeremy Davis has been a professional farrier for nineteen years. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier with the American Farriers Association and is a Diplomat with the Worshipful Company of Farriers. He is currently the Farrier in Residence at The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.








Leave a Reply