The Truth About Lost Shoes

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Horse Shoes

How many times has your evening ride been postponed due to a lost shoe? Before you get angry with your farrier, check out these common misconceptions behind the infamous lost shoe.

My farrier didn’t do a good job and that is why my horse lost his shoe.

While this can be true, it is more often than not false. Ironically, the best farriers may have the most trouble with lost shoes.

“If you place more importance on keeping the shoe on at all cost, you are forced to sacrifice expansion and support, which is not best for the welfare of the horse,” Chris Powell, a farrier of more than 30 years says. “Expansion and support are two key ingredients for keeping a horse sound long-term, which is more important than never losing a shoe in my opinion.”

More nails are better.

This may be true, but only in some cases. “I prefer to use as few nails as possible to avoid unnecessary trauma to the hoof,” he says. “I will only opt to use more nails if I have a horse that loses shoes more than normal.”

My horse’s shoe was sucked off in the mud.

The most common reason horses lose a shoe is because they step on it with another hoof. This can be amplified in the mud because they may not be as coordinated in muddy conditions, but Powell says a properly applied shoe is not going to be lost due to the mud itself.

My horse’s hooves are unhealthy and that is why he can’t keep shoes on.

This may be true, but your farrier should be able to confirm or deny if this is the case. While the hoof really does make the horse, supplements, polishes and paints may be wasted money.

“There is research that supports the use of biotin in improving hoof health, but your horse may be getting enough biotin out of the commercial feeds you are already giving him,” Powell says. “Before you provide additional supplementation, I would consult your farrier, a veterinarian or an equine nutritionist to see if they think it will be beneficial and if so, what supplements they would recommend.”

He also advises owners to consult their farrier before buying a paint or polish to help improve their horse’s hoof condition.

“Many of the over-the-counter paints and polishes you can buy are very damaging to your farrier’s tools and don’t actually help your horse as much you think,” he says. “Talk with your farrier and see what they recommend – we usually have a preference.”

Powell says some horses may actually lose shoes because of their personalities rather than their hoof health.

“Horses that tend to paw fences, or play excessively may be more likely to lose a shoe than a horse that is content standing around under the shade tree,” Powell explains.

Horse Shoe
Beveling, or grinding, the outsides of the shoe during the summer can help keep your horse from pulling their own shoes while stomping flies. Photo: Lindsay Keller

My horse always loses his shoes in the summer when I want to be riding.

This is not entirely due to Murphy’s Law. Horses are more prone to losing shoes during the summer months for a couple reasons:

  1. The ground is typically dry, which can make their hoof condition follow suit.
  2. They are being ridden more, which can increase their chances of pulling a shoe due to overreaching, or forging.
  3. Horses feet tend to grow faster the more they move, so you may need to have your horse reset more often. According to Powell, proper shoe fit and regular resetting can really help prevent losing shoes.
  4. Perhaps the biggest culprit is those pesky flies. Each time a horse stomps his feet, he is liable to loosen the nails that hold his shoe on. Stomping also can cause horses to step on their own shoes with the opposite foot. Powell likes to grind, or bevel, the edges of the shoe to try and prevent this from happening.

Take-Home Message

Although lost shoes are a nuisance and will undoubtedly happen at an inconvenient time, remember to avoid correlating the quality of your farrier’s work with the number of shoes your horse may lose this summer. Also, Powell says you can help your farrier do a better job of properly fitting your horse’s shoes by providing a clean, well-lit area for him or her to work in, preferably on a flat, level surface.

“Keeping the flies at bay, keeping your horse on a regular reset schedule and providing good footing in your riding area can really help keep your lost shoes to a minimum,” Powell says.

Liked this article? Here are more hoof care resources:

How to Pull a Loose Shoe

8 Hoof Care Myths

Video Series Helps Horse Owners Understand Hoof Care

9 COMMENTS

  1. Here is a TRUE horse shoe fact: Horses and ponies do not NEED horse shoes. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are; equines do not NEED shoes of ANY kind. Read the book, “The Soul of a Horse,” by Joe Camp.

  2. 2 horses barefoot and one with shoes who gets cranky if doesn’t have his shoes on he does enjoy pulling off at least 1 shoe at times just to see the farrier when he thinks he is not getting enough attention

  3. A lot of good information in this article. My horses are barefooted, and do get bioton in their feed to help their hooves stay healthy.

  4. I can say that my horse has never “lost” a shoe because I always check his feet before I take him out. If the shoe looks too loose I pull it and remove the nails. I don’t mind riding him for a short while without the shoe and I call the farrier right away to get on his busy schedule.

  5. Great article. ShoeSecures were invented to help solve this problem. ShoeSecure prevents horse shoe loss and provides heel protection. Stockist in the USA in Florida

  6. We have one horse that is a struggle to keep her back shoes on because the way she’s put together. We finally went to clips on the rear since she was sliding off of them enough to finally step on one with another foot, therefore, pulling it right off. The clips have worked great, keeping the shoes in the correct position.
    As far as losing shoes in the mud, my experience has been that if the horse is often standing in mud constantly because we were blessed with lots of rain 🙂 the hoof itself will become softer and with all the sliding around walking in the mud, it don’t take much to pull shoe off soft hoof.

  7. I will always remember, when I was small, picking rock in our field, and found a old horseshoe, and my Grandpa told me how he had looked all summer, for his “Old Jake’s” shoe, and 30 yrs later I found it.

  8. Let two go shoeless because not ridden and the other usually holds on to his for 8 weeks and thankfully I have an awesome farrier that makes time for my boy and the others when I need some advice

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