If your favorite horse wears shoes, there’s one thing for sure-he’s going to lose a shoe once in a while. Shoes fall off for lots of reasons. A shoe can get stuck in mud and twist off. A front shoe can get pulled off if a back hoof strikes it. Or you may have left too much time in between farrier visits and the shoe simply comes loose and falls off.
It’s important to schedule regular farrier visits (every five to six weeks is best) because when a shoe falls off, it can pull off a lot of healthy hoof with it. Then it may be difficult to re-shoe your horse and you may have to pay extra to have the holes filled up with an expensive hoof patch.
Plus, a lost shoe could end in lameness for your horse. Horses’ hooves get used to having shoes on them and if the shoe falls off, your horse’s bare hoof might be extra-sensitive and be more likely to get a stone bruise or an abscess. And the hoof could start to crack or break up as it hits the hard ground over and over.
It’s important to check your horse every day to make sure he has all of his shoes. Pick up his hooves and check that the shoes are not loose or twisted. A twisted shoe won’t stay on for long. If you see your horse looking a bit footsore out in the pasture, go and take a look at his feet-he may have lost a shoe. If a shoe looks loose, take some duct tape (you should always have duct tape in your first aid kit) and wrap it around the shoe and hoof to keep the shoe as secure as possible. Then call your farrier to see when he or she can get out to your barn.
When your horse loses a shoe, it’s important to act quickly if you want to keep the hoof in good shape. Here’s what you should do:
1. Bring him up to the barn and take a good look at the hoof. If there are chunks of the hoof sticking out, grab a farrier’s rasp (you can buy them at a farrier’s supply store or through a horse-care catalog or ask your farrier to give you an old one) and rasp off any sharp pieces of hoof or pieces that are sticking out.
2. If he seems footsore, it’s agood idea to cover the bottom of the hoof with padding before you turn him out again. It’s pretty easy. You should always have some medium-sized diapers in your first aid kit (they are great for poulticing sore feet). Grab a diaper and place it around the foot so most of the padding covers the sole. Then take vet wrap and secure the diaper as you would a poultice. Then secure the vet wrap and padding with some handy-dandy duct tape.
3. Leave your horse in the barn for a while and go on a “shoe hunt.” When shoes fall off they may have several sharp nails sticking out. You don’t want your horse or his pasture-mates to step on a shoe with nails sticking out. This could cause a puncture that can turn into a nasty hoof infection. Ask a pony pal to help you search for the shoe. When you find it, put it in a safe place in the barn. Your farrier may be able to reattach the shoe and you won’t have to pay extra for a new one.
4. Call your farrier to see when he or she can reattach the shoe. If it’s not going to be for a while, you can turn your horse out again. If it’s muddy or the ground is fairly soft, you can turn him out without wrapping the hoof. But if the ground is hard or he’s looking a bit lame, take the time to wrap the hoof. Remember the old saying-no hoof, no horse.
* This article first appeared in the September/October 2005 issue of Young Rider.