As spring is quickly approaching people are already thinking about getting their horses shoed or shod, as some call it. A question that I am frequently asked is: When do I start to shoe my horses, or do I shoe them year round?
Since I have so many horses that we use daily, it comes down to each different horse’s personal conformation and their feet. I try to let most of my horses go barefoot most of the time if I can. I believe that barefoot is definitely the healthiest for most horses. If I am doing a lot of outside riding in the rocks, then I will shoe them. Let’s define outside riding. When I am out on our summer range checking cows daily and typically riding a different horse every other day or every third day, I will make sure to keep these horses shod most of the time due to the amount of miles that they will be ridden in rough terrain. If I were one that just rides for pleasure on the weekends out on trails, then I would look at my particular horse and consult with a well qualified farrier on whether or not my horse needs shoes or would make a barefoot candidate.
A horse’s hoof is very much like our feet or hands. They can callus and can get very hard. If you set your horse up on a regular trimming schedule every four to six weeks, then in most cases your horse will retain that callused hoof and his feet will remain much like steel. He can continue to go barefoot safely while being ridden an hour or two on the weekends.
If you have a horse that you only ride in an arena setting, it can also probably get by without shoes as well for the majority of the time as most arenas have good, soft ground and minimal rock. There are some horses that have very soft or brittle feet. These types of horses generally need shoes most of the time and probably always will. Horse shoes restrict the natural contraction of the horse’s hooves, so when you are having them shod, have your farrier keep the shoes as full and broad as he can. This helps prevent shrinkage of the feet and many potential problems that can occur down the road. If you are going to keep your horse shod, then every six to eight weeks is a general rule of thumb for having them trimmed and reshod.
There are many very qualified farriers in our area. Be sure to choose one who is knowledgeable in horse hoof anatomy, care and can keep your horses feet balanced correctly. Overall, the most important factor is keeping your horse comfortable and sound.
Understanding and training horses is in Shamus Haws’ blood, but his passion is helping horses with human problems. Shamus Haws Horsemanship offers private training, clinics and colt starting services. Visit shamushaws. com to learn more.