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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Do horseshoes hurt horses?

This post was inspired by something I read on a forum today. Someone was having difficulties with a horse that didn't want to be shod. This post attempts to illustrate why some horses might object to being shod.

The shoe below was nailed onto a cadaver under veterinary supervision to illustrate the 'ideal' positioning of a horseshoe nail. You can see the nail penetrates the water line (unpigmented inner hoof wall) before exiting via the outer hoof wall. You can also see how close that nail gets to the white line or laminae. As you know this is an incredibly sensitive area - just like your own nail bed. To hold the shoe on effectively the nail must go through the water line - it is the tough part of the hoof wall. The outer wall is relatively soft by comparison.

In this example (p1) the water line appears to be in good condition.

But for many shod horses the water line is in much poorer condition. Look at the foot below. You can see the white line is stretched - so the foot is already compromised and probably painful (p2). And if you squint (try clicking on the picture to enlarge it) you can see how emaciated the water line is, especially in the left area of the toe.

The water line is patchy and in places virtually non existant (p3 and p4). Where would a farrier put a nail on this foot?

In the fifth photo (p5) you can see a couple of nail holes in the left hand quarter. You can see how close they are to the white line - the equivalent of your own nail bed. I'll let you figure out if that hurt or not.

This is my own horse - shod before I got her. She hates being shod and hates farriers. I wonder why?

Fortunately after a bit of TLC her white line has reasserted itself - it took about 16 weeks to get a water line around the whole foot (p6). This is a terrible picture, just before a much needed trim, but check out the toe area - much tighter white line and the water line is getting fatter. I will see if I can get a better picture in the next few days.

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Southern England, United Kingdom