Why Do Horses Need Horseshoes?

Learn about horse hoof health, horseshoe function, and farrier maintenance to keep your equine friend in top condition.

Why Do Horses Need Horseshoes?
Photo by John Fowler / Unsplash

Horses' hooves, similar to human fingernails, are continuously growing and enduring various terrains.

The hoof wall, made of tough protein called keratin, grows at a steady rate, around 1/4 to 3/8 inches per month.

While in the wild, horses naturally wear down their hooves by moving across diverse surfaces, harsh terrains and man-made structures like roads and paved stable floors can lead to faster hoof wear than growth, thus necessitating protective measures.

Understanding Hoof Health

Horses' hooves are crucial for their survival and well-being.

Protecting their hooves is paramount, especially when working or traversing challenging surfaces like pavement and bricks, to prevent cracking, imbalance, and potential injuries.

The Role of Horseshoes

Horseshoes, typically crafted from steel or aluminum, are shaped to fit the contour of the hoof and are affixed with nails or adhesive.

Functioning as a protective barrier, they alleviate the impact and abrasion from hard surfaces.

Additionally, horseshoes offer traction and promote better movement, particularly in slippery or icy conditions.

Farrier Maintenance

While horseshoes are indispensable for maintaining the hoof health of working and riding horses, their application comes with a downside.

Since the hooves aren't naturally worn down, they require regular trimming and re-shoeing by a farrier every few weeks to prevent issues and ensure the horse's continued mobility and comfort.

The Bigger Picture

Horseshoes play a crucial role in safeguarding horses' hooves, particularly on challenging terrains.

The craftsmanship and regular maintenance of horseshoes are vital for the overall well-being of these magnificent animals, ensuring their comfort as they work and move.

The necessity of these measures prompts the question of how human intervention economically presents the best solution to ensure the health and activity of these powerful animals in a world where man-made surfaces have become commonplace.