“My Horse Keeps Losing Shoes!” – Top 5 Reasons for Lost Shoes

Jun 7, 2018

We’ve all been there: usually the morning before a show or clinic, or perhaps directly after the farrier has been, your horse comes in with three feet neatly trimmed with metal and one bare hoof. Somehow, he’s managed to throw his shoe in the field. It’s a frustrating problem that can destroy your plans for the day and even damage your horse’s hoof, but it doesn’t happen without cause. Here are the top five reasons why your horse will lose his shoes, and what you can do to prevent this from happening.

Hoof Stamping Due to Flies

The Problem: Horses are one of the most tactile-sensitive animals in the universe. Despite being almost ten times the size of humans, their skin is significantly thinner, making it easier for their touch receptors to pick up on sensation. This helps to explain why the irritating tickle of a fly on the skin is so much more aggravating to a horse than to a human.

One of the horse’s most important mechanisms for dealing with flies is to stamp. While they can shiver the skin on the rest of their bodies in order to shake off flies, and their long tails can reach their flanks and bellies to swish the flies away, the skin of their legs is incapable of shivering and their forelegs are out of reach of their tails. This leaves them to stamp their front feet in order to get rid of the flies. Excessive stamping serves to loosen the nails of the shoe, eventually causing the shoe to come off completely.

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The Solution: This problem can be mitigated by appropriate fly control. One method that will give almost instant relief is to apply a suitable fly repellent to your horse’s legs at least once a day. It’s also nice to have a gallon refill on hand.

Mud

The Problem: Where horses are involved, there will always be mud. Especially in areas with heavy rainfall, it’s inevitable that at least part of your horse’s field will end up being boggy, and this can pose a problem for horses’ feet. Mud can cause problems such as thrush, quarter cracks, and cracked heels. More to the point, it causes the horse to lose shoes more easily.

The main reason why shoes are lost in mud is because when the foot is wet, it expands. This causes the nail holes of the shoe to expand, too, loosening the nails. With the shoe already loosened, it only takes a step into deep mud to suck the shoe clean off the foot.

The Solution: The best thing that can be done to prevent this from happening is to control the presence of mud in your horse’s life. When building paddocks, try to ensure that they have adequate drainage; digging drains to divert runoff around the paddock can also help to keep the ground dry. Leaking water troughs or buckets are also an important cause of mud. These should be repaired anyway to prevent the wastage of water.

If there is no way to prevent mud from forming in the paddock, there are still steps that can be taken to improve the ground conditions. Charcoal, or wood chips spread onto the surface absorbs the wetness without becoming boggy and slippery.

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Alternatively, there are products that can be applied to the horse’s foot to make it more waterproof, such as this Mud Shield Powder or a more generic all-around hoof dressing like Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Dressing.

Hoof Condition

The Problem: The condition of the hoof wall also has an influence on the hoof’s ability to keep a shoe on. Where the hoof wall is strong and elastic, the wall will be stable and the nail holes will keep their shape, keeping the nails snugly in place.

However, if the hoof wall is brittle, it will crack and crumble around the nail holes. The nails will then start to fall out of the hoof wall, loosening the shoe. Even worse, should the horse overreach or get his shoe caught on something, he might tear an entire section of his hoof wall out.

Poor hoof quality also has more important consequences than simply casting shoes. Conditions such as seedy toe, quarter cracks, and even laminitis can have lifelong consequences for your horse.

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The Solution: Like most things with horses, hoof condition is strongly influenced by nutrition. One of the most important substances for hoof wall condition is biotin, which can be fed in the form of nutritional supplements like this one. Farrier’s Formula is also an old favorite.

Overreaching

The Problem: Overreaching is a common fault in the horse’s action. When the horse moves, his hind foot should step on or over the print left by the front foot on the same side (“track up”). Some horses, particularly those with short-coupled or long toe-low heel conformation, don’t get that front foot out of the way quickly enough. This results in the hind hoof striking into the sole or heel of the front hoof.

Overreaching may result in cuts or bruises to the bulbs of the heel, but if the hind foot catches on the heel of the front shoe, it can result in the shoe being pulled off. This can be particularly dangerous as the shoe may just be loosened at the back and shift, driving the nails into the sole.

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The Solution: It is possible to limit a horse’s tendency to overreach by correct trimming of the foot, particularly if the horse has long toes. Shortening the toes and correcting the hoof-pastern axis will improve the horse’s action. However, it will likely always remain a risk for some horses, and these can be turned out wearing overreach boots. Plain rubber boots with a fleece lining are the most common and affordable, but the more durable versions are made of Neoprene.

Faulty Shoeing

The Problem: Most farriers are professional, reliable people who know what they’re doing, but there’s always a bad apple somewhere in the area. If you’re unlucky enough to end up with an unskilled or careless farrier, your horse’s feet will most certainly suffer. As well as potentially causing interference in movement (such as overreaching), bad shoeing can cause the condition of the hoof wall to deteriorate. Shoes that are too big are easily caught and pulled off; they may also not be nailed on appropriately, causing them to drop off.

The Solution: If multiple horses in the stableyard are losing shoes, the farrier might be the problem. Educate yourself on what a properly shod foot looks like and ensure that your horse is being shod correctly. Alternatively, you can ask for a second opinion from another farrier. When selecting a farrier, it’s important to check his credentials; be sure he’s qualified and ask other horse owners that you trust for references.

Conclusion

Ultimately, all horses will “throw a shoe” at some point in their lives. It’s an expensive inconvenience that’s simply part of horse ownership. However, if it happens repeatedly, there might be a correctable cause. Examine your situation carefully to determine why this is happening and consult a farrier to help you find the perfect solution for your horse.

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