Six Different Types of Horse Shoes: Uses and Where to Purchase

by | Apr 13, 2019 | Blog

Controversial as they’ve become, horseshoes have been around since Ancient Greece, and they aren’t going to leave us anytime soon. The majority of performance and riding horses are shod for a variety of reasons, and shoes do still have a purpose in modern horse management. But which shoes should your horse be wearing? And where could you purchase them? Read on and find out.

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Factors in Choosing Horseshoes

First, we need to know what to take into consideration when choosing shoes to suit your horse’s feet.

These factors may include:

• workload

conformation of body and hooves

• action

• medical history of the hoof and legs

• discipline

• work surface

• budget.
Start by assessing your horse’s feet and way of going. A good farrier can completely change the way your horse moves, and this will always start by analyzing his conformation (the way he is built) and action (the way his feet move). For example, a long-toed horse might drag his feet, which could be corrected by using a shoe with a more pronounced roll to assist in a better breakover. Past injuries and illnesses will also affect shoeing – for example, a horse with old hip injuries may need bar shoes for support.

Finally, consider the surface the horse works on and the type of work he performs.

Six Types of Horse Shoe and Where to Buy Them

1. Normal shoes: Used by the majority of horses, the regular shoe is a simple U-shape generally made of steel. There is a fuller (groove) where the nails are hammered in, which prevents the nails from being pulled out so easily, and the heel of the shoe is open. The toe is smooth. This shoe – like most others – may be drilled and tapped to allow the rider to insert studs for slippery ground. The normal shoe is adequate for correct, well-moving horses in light to medium work on good ground.


2. Rim shoes: Identical in shape to the normal shoe, the rim shoe is also made of steel. Its one difference is the fuller – present only around the nail holes of the regular shoe – is much deeper and extends all the way around the entire shoe. This fuller helps to give the horse a little more grip on slippery surfaces and works well for jumping, eventing, dressage, or endurance riding on poorer surfaces. Both rim and normal shoes are also occasionally available in aluminium, which is generally used by high-level riders directly before events to reduce the weight on their horses’ feet.


3. Racing plates: These shoes are also shaped similarly to rim shoes, but they are made of aluminium – and thus considerably lighter than the ordinary steel shoes. However, they are considerably less durable. While steel shoes are generally replaced every four to six weeks, racing plates are only intended for a few days’ use. They are put onto racehorses just before a race in order to make it as easy as possible for them to move their feet fast while still protecting the hoof.


4. Sliding plates: These strange-looking, U-shaped shoes are longer and narrower than ordinary shoes. They extend all the way to the bulbs of the horse’s foot and have rolled toes; an even more unusual feature is that the sliding plate’s heels are not the same shape. The inside heel is narrower than the outside, helping to keep the horse’s feet from deviating from their natural, straight action. Sliding plates are used exclusively on the hind feet of reining horses to help them perform those super-impressive sliding stops, where the horse hunches back on his haunches and skids to a halt with his hind feet sliding along the ground. Ordinary shoes create more friction with the dirt and thus put more concussion on the horse’s legs, also not allowing for the same amount of slide. Sliding plates have very poor grip and thus should never be used for trail riding or any type of jumping sport; these are only for use by experts. In the wrong hands, they could cause a fall of horse and rider. These should not be purchased online, but rather from a reputable farrier experienced in shoeing reiners.


5. Glue-on shoes: There are many varieties of glue-on horseshoes on the market. These are generally made of various forms of plastic, and have different adhesives that are used to attach the shoe to the horse’s foot. Much as these may seem like a good option to those owners for whom the idea of nailing on a shoe is a little squeamish, they have their disadvantages. The glue is not always as durable as nails, and generally glue-ons are more expensive; many farriers also are not experienced with these. However, they can be literally lifesaving for horses with poor hoof wall quality or damaged hooves. These horses’ feet don’t hold nails well, causing them to frequently lose shoes, which damages the foot even more. Glue-on shoes are the perfect solution for this type of horse. They are also often designed to reduce concussion, making them a useful option for horses with very poor conformation.


6. Bar shoes: The bar shoe is an important component of remedial shoeing – the art of shoeing horses with foot problems in order to help alleviate the problems. Bar shoes, instead of being U-shaped, are closed. They are generally designed to support the horse’s heel or hoof wall. The most common type, the straight bar shoe, is commonly used in horses who have problems with hoof wall quality – such as quarter cracks or white line disease – to hold the hoof together as it heals. The egg bar shoe has a rounded bar at the heels, which is designed to support low or weak heels. Lastly, perhaps one of the most specialised shoes of all is the heart bar shoe. These are not usually available from online sellers and may only be used in conjunction with both a vet and a farrier. They apply pressure to the horse’s frog, encouraging a rotated pedal bone to shift back into position – a very important factor in treating laminitis.



Your farrier is your horse’s best friend when it comes to hoof care. Use this article to discuss what type of shoes would best suit your equine partner, but always work in conjunction with a qualified farrier who can help keep your horse safe and sound for years to come.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Firn Hyde</a>

Firn Hyde

I'm a young horsewoman living in a tiny home on a horse farm in South Africa with three dogs, two pigs, a longsuffering man, and God's grace. I run a stableyard and compete in dressage with two kind geldings who keep me happy and a psychotic mare who keeps me humble. For the past two years, I've been writing for a living, and I enjoy every opportunity to combine my two passions.

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