Delay shoeing until a horse is mature
Immature horses have immature feet. When shoes are put on growing feet, development is impeded, especially in the digital cushion and lateral cartilages (the landing gear).
A good management practice is to delay shoeing (and hard riding for that matter) until a horse is approaching maturity at about 5 years of age (no, 2 years old is not mature!!).
The longer a horse’s toes are, the greater is the strain that is placed on structures of the lower leg at breakover. This means shoes need to be reset regularly, probably every 4 weeks.
There should be no laurels attached to a shoeing job that lasts 16 weeks!!
A good option is to use aluminium shoes. The growth of the shod foot is somewhat offset by the wearing away of the softer aluminium, thus maintaining a more correct breakover.
Horses probably should be shod as light as possible (once again, aluminium shoes are a good option).
Heavy shoes (even though they may enhance and exaggerate movement) greatly increase the stress on a horse’s legs.
Use competition off-season for barefoot rehab
Try and give your horse a lengthy break from shoes during competition off season, so that function can be restored – even if only temporarily – and any degeneration or distortion can be rectified as much as possible.
This certainly doesn’t mean pulling the shoes and forgetting about the horse, or even worse, turning a horse out and letting the shoes eventually just fall off! It does mean regular maintenance trimming to keep the feet fully functional for the whole duration of the spell.
Avoid cosmetic shoeing
Cosmetic shoeing is disguising conformational faults for short term benefits at the very real risk of long term damage. You cant force a bent leg straight.
Be proactive in regard to chronic lameness
At the very first hint of any impending chronic lameness (ie: the appearance of early warning signs long before clinical lameness is apparent), consider removing the horse’s shoes and employing the principles of barefoot rehab – at least in the short term – to restore correct function and movement to your horse.
Use a registered farrier
A farrier who is registered with a trade association is most likely a qualified professional.
The educational and networking opportunities that trade associations provide enable farriers to keep abreast of issues and new developments in equine hoof science.
The potential damage that can be done to horses’ feet by untrained shoeing is enormous.