Horseshoes Designed for Horses Not only do horses wear shoes to protect the hoof from injury, they are designed to keep the hoof from degrading too rapidly.
Domesticated horses require shoes to protect the hooves against harsh terrain they would not face in the wild, such as concrete. Regardless of whether or not your horse needs shoes, it will still require periodic care, since domestic horses will not be exposed to conditions that naturally will wear their hooves out. If your horse has healthy hooves and works mostly in the arena footing or grass, he might not need shoes. Horses move the majority of their weight through the front leg, so having shoes for the front leg can be helpful.
Horses who carry a lot of weight on a regular basis will need shoes to keep the hooves from wearing out quickly, as will horses who need additional grip when they are riding through mud, snow, or ice, or when they are on the trails. In addition to riding skills derived from grip, your horse will need shoes to help him carry a lot of load. While some horses have naturally strong, healthy feet and are fine going without shoes in many situations, others require extra support and would not benefit from being barefoot. That is, some horses have diseases or conditions that need shoes for pain relief, and others may have natural malformations, such as flat feet, or muscle problems, for which shoes may be helpful.
Without shoes, a horse can become injured very quickly and become less useful, so you should always ensure your horse has received his horseshoes before heading into some potentially dangerous areas. For most pleasure horses, shoes may not be needed, and smart care including regular mowing may be all that is needed. A horse with navicular diseases must have shoes at all times, to aid in the hoof protection and balance.
Adding pads to shoes can also reduce the effects that navicular bones can have on the hoof when the horse with navicular disease is moving. It can be helpful to use a rocker-toed shoe that helps provide your horse protection while also allowing him to heal. Corrective shoeing from a professional farrier may provide extra support for your horses hoof capsules when needed, which will enable your horse to make progress with his or her walk.
Many advocates of barefoot riding feel that even severe hoof problems traditionally treated by specialist farrier-shoeing can be addressed through natural trimming, changing what footing a horse is standing on, and changing his or her diet. Horses suffering from laminitis, founder, navicular syndrome, club feet, and severe hoof cracks may benefit from therapeutic hoof care. In other cases, such as those of the naviculars and club feet, a horse may require therapeutic shoes throughout his lifetime (like an individual who has a collapsed arch). Horses with good hoof and leg conformation, with limited work loads, who can feed much of the time off their forage, can live happily with no shoes.
Domestic horses, however, need regular hoof care whether or not they are wearing shoes. While horses in the wild may maintain naturally-trimmed feet because they are moving miles per day over different surfaces, most domestic horses need regular hoof trimming in order to remain comfortable, pain-free, and prevent hoof warping. Wild horses have natural-maintained hooves because they move over miles of varied terrain each day, but domestic horses require shoes and regular trimming to keep their hooves comfortable and pain-free. Because the horses hooves keep growing even when the horses shoes are on, the farrier will need to regularly trim, adjust, and re-shoe the horses shoes.
Horse hooves are growing slower this time of year, meaning that there are more shoeing holes closing together, breaking down hoof walls and making it harder for a horse to keep his shoes on. Horses that are bred for domestication, used in pulling or competition, can wear their hooves faster than usual, so they require a certain type of protection in order to keep horses who are domesticated from wearing down their hooves too fast. Horses used for labor, transport, and pleasure probably require shoes in order to protect the horses used for labor hooves from injury as they ride or run on uneven surfaces, like concrete, or in order to obtain better traction. Depending on other conformation, they may need shoes to support or mitigate the effects of a physical flaw causing a horse to move unnaturally or wear out a hoof unevenly, such as an oblique-toed or oblique-toed horse.
While some horses may self-maintain their feet, horses who regularly engage in repeated movement due to work or showing nearly always need shoes to prevent lameness (abnormal movement that may reduce quality of life). Because domesticated horses do not naturally wear out their feet as well as wild horses, it is up to the professional farrier to regularly re-trigger their hooves and, when needed, shoe them.
An experienced farrier can help a horse owners determine whether or not his or her particular horse needs shoes, but good hoof care is crucial for maintaining each horses well-being. Simply trimming horses (without shoes) is an important part of any farriers business, but when a situation arises in which the horse needs protection, hoof care, or treatment for disease or injury, having a good farrier that can offer protection with appropriate hoof care is invaluable. While Welsh bred DSs generally have sound feet, with more roads and tracks, and increased workloads from working, it is very likely that your horse will benefit from shoeing for support.
A horse with severe stooped feet (fetlock varus) may benefit from shoes fitted all the way out where the horse is weak (lateral supporting shoes). Weak, spongy soles (two examples shown above) are thin and flexible, and can result from nutritional problems or a situation where there is too much water. A Weak-Soul horse can be more prone to bruises, and will probably benefit from wearing shoes.