If you’ve ever tried to do an activity or job in the wrong footwear you can appreciate how difficult it can be. Obviously, comfort is the key to achieving maximum performance. When determining whether a road horse is in need of shoeing for the demands of the job, it’s helpful to ask three basic questions:
1. Are the horse’s hooves currently weak?
2. Is his overall body conformation asymmetrical? (unbalanced topline, limb misalignment see Issue 77 of Holistic Horse)
3. Is the intended workload physically stressful? (harsh footing, pulling or carrying excessive weight)
If your answer to any of these questions is yes or there are hints to a higher risk of stress that can compromise the horse, shoes can be beneficial. Of course, if the horse is of strong hoof and strong body, the workload reasonable, and ground conditions comfortable, he may do just fine without shoes.
Traditional or Modern Shoes
These days, there are many shoe material types available—ranging from good, old fashioned iron to the latest version of composites/polymers. Consequently, choosing the best option can be confusing or even controversial. On the whole, it comes down to these main principles:
• Support value (providing a base to support certain bones/ joints of the limb)
• Stability (material rigid/strong enough to prevent shoe shifting and maintain proper placement)
• Durability (density/strength of material being able to last a desired shoeing interval)
• Longevity (a healthy method that can promote longterm usefulness)
• Comfort (offering the best fit possible that can help with his willingness to perform)