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Farrier Wisdom
Medical Index
First Posted May 21, 2009
Jul 22, 2010

Therapeutic Shoeing/Corrective Shoeing

by Debora Johnson

There are many types of shoes: aluminum, plastic, rubber, plastimer plastics for cracks, acrylics for hoof reconstruction, pads metal plates, regular steel shoes, and special shoes for endurance horses. There are various "hoof repair compounds," resins such as Equilox, combined with a fiberglass or polyethylene fabric that are used for cracks, wall separations and wall failure, etc. There are just as many types of problems and opinions as to what to do when shoeing a horse. Just what exactly constitutes a "normal" hoof? Can someone tell me that? Every horse has its own blueprint and set of genes. Factor in differing conformations, way of going, different disciplines, exercise and training methods, riders, breed, terrain, living environment, and genetic pre-dispositions to unsoundness, etc. I am not surprised that farriers and vets have many differing opinions on how to proceed. Often they are at odds! There are other problems that complicate the shoeing process, as well. Many shoers who call themselves "farriers" have no formal training, and are not certified through the American Farrier's Association (AFA). In my opinion there needs to be more regulation in the shoeing industry.

Like any discipline or profession, one must have the training, understanding and experience to be effective. A horse cannot tell you what hurts. He can communicate only through his way of going or behavior. If the horse is "off" it is most important to be able to identify the problem before corrective measures can be taken. This may be a trial-and-error process.


The list goes on and on. Often it is not a foot problem but rather something sore in the back, shoulder, or pain from a pinched nerve. A horse being "off" can be an ongoing puzzle--elusive, frustrating and disappointing. It can also become financially expensive and take a toll emotionally on the owner!

Diagnosis Tools

  • Visual Inspection
  • Palpation
  • Hoof Testers
  • Visual inspection of horse moving with rider and without
  • X-Rays
  • Radiographs
  • Nuclear tests
  • Nerve blocking
  • Blood and Metabolic Panels

Arsenal for Correction and Care

  • Drugs such as low dose anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling
  • Medicines to increase blood blow and circulation
  • Medicines to reduce pain
  • Specific shoes and pads
  • Rest
  • Altering environmental factors
  • Joint injections
  • Reduction of the use of nails with shoes in some cases
  • Hoof reconstruction
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage Therapy
  • Nutrition and Feeding Nutrition-Many Articles

There is so much to know about shoeing and there are so many differing opinions. My farrier has been in the business for 40 plus years. Don is an amazing individual and has a sixth sense about it all. I said to him once that to be an expert farrier you have to have the knowledge of the anatomy of the horse, his feet, his movement, conformation, drugs, nutrition, etc. and be a witch doctor, as well. Knowledge plus an intuitive ability to put all the signs and facts together and come up with a solution is a difficult task to accomplish. Add on to the farrier experience the dangerous nature of the work, the human element (horse owners) who always think they know better, and you have quite a brew!

Farrier and Shoeing
Farrier Wisdom (Many more articles on shoeing and the horse's foot structure)