The recommended length of time between shoeing is 4-6 weeks, how long your horse needs will depend on the type of work they do, the quality of their hooves and the time of year. Below are some things to watch out for which will tell you that the farrier may need to visit earlier than planned.
1. Loose shoes or a shoe has come off
This may seem like a really obvious one, if a shoe has come off you’ll need to call the farrier to put it back on. Loose shoes are slightly different. A shoe that is loose will make a clinking noise as the horse walks. It can be tempting to see if it will wait until the farrier is due, tightening up the clenches every day or using tape to hold it on (yes I’ve been there). However, loose shoes mean that the shoe is less stable and more likely to come off or move. This can damage the hoof, either causing parts to break off or bruising the sole if the shoe slips.
2. The clenches are raised
Clenches are the parts of the nail that you can see from the outside of the hoof wall. During the shoeing process the sharp ends are cut off and they are pulled over to keep the shoe on. When the horse has just been shod, they will be flat against the hoof. As the hoof grows they move and will start to stick out a bit. Seeing these bumps is a pretty reliable way to tell that your horse’s hooves need some attention.
3. The hoof has overgrown
Horse’s hooves are made of Keratin, the same material as our nails and hair. They grow in the same way and it can take 6-9 months for a horse’s hoof to grow completely from the coronet band to the ground. Shoes don’t have the same flexibility and don’t move in the same way, towards the time that the farrier is due, the hoof can start to grow over the shoe. If the horse is kept to a 4-6 week shoeing cycle they usually see the farrier before this gets too bad, but if the shoes are left on too long they will lead to bruising or corns.
4. The shoe is worn
Horses wear shoes to protect their hooves from wearing down too much on hard surfaces such as roads or stony tracks. Shoes will wear down over time and in some cases can become paper thin. This makes it more likely that the shoe will come off, break or move, changing the pressure points. If this happens regularly, discuss the length of time between shoeing with your farrier, you may need to have your horse shod more frequently.
5. Change in movement
Whether or not your horse has shoes, the way their feet are cared for will affect the way they move. If their toes are long they may start to trip and if they’re wearing one side more than the other they may change their pattern of movement. Working regularly with a farrier will help you to get on top of this and make the changes needed to get your horse feeling comfortable again.