In my first report, I alluded that a healthy sound horse was necessary for trail riding.
In veterinary medicine soundness refers to limb, wind, and reproduction.
I will touch on limb soundness and the problems that can be created.

I am often asked to evaluate the way of going in many horses.
Let me say first off-over 75% of traveling issues in the equine are said to be below the fetlock.
At a recent organized trail ride I was asked to evaluate two horses
owned by different people from different parts of the state.

Both horses issues were caused by poor hoof trimming and shoeing techniques creating unsoundness.

The first patient was an elderly horse that the owner reported had been
recently shod in the last 4 weeks. The highlights are as follows:

1. To my eye it looked like it was fourteen weeks since the last rest! -by the way the hoof had overgrown (forged) around the shoe.
2. The shoes on the hooves appeared to be a full two sizes smaller than what the bearing surface called for and thus failed to give proper branch and heel support-
This did result in flexor tendon stress issues and resulted in under- run heels.
3. There were profound medial-lateral imbalances on all four hooves.
4. Every nail hole on every shoe was utilized- This contributes to heel contracture by restricted normal hoof wall expansive dynamics this was confounded by the too small shoes. I, as others, feel that for 99% of the time-the rear nail holes are only to be used under special circumstances.

I know of a farrier who applies shoes with only 5 nails and they hold as well if not better than using more nails!

The second patient was having a hard time on the trail- abruptly stopping and holding up a front
leg as if waving it, stretching out and becoming drawn up in the flanks.
This middle-aged horse was in the early stages of tying-up.
Upon careful examination of this horse’s recently shod hooves it was apparent the horseshoes were nailed about 30 degrees off center( the tip of the frog is not centered with the toe of the shoe) and like the first case there were imbalances and all nail holes were used (see image below).

Also the frog was unnecessarily severely pared back. This horse experienced much pain and discomfort to the point of stalling and rearing on the trail. The digital pulses were bounding in all four limbs. Fortunately the rider voluntarily dismounted before his mount crashed or he was involuntary ejected and prematurely met terra-firma.

My opinion based on over forty years experience –

Shoeing of most horses is an evil, though necessary at times. (DISCLAIMER: Use,conformation, and regional environments temper the preceding statements).

Most of my patients do better in the long-term going barefoot with regular conservative trimmings. The frog is the heart of the hoof (pumps blood)-it needs to be respected.
Surely there are horses that for a number of reasons benefit from being shod well. However in my opinion I feel there is an even larger number of horses that can benefit from being barefoot.

Dr. Fred