Myths About Farriers and Horseshoeing

The following is based on a presentation by Mike Poe, CJF, given at the 2009 Maryland Horse World Expo.

Back to Basics

Mike Poe during the live shoeing class at WCB Madison 2013

Myth: Putting bleach on thrush will help.
Fact: It won’t help.

Bleach is a caustic cleaning agent. Would you dip your horse’s tail in Lysol?

Myth: You should use hoof sealant and/or conditioner
Fact: Sealant won’t harm your horse. But most likely it won’t help your horse either.

Conditioner, on the other hand, can be quite detrimental to the health of your horse’s feet. Hoof moisture is balanced by the environment and the horse’s body. Additional moisture can make the horses hoof too soft and as a consequence weaken and damage it.

Myth: Hot shoeing is harmful for your horse and/or unnecessary:
Fact: The only way that hot shoeing is detrimental to a horse is if it is done incorrectly.

If someone trims too much and cause the horse to be sensitive and then over do it with a burn, then yes, hot fitting was harmful. But so was the trim. I can think of no time when a properly trimmed horse should not be hot fit.

Myth: For a farrier, experience always trumps education
Fact: There is a difference between experience and quality experiences.

This was a frustrating issue for me early in my career. I was very well educated and had seen a few horses. Yet I was considered “too green” to work on a “good horse.” At the same time I became acquainted with a man who had been shoeing horses for 50 years. I was 23 years old at the time. Every horse that he did had to have 7-10 days off after being shod in order to “get used to the shoes.” Regardless of what is done, a farrier should first do no harm! A sore horse can tell you whether experience is better than education. Both are best, but I would much rather have a farrier that devoted themselves to their education.

The Horse

Myth: Black feet are stronger than white feet:
Fact: White feet are no weaker than Black feet.

Striped feet are no stronger than either. There is absolutely no correlation between hoof color and hoof conformation and condition.

Myth: The frog pumps blood through ground contact:
Fact: The frog assists circulation, but not through ground contact.

Not as such. It does assist circulation. But the frog doesn’t actually need to contact the ground to assist circulation. A recent study concluded that it is negative hydraulic pressure that allows the frog to help circulation. The best proof that I have of this phenomenon is horses that I have worked on that have necrotic frogs, yet they still have ample circulation to the hoof.

Myth: Front feet should be round.
Fact: All feet are the shape of the coffin bone within.

The truth is that horse hooves are shaped like the underlying bony structures. If the horse has a round coffin bone, it will have a round foot. Point coffin bone, pointy foot. We can tell the shape of the coffin bone by looking at the white line of the hoof.

Myth: Breakover!
Fact: Breakover is simply a phase of the stride.

Caution! Buzz word! “Breakover” is a term that applies only to the front feet of horses. We use modifications of shoes and trimming methods to speed or ease breakover. The majority of the time these modifications hide what is happening. Also, hind feet do not in fact breakover. They lift straight off the ground and “break over” about four inches off of the ground.

Myth: Horses’ feet land flat
Facts: Horses land in whatever fashion that their individual conformation allows.

Unless they land heel first. Or lateral heel first. What was once nomenclature to describe a horse with little or no deviation of gait has become a literal assumption. That is to say a sound horse with good movement. Horses land in whatever fashion that their individual conformation causes them to land. As long as that landing does not cause pain or injury, why should we change it?

Myth: Horses do not need shoes.
Fact: This is not necessarily true.

This is the most recent bit of misinformation that has found its way into equine culture. Many horses can perform beautifully without footwear but to categorically reject semi-permanent footwear is to limit the performance of your horse. We shoe horses for protection, support and traction. If for any reason a horse’s barefoot is lacking one of these, shoes should always be considered.