|Why Does My Horse Keep Losing His Shoes?|
He's not keeping his shoelaces tied.
Actually, there are several reasons horses lose shoes. There are several different solutions to the problem, depending on the cause. But first, one important point:
But it can cause horses to pull their own shoes.
When a horse steps in mud, he either slips or sticks. If he slips, he will leave the foot that slipped on the ground until he gets control of it again. This delay leaves time for the hind foot on that side to reach up and step on the heel (usually the inside heel) of the front shoe. Then your horse lifts the front foot off the ground and the shoe comes off. If your horse sticks in the mud, the same thing happens. His foot stays on the ground too long, usually stuck in a hole it punched in the mud. The hind foot on that side steps in the same hole and off comes the shoe. That is why finding a pulled shoe in a muddy pasture is so hard – often the shoe is buried six or eight inches underground.
Prevention of lost shoes in the mud is not easy. Barefoot is the best solution, but most of the time it’s not practical. Bell boots help but are not a cure. Your farrier may also set the hind shoes back and square the toes. This increases the distance between fronts and hinds, which is often enough to stop the problem. If your horse pulls shoes in the mud by slipping, perhaps an increase in traction will help. Rim shoes offer more traction than flat shoes. Points of borium on the heels will act like cleats. So will drive in studs or screw in studs. Caulks or heels forged into shoe will also increase traction. You should discuss this with your farrier.
Keeping your horse out of a muddy pasture will also help. So will choosing the footing you ride on more carefully.
Horses can also lose shoes by stomping them off during the summer months. If they are constantly stamping at flies, they put a tremendous strain on the nails that hold the shoes on. They are driving the shoes back with every stamp. Eventually the clinches loosen up and the shoe comes off. Horses with really solid feet can actually shear off the nails just above the shoe.
There are two solutions to this problem; one your horse will like better than the other. The farrier solution is to put clips on the shoes. Clips will hold the shoes in place, thus preventing them from sliding around each time your horse stamps a fly. But perhaps a better solution would be to keep your horse in during the day when flies are active, or at least provide him with a run-in shed or other reliable shade. Your horse will probably appreciate this approach.
A serious fly control program will help as well. Flies breed in moist decaying organic matter. Horse manure and bedding are a favorite with flies. Keeping your barn and paddocks free of manure will help tremendously. If your paddocks are too big to patrol with a wheelbarrow, you can drag them with a pasture harrow. This will break up the manure into pieces too small for flies to breed in easily, which will dry in the sun, making them largely uninhabitable by fly larvae.
Fly predators can work minor miracles. They are a member of the wasp family. They are about the size of a no-see-um and have no stingers. They lay their eggs in fly eggs. Their larvae eat fly larvae – so, no flies. There are several places to get them and they are advertised in many horse magazines. For more information, read the article linked here: What Are Fly Predators?
Fly traps help too. A good system of traps with effective bait will trap many thousands of adult flies, thus cutting down on the next generation, and keeping the little buggers off your horses.
Horses can also pull shoes by catching the heels on something and yanking off the shoe. Roots, wire fences, rocks and the like are common causes. A horse can pull a shoe this way while you are riding, and also when turned out. If you continually find shoes in the same place in a pasture, there is likely something near by that the horses are catching the shoes on and ripping them off. Remove that object and the problem will go away. If this continually happens when riding in a certain area, perhaps you shouldn’t ride there, or be more careful about picking your route.
Forging is a precursor to losing a shoe. Horses forge when the hind shoe comes up and hits the bottom of the front foot. You hear that telltale clack-clack-clack with every stride. Forging is a gait timing abnormality. It is caused by the front feet staying on the ground too long, thus allowing the hinds to catch up. It can be caused by many factors. Laziness on the horse’s part is one – he’s just not trying very hard. This is actually a rider problem. You need to get your horse more engaged behind and off the forehand. Consult your riding instructor for details.
Forging can also be a subtle sign of unsoundness, especially if it only happens on one side. In this case the horse is leaving the front foot on the ground longer in order to protect the diagonal hind. This problem will usually be accompanied by an unevenness while riding. The horse may not bend one away as well as the other. He may not want to take a canter lead. He may shorten his stride going one way on a circle but not the other. If you suspect this kind of problem you need to get your vet involved. You may want to get your farrier involved as well, since there is a good chance that some minor adjustments in the shoeing may help.
Forging may also be a shoeing problem. Shoeing can greatly effect gait timing. If the toes are too long, front or hind, it will mess up your horse’s stride and cause him to forge. Imagine, if you will, trying to run track wearing swim fins – you can see how much slower your feet will come off the ground. This gives the hind feet plenty of time to catch up to the fronts and snatch off a shoe.
The solution is to provide a quicker breakover. Rolling or rockering the toes of the front feet will help. So will setting the shoes back. Squaring the toes on the hinds and setting the shoes back will also help.
The traditional practice is to move the front shoes forward and the back shoes back, but this actually can make the situation worse. The farther forward the front shoes are placed, the longer it will take your horse to break over. The longer the foot is on the ground the better chance the hinds have of snatching them off.
If your horse has lousy feet this can contribute to lost shoes. The hoof wall needs to be strong enough to hold the nails and withstand the tremendous forces generated by the horse. Remember there are only six to eight thin little nails holding that shoe on. If the wall those nails are driven into is weak, it won't hold. Check out our FAQs on hoof supplements for some more answers.
All horses occasionally lose a shoe. Once in a while is annoying but not a problem. If a pattern develops then you do have a problem that needs addressing. Your first line of defense is your farrier. If you have the offending shoe, s/he can look at it and likely figure out how it was pulled. Once this bit of detective work is done, then a solution can be found.
One last word of advice: The fact that your horse keeps losing shoes does not mean you have a bad farrier. As you can see, there are several factors that can cause this problem and most are not caused by shoeing. Ask your farrier to help you solve the problem rather than getting mad and blaming him/her for it. There’s a better than even chance it’s not your farrier’s fault.