Have you ever thought about how much time we as humans take in picking out just the right shoe for ourselves and our children? Sometimes we try to cram our feet into a shoe that is too small, so as to make our feet look smaller. Sometimes when buying for our children we buy them 2 or 3 sizes larger, that eliminates having to buy shoes too often. Poor kids slipping and sliding inside the shoes. At times we will wait until we are long overdue for shoes, because, the old ones we are wearing are comfortable or maybe we think we can’t quite afford a pair at the moment.
So much for we as humans, now to our horses. How much time do we spend selecting the correct shoes for horses. We need to think like a horse because he can’t tell us what he needs. Why do we normally buy a new pair of shoes? Is it because we are cow-hocked and wear the outside of our heels to one side? Have we bore weight so when walking, our shoes run over sideways? Have you been in a public place and watched people as they pass by? They wear all sorts of shoes... running shoes, high heels, low heels, no heels, turned over heels, and occasionally barefooted if their feet are hurting. When we buy a pair of shoes do we take them to the shoe shop and have the heels ground off or have them stretched out of shape as before?
Do we send our children to a total stranger and have them re-shod? No, we have input, because we know how a shoe should fit. What about our buddy, our horse? Can he think for himself? We keep him wormed, fed, in a shelter, and if he sneezes we call the Vet. But, when it comes to the horses feet what do we do? We tie him up, let some farrier come by and put shoes on our horse. We watch with awe about how fast he can slap those shoes on, not questioning if the job is correctly completed. Why? Because we aren’t educated on horse’s feet, only on our feet and our children’s. How much time do we spend on our finger nails and toe nails? If they wear off or grow crooked we nip, file, bite, and polish them until they look good. How about our buddy the horse? The hoof is just one big finger nail, but he has to stand on his. If he is barefooted he probably has chipped out places, maybe his hoof walls are worn down until his soles, frogs, and bulbs are tender and in general his feet are just plain sore. One side of his quarters may be worn off and lower than the other side of his hoof. Bet your ankles would be sore if you were walking with one side of your foot elevated about one half inch. Possibly his toes are too long. Have you ever tried to walk in a pair of shoes that is about three sizes too big? Our buddy the horse is going to have a hard time breaking over each step he takes if his toes are too long.
Do we as horse owners know exactly what needs to be done to our buddy’s finger nails or hooves before shoes can be nailed on or glued on? If we don’t, we need to educate ourselves on how the hoof should be correctly balanced, before shoeing. To help us understand all of this, a Master Farrier and Educator, has devised six simple steps to correctly balance the horse’s hoof, so, when the horses hoof strikes the ground, the bony column, including the spine, will absorb equal concussion throughout the bony column, including the spine. You wouldn’t knowingly incorrectly fit your child with the wrong type of shoes causing his legs and back to ache, would you? So why would you allow anyone to unbalance your buddy the horse?
As a matter of fact most of us probably spend more per shoeing on our children than we do on our horses. Have you ever said to yourself, I would rather spend a few more bucks on a brand name item because it will do the job better. The same principle applies to having a horse trimmed or shod. If we as horse owners will take the time to educate ourselves on how a horse should be correctly shod, I am sure we will feel better about the way our horse is being shod. You don’t need to know how to shoe your horse, you only need to know how it should look when correctly shod.
Would we go down the road with a high heel shoe on one foot and a combat boot on the other? Would we wear a flip flop on one foot and a wool bootie on the other? Of course we wouldn’t and neither should your horse have to do this. A smart horse owner is one that knows his horse has the correct toe and leg length, whether his feet turns to the outside or inside, whether or not his shoe has been fit to the horse’s foot or just nailed on and his foot shaped to fit his shoe.
Keep in mind a horse weighs considerably more than we do and by the time he is loaded up with a 20 to 50 lb saddle, then we, weighing in from 50 to 400 lbs crawl up in the saddle, our Buddy’s poor little feet have to carry all of this through soft dirt, mud, gravel, and pavement, plus climb up and go down hills.
The Farriers’ National Research Center and School in LaFayette, GA has, as one of it’s goals, a program to educate the horse owner about how his or her horse should be properly shod. Their goal is to help the horse owner and other farriers understand how to prevent problems before they happen, but on an every day basis, we are correcting problems and damage that has already been done. This new facility can provide valuable information from the research and documentation gathered that will help improve the overall health of the horse.
Have you hugged your child today and by the way, have you had your horse correctly shod?
Phil Roberson, Otto, North Carolina, FNRC Member