Why Do Domestic Horses Wear Horseshoes, but Wild Horses Do Not?

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Why do horses wear horseshoes? How come wild horses do not need horse shoes? How do horse shoes protect the horse's hoof? How often do horses need their feet trimmed? What are the functions of horse shoes? What are the benefits of using horse shoes?

People often wonder about why domesticated horses wear shoes, since after all, wild horses do not. Well the truth of the matter is that not all domesticated wear shoes either, while some horses are shod on all four feet, many wear shoes only on their front, and some are left barefoot.

In the wild horses often travel on rocky ground, their diet is not great. Domestic horses are often stabled for part of the time, or are kept in rock free pastures, their diet makes their hooves grow faster, as such they require more care. Domestic horses may need their hooves trimmed every 6 to 10 weeks (more in the summer than in the winter). Shoes are usually optional, but let us look at why some people shoe their horses.

Note that the use of horseshoes is strongly debated even among horse people.

©by author - racehorses wear shoes on all four feet

To Protect the Hoof Wall

Horse shoes protect the hoof wall, our domestic horse typically is pushed to do things that a wild horse would not do, jumping, racing, being ridden on roads, and so forth. Hoofs are prone to damage, such as quarter cracks, the horseshoe stabilizes the hoof wall to prevent damage to it during these activities.

To Add Traction

For horses that are competitive, the horseshoe can add traction and can even be fitted with studs as when the surface is wet or muddy.

To Provide Cushioning

The horseshoe itself does not provide cushioning, and in fact might do the opposite, however a later of rubber can be put between the shoe and the hoof to add a layer of cushioning for horses that are used on streets and roads.

To Protect the Hoof From Ammonia

Horses are sometimes kept stabled for 12 to 22 hours a day, standing in a stall that is usually cleaned only once a day. This exposes the hoof to ammonia. In the past this was one of the main reasons behind the development of the shoe, and is still one of the reasons why they are so important on horses that are kept stabled for any length of time. The shoe lifts the hoof up off the manure and urine just enough to make a difference.

To Alter the Gait

In some cases specific weighted shoes are added to alter the gait of the horse, to make it pick its feet up higher for more showy action. This is common in some breeds such as the Tennessee walker, but is illegal in other breeds.

Corrective Shoeing

In some cases shoeing is done by a farrier to correct a gait, or conformation problem.

Note:  If hanging a horse shoe for good luck the open end should be up, like a "U", thus the luck does not spill out.


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