Shoes on or off?


I was once asked, in a client feedback form, that all ponies were ready for lessons on time with their shoes on. I didn`t like to point out the said clients that horses didn`t wear shoes like we did! They were either a permanent fixture or not on at all!

On that note, what are everyone`s opinions on shoeing? My horses were both started off barefoot and once they started doing a bit of work we put fronts on. Now the first horse easily goes 8 or more weeks with a pair of shoes; I kept him with just fronts on the entire time I had him, but as my Mum mostly does hacking, she has him shod all round. My horse, on the other hand, will only go 6 weeks, and that`s pushing him to the limits, there`s so much growth in his foot! They`re good, strong hooves, which led me last year, when I was injured, to taking his shoes off and leaving him barefoot. I kept the shoes off for six months, even when he was back in work, as he was managing, but in the winter he started to struggle with the hacks. Even now, I event him with just front shoes on.

With economics in the riding school, it`s very difficult to balance out the needs of the horses, do they really need shoes on? Can you justify the amount of hacking they do with the shoes they have on? My project pony was used by myself as a hack escort a lot over the summer, and even her strong hardy feet became sore. So reluctantly, I swapped escort horses, as I couldn`t really justify shoeing her. Also, it`s the old story that once shoes are on, it`s hard to take them off again as the horse struggles to acclimatise. Most of my ponies don`t have shoes on, but they do very little hacking, and a lot of the horses have front shoes on, with those that do more hacking having shoes on all four. It`s expensive, but a necessity with the amount of hacking we do, and the flinty soil. My farrier is very good though, and most of them last 8 weeks with shoes. For the winter, we turn some of them away, in the very traditional method that from about now their work load decreases, they are rugged, but only lightly, and have less hard feed, then, when they are due to be shod their feet are trimmed and they are sent to the other side of the farm, where they can have ad lib haylage in the winter months. This year I`m hoping to put the mares and geldings together in one “turned away” field.

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