Imprint Horseshoes

The blog is rather neglected (still) at the moment. I’m finding either subjects I think of writing about have already been blogged previously. Or my brain is so busy thinking of hundreds of different things that have happened, or will happen, or are happening that I can’t clear the brain space to blog, or just need to vegetate in front of the TV. Writing a blog is cathartic, and I definitely found it helpful as I negotiated the ups and downs of my twenties. Perhaps I’m more settled, in a better brain space, with less frustrated opinions, and therefore don’t need to write?

But I have a short list of topics which need to be shared, so hopefully my blogs will become more frequent.

Let’s start with a new type of shoe that I came across a couple of months ago. A pony I ride was at fat camp. He was marginally lame and had the first signs of laminitis, so was on a heavily restricted diet, a track system and being long reined for hours around the arena. However, until he was sound and more comfortable, and some weight had shifted we couldn’t increase the workload by riding. It was a tedious process, walking laps of the arena!

Anyway, his farrier suggested a different type of shoe, which was good for laminitics, so duly came and put them on his front feet. I arrived an hour or so later to long rein and was intrigued by the shoes. When I picked his feet up in the field, I’ll be honest, they looked like some weird form of trainer! They were plastic, with horizontal grips like our shoes, and glued onto his hooves.

This farrier is a friend of mine, so I text him to ask more about the shoe. This is when you know you have a great professional on your horse’s side, as he rang me back almost immediately to give a thorough explanation about the type of shoe he’d used. He didn’t take it as a critique of his work, he knew I was trying to educate myself, and he was knowledgeable about the product and method, and shared his knowledge. So many professionals (saddlers, physios etc) get defensive when you question what they’re doing. They don’t seem to realise that questioning is a way of expanding your own knowledge and understanding!

Anyway, back to these Imprint shoes. I noticed an immediate difference in the pony – he looked sound on the hard, and much more comfortable. So with immediate effect we started adding in trots on the long reins before progressing to longer trots on the lunge and then after a week, riding him again.

So what are the Imprint shoes? Firstly. They’re made of plastic, and are fitted by putting them into warm water to make them malleable, then you can shape them to fit the hoof exactly, before gluing them into place. The plastic shoe is lighter, so can make a horse more comfortable. Think how you feel wearing heavy clumpy boots as opposed to Crocs. It can improve mild lameness. It doesn’t solve a problem, but it allows the horse to move more easily which can help improve the symptoms. And with laminitis a big part of recovery is making the horse sufficiently comfortable that they can exercise to increase their weight loss, to reduce the fat, which triggers the inflammation of the sensitive laminae.

The shoes are the same basic design as heart bar shoes, so support the pedal bone, which is vital in laminitic horses. Being of a softer material they will absorb more of the concussive forces that steel shoes, again helping to improve soundness in a horse with sensitive feet. Plastic is also more flexible, which allows the horse’s foot to expand and contract more naturally, like the barefoot foot does.

The downside of these shoes is that they’re very expensive! They are softer that steel shoes so don’t have the longevity factor. Fine for light work or rehab, but the grips would wear smooth if the horse did a lot of hacking or harder work. My farrier said that some people use Imprint shoes all the time, but I guess they’d be on a shorter shoeing cycle to compensate for the shoe wearing quicker.

One successful rehab later with the Imprint shoes on for eight weeks and he’s now in traditional heart bar shoes with no signs of laminitis, and a much slimmer physique. We’re now increasing canter work to improve his cardiovascular fitness.

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.