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Ask Dr. Dave

Andrea from Florida, writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

My horse is a six year-old Hannovarian. He is 17 hands and very uphill built. Since coming here from Germany we have had a problem with him tearing off shoes and poor quality hooves. My farrier and vet recently took him out of steel shoes and put him in roller motion aluminum shoes. Also they rebuilt both front feet with epoxy since her has no hoof wall left on the right foot because he pulls off the shoe when he goes out in the paddock. He does wear bell boots.

Is it possible and helpful to pull of his shoes and when he goes out and gets worked, put Old Macs or something similar on him? It seems we are doing more damage by putting nails in his feet and ripping off hoof.

Or is it necessary to have a shoe on for support while he's working? He is training in dressage.

Thank you for your help. I'm very frustrated with the cycle that we have gotten in to.

Dear Andrea,

Thank you for your great question. Let me share with you some thoughts about your horse and suggested treatments.

An “uphill” conformation leads me to picture your horse with a great stride and possible large overstep with his hind legs, a strong mover. However if your horse has any physical constraints in the front end or back, it can cause some problems. I would suggest a thorough chiropractic exam by a competent practitioner just to rule this out.

Poor quality hoofs can be genetic, dietary, and/or environmentally induced. Can’t do much about the genetics, but diet and environment can be changed. There are some good “hoof supplements” which seem to help, but keep in mind you probably will not see any dramatic change for at least six months.

I am not an advocate for aluminum shoes on weak feet. Although assumed softer than steel, aluminum actually transmits more “shock” to the hoof than does steel. I would consider the better foundation that steel can provide over the aluminum shoe.

Going barefoot may be beneficial in the long run, but probably not the short run. I think Old Macs are great boots and if you can get a correct fit, they might be of benefit while your horse is being worked. However, as a Certified Journeyman Farrier, I would lean more towards keeping your horse shod. Proper trimming to achieve ultimate balance, judicial use of Equilox, and correct application of clipped, rolled or square toed steel shoes would be the way I would go initially.

Your horse sounds like a lot of fun and should be a great ride. It will take time, diligence, attention to detail, and a team effort with your farrier, veterinarian, and yourself to see the desired results.

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Dave