Vet Kieran O'Brien shares his wisdom on helping horses to keep their shoes on.

Murphy's Law dictates that if a horse loses a shoe it will happen immediately before or during an important occasion. It can be a heartbreaking and expensive event, especially if the horse is prone to losing them repeatedly.

Clients often remark that their horse was constantly losing shoes until they changed to a different farrier. What was the second farrier doing - or not doing - that made a difference? To find out I have discussed the problem of shoe loss with a number of experienced farriers.

The terrain over which a horse works is a key factor. Dressage horses ridden in a very controlled fashion mostly in sand schools rarely lose shoes (unless turned out) and can be shod with more length and width at the heels (such that the back of the shoe protrudes beyond the heels) to provide additional hoof support.

Horses working in or turned out into sticky holding ground, such as hunters, have a higher rate of shoe loss because the front foot can't get away quickly enough before a hind foot comes forward and catches the heel of the front shoe. There is only a fraction of a second time difference separating contact between the two feet and anything that delays the front foot will expose it to being caught from behind.

For this reason hunters and point-to pointers are usually shod very tight to the heels to ensure there is nothing for the hind shoe to tread on. The hoof will quickly overgrow the shortened shoe so it is necessary in these to shorten the shoeing interval to 3-4 weeks. Farriers have constantly emphasised that there is no 'one size fits all' approach to shoeing horses and it is vital that they are 'shod for the job they do'.

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