Lost shoes are an inconvenience for both owners and farriers. Farriers are regularly judged good or bad depending on how many shoes they lose which is rarely an accurate description of their skills at all!
I generally pledge to get to all lost shoes within two working days, usually much sooner, for all of my customers in my normal working area. Discuss with your farrier your needs and what they are able to offer you in emergency situations.
If you are concerned about your horse losing shoes have a chat with your farrier – they may well be keen to discuss their concerns with you too! There are many things that you can do to help reduce lost shoes:
- Avoid turning you horse out in muddy conditions – mud does not ‘suck’ shoes off as some people imagine, but it does slow down the removal of the front foot and allows the hind foot to stand on the shoe.
- Put over-reach boots on. I generally recommend buying a size or two larger than normal to ensure they cover the heels of the shoes. (Make sure they are removed regularly to check for rubs, particularly in wet weather!)
- Avoid asking too much of a tired horse. When horses become tired they can become less coordinated and stand on themselves
- Avoid wire or sheep netting in fields. Many horses will ‘paw’ at the fence if bored, hungry or trying to get attention. Consider electric fencing with a good power supply to discourage this behaviour.
- Discuss with your farrier what it is you intend to be doing with your horse. Hunt horses will require shoes that are smaller and fitted differently to say a dressage horse.
- Stick to the same routines at the weekend as you do during the week. This may seem strange but many people that work go to their horses early in the morning during the week and then have a ‘lay in’ at the weekend. Horses are creatures of habit and if they expect to be fed early and they are not they will often ‘paw’ at a fence, kick stable doors, run around or weave. All of these and more can contribute to lost shoes.
What to do if you find your horse has lost a shoe:
- Contact your farrier at your earliest opportunity to let them know – they can only fix the situation if they know about it! Keep in mind that generally a lost shoe is not a life threatening emergency. If it is the weekend and your farrier does not work weekends they may get back to you at the start of the working week. Horses were not born with shoes on and will generally survive a few days!
- Check the foot for any puncture wounds – nails and clips can penetrate the sole of the foot if the shoe has twisted in the process of coming off. If this is the case it is advisable to clean the area immediately and then poultice to keep it as clean as possible. It is also advisable to contact your vet for further advice. If a nail or other foreign object has penetrated the foot and is still in there it is advisable to immediately contact your vet and seek their advice before removing it.
- Protect the foot as best you can – this could be by keeping the horse in, or using a turn out boot. Feet that have lost shoes will usually break up a little, the problem with this is any gaps may increase the chance of the horse standing on the shoe again, so if you can minimise this then great!
- Avoid riding if possible. Again, to prevent damage to the foot avoid doing any work if you can. Sand schools are usually ok as they are quite a forgiving surface. If your horse is lame however definitely stop.
And remember, a farrier will never put a shoe on with the intention of it coming off. A lost shoe is not only an inconvenience to you and your horse but more than likely your farrier also! If you are upset or concerned make sure you talk it through with your farrier – if they can help you avoid losing shoes it will benefit them just as much as you!