Pads – Why? What? and How?

A farrier may choose to use a pad on your horse for so many different reasons. There are as many pad designs and uses as there are farriers that are willing to use them! There are also so many packings that farriers can use beneath the pads for many different reasons and purposes.

Caring for a horse with Pads – Pads are nearly always a permanent feature that will last the length of the intended shoeing period. Generally solid pads will prevent you from accessing the solar aspect of your horses foot/feet. This will mean that you are unable to pick out the foot other than remove mud from on top of the pad. This does not however mean that you should neglect to check the bottom of your horses foot. Pads can occasionally rip, snap, or suffer other damage depending on their properties and you need to check them and the shoe regularly. Ask your farrier for advice on the care of the individual pads your horse has.

Why has my farrier chosen to use pads? – There are many reasons, but the main ones are:

  • Support – Pads when used with packing can massively increase the support offered to the foot. Packings like silicon and impression material (a two part packing that sets to mould to the foot) can be used to spread the load over a greater area of the foot. It is essential to make sure only the right parts of the hoof are loaded as overloading a vulnerable area can cause as much damage as you are trying to prevent. Some pads have frog supports which will increase the load over the frog, when used with a packing this can be very useful in cases such as Laminitis, weak and under-run heels or occasions when you need to relieve as area of pressure and can load the frog and back of the foot.
  • Protection – Some pads are made with protection in mind. A thick and solid pad will usually protect the solar aspect of the foot from trauma. This can be useful in cases such as bruised or punctured soles (this needs to be discussed and considered carefully as trapping infection beneath a pad can cause abscesses in the case of a puncture). It is also a useful tool for a farrier following surgery (usually after a hospital plate has been used).
  • Change the angle of the foot – Increasingly if elevation is required a whole wedged pad can be used. These are far more effective than the old fashioned wedges as they support the whole foot, especially when used with a packing such as impression material.
  • Concussion Absorption – the jury is out as to how much concussion a pad and packing will actually absorb. In my humble opinion the benefit here is in the support, which in turn will spread the concussion over a greater area, thus dissipating it better. If concussion absorption is required the packing must be considered carefully and well placed.
  • Application of a packing to the foot – there are some applications that are great at reducing inflammation in the hoof capsule, and if it can be placed against the foot permanently beneath a pad the effectiveness can be massively increased. For example Magic Cushion is a great packing.
  • Add a specific function – for example snow pads in countries where regular snow is encountered.

Will my horses foot ‘sweat’ beneath the pad?
Traditionally farriers favoured leather pads when necessary as they would allow the foot the ‘breathe’ through the material. The modern packing and applications have changed how we can use pads. I regularly use Magic Cushion beneath pretty much all pads as it brilliantly preserves the health of the hoof for the shoeing duration. Copper Sulphate can be mixed in with some applications also and this is effective in preventing thrush and similar conditions. Speak to your farrier about what he is planning to use beneath a pad, and he will be able to inform you of any care you may need to take.

Will my horse need pads forever now?
This really depends on why the horse had to have the pad/pads put on in the first place! Speak to your vet/farrier and they will be able to give you advice on the long term treatment plan for your individual horse. One thing that I have noticed, and regularly inform my customers of, is that horses can go through a transition phase when the pads are removed for the first time. I believe this is no different to you or I removing some of the protection we are used to and the feet become ‘over stimulated’ until they readjust. Time must be given to allow your horse to readjust to the change, although if there are any concerns they should be discussed with your vet and farrier. 

I always intend to return the horse to as normal a situation regarding shoes as possible when doing remedial work. Sometimes this is not possible, but in many cases it is.

Will my horse pull more shoes off with pads on?
Usually no, although some pads, particularly wedged pads, can increase the likelihood of the shoe being pulled off accidentally. Speak to your farrier about your individual situation but as a guide I regularly recommend putting large over-reach boots on (sometimes behind too). It is useful to use ones that are a size or two too big as they will hang down lower and cover the heels of the pad and shoe. Avoid turning out in mud and if there is anything that causes your horse to mess around in the field try to reduce this as much as possible. Also when riding be careful not to ask too much of a tired horse as they will have an increased lack of coordination and can tread on their feet easier. It is also advisable to speak to your farrier about what you intend to do with the horse – a treatment plan should ideally be fit for purpose as much as is practically possible!