Your farrier and veterinarian will definitely agree that issues with your horse’s hooves can compromise the entire function of your horse.

Hoof problems not only cause your horse pain and affect the weight-bearing ability of the foot but also lead to compensatory movements, which can cause issues and injuries in other parts of the body.

Corrective shoeing is a common way to address or reduce the effects of many hoof issues.

From navicular syndrome to laminitis to tendon and ligament injuries, appropriate corrective shoeing done by a qualified farrier can reduce pain and increase the likelihood of your horse continuing to move their best.

Choosing the right type of corrective horseshoes when required is important for keeping your horse sound in their work, and in the pasture as well.

Corrective Shoeing

Corrective shoeing aims to restore healthy function to the horse’s hoof by relieving pressure and improving biomechanics. Corrective shoes may be considered when normal shoes or barefoot trimming are not beneficial or possible for the horse.

Your farrier may recommend corrective horseshoes to support hoof structures, improve shock absorption of concussive forces when hoofs are in motion, alleviate discomfort, or to promote recovery from injury or disease.

The ultimate goal of corrective farriery is to restore balance to the hoof, helping to keep your horse sound by permanently addressing conformational faults.

Types of Corrective Shoes

Normal horseshoes follow the hoof wall up to the heel and do not extend past the sole or frog. These shoes do not actively change the angle of the foot; this is only done by the farrier during trimming when they shape the foot.

Corrective shoes can extend into the palmar (ground-facing) surface of the hoof, outwards from the wall, or be shaped in any manner that may assist the horse.

Corrective shoes may also have add-on materials that actively change the angle of the foot and help the horse sustain that angle.

Commonly used examples of corrective shoes for horses include:

  • Heart bar shoes
  • Egg bar shoes
  • Straight bar shoes
  • Pads
  • Casts
  • Flip flops
  • Elevated heel shoes
  • Roller motion shoes

Farriers can also create custom therapeutic shoes, but the ones listed above are the most common shoes you will see used for horses.

Criticism

Not all farriers and veterinarians are proponents of corrective shoeing. Dr. Robert Bowker, VMD PhD argues that many forms of corrective shoes only transfer pressure to different parts of the hoof, potentially leading to soreness in other areas. [1]

Corrective shoeing is not always successful as a long-term treatment of hoof issues and, in some cases, may only provide temporary relief. The success of remedial farrier care depends on: [2]

  • Proper diagnosis of the problem
  • Use of appropriate shoeing techniques
  • Ability to address underlying distortion of the hoof capsule
  • Ability to restore healthy hoof balance and function

Critics of corrective shoeing opt for barefoot trimming and the use of padded hoof boots as an alternative treatment for hoof issues. Consult with your farrier and veterinarian to determine the most appropriate treatment protocol for your horse.

Compensatory & Therapeutic Shoeing

You may also hear your farrier or veterinarian referring to compensatory or therapeutic shoeing. While these terms are frequently used interchangeably when speaking about corrective shoeing, they describe different practices.

Compensatory shoeing is used to manage problems with the horse’s gait by compensating for conformation faults, without affecting permanent changes in conformation.

For example, compensatory shoes may have features that help improve foot flight and reduce limb interference. These shoes may also provide more support or alter the break-over point on the horse’s foot. [2]

Therapeutic or pathological shoeing refers to shoes used in the treatment of injury or disease affecting the legs and feet.

These shoes may be used to address tendon or ligament injuries, cartilage and bone degeneration, or sore feet contributing to lameness.

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