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All horses will occasionally lose a shoe. Once in a while is annoying but not a problem. If a pattern develops then you do have a problem that needs addressing. Your first line of defense is your Farrier. If you have the offending shoe, he/she can look at it and likely figure out how it was pulled. Once this bit of detective work is done, then a solution can be found.

One of the ironies of losing shoes is that the better a horse is shod, the greater the chances might be for him to lose a shoe.  Some people mistakenly judge the quality of a shoeing job by how long the shoes stay on.  In order to shoe a horse so the shoes stay on at all costs a Farrier would often have to sacrifice expansion and support, two ingredients that are critical to a horse's long term soundness. Without expansion and support a horse is at greater risk of developing navicular syndrome, under-run heels and other conditions that lead to lameness.  A shoe that is large enough to provide proper support and is fit properly for expansion will have more steel exposed at the quarters and heels and thus may be more likely to stepped on and pulled off.

So first of all lets clear something up. Horse’s shoes do not just fall off. Why not ask your Farrier to teach you how to pull your horse’s shoes next visit and you’ll see for yourself how much effort is required to pull a nailed shoe off.


And it is also a fact that mud cannot suck a shoe off a horses shoe. Mud can however cause horses to pull their own shoes off.

When a horse is walking in mud he can either slip or stick. If he slips, he will leave the foot that slipped on the ground until he gets control of it again. This delay leaves time for the hind foot on that side to reach up and step on the heel (usually the inside heel) of the front shoe. Then your horse lifts the front foot off the ground and the shoe comes off. If your horse sticks in the mud, the same thing happens. His foot stays on the ground too long, usually stuck in a mudhole. The hind foot on that side steps in the same hole and off comes the shoe. That is why it is so difficult to find a pulled shoe in a muddy pasture as the shoe is usually 8 inches under the mud.



Preventing lost shoes in muddy ground is not easy. For the horse to go barefoot is the best solution, but that’s not always practical. Bell boots help but are not a cure. If a horse pulls shoes in the mud by slipping an increase in traction might help. Fitting rim shoes offers more traction than plain shoes. Points of borium on the heels or screw in studs will act like cleats. Calks or heels forged into shoe will also increase traction. Your Farrier may also set the hind shoes back a little and square the hind toes. This increases the distance between fronts and hinds, which is often enough to stop the problem. You should discuss these options with your Farrier. Of course keeping your horse out of muddy pastures will also help.

Horses can also pull shoes by catching the heels on something and yanking off the shoe. Roots, wire fences, rocks are all common causes. A horse can pull a shoe this way while you are riding or when turned out. If you continually find shoes in the same place in a pasture, chances are there is something near by that the horses are catching the shoes on and pulling them off. Find and remove that object and the problem will go away. If you continually lose shoes when riding a certain route perhaps you should think about taking a different route.

Forging is a precursor to losing a shoe.

Forging at the trot

The moment a shoe might be "grabbed" when the
front foot is greatly delayed in breakover.

Horses forge when the hind shoe comes up and hits the bottom of the front foot. You will hear a click-click with every stride. Its not to be confused with overreaching(also called grabbing) where the hind shoe hits the heel of the fore foot or some other part of the forelimb. Both are similar gait timing abnormalities. They are caused by the front feet staying on the ground too long, thus allowing the hinds to catch up. They can be caused by many factors. Laziness on the horse's part is one--he's just not trying very hard. This is actually a rider problem. You need to get your horse more engaged behind and off the forehand. Consult your riding instructor for advice on this.

Another reason for forging that is overlooked is the weight of the rider. It may be the rider is just too heavy for that particular horse. No easy way to put that I’m afraid.

Heavy ground (mud) is another cause of forging or overreaching because breakover is delayed allowing the hind shoe to catch the front. One solution is to provide a quicker breakover on the front feet. Breakover is measured from the time the heels lift to the time the toe leaves the ground. Rolling or rockering the toes of the front feet helps to reduce breakover but there is a cost. I believe that performance horses need toe purchase to perform to the best of their ability so I am not an advocate of easing breakover to an extreme degree. Easing breakover on the fronts usually lowers the height the feet travel and lengthens the stride so it really depends what you are using the horse for. Easing breakover is certainly usually a benefit for lame horses however.

And temporary lameness can be a cause of forging as a horse will compensate for soreness in feet or legs by altering their length of stride. Attend to the lameness and the forging should stop. If forging or overreaching is diagnosed there are various shoeing solutions your Farrier can try and with a bit of trial and error the problem should be able to be resolved.

Another common reason horses lose shoes is by stomping them off on hard ground during the drier summer months. If horses are constantly stamping at flies, they put a tremendous strain on the nails that hold the shoes on.

They drive the shoes back with every stamp eventually loosening up the clinches and the shoe comes off. Horses with really solid feet can actually shear off the nails just above the shoe.

There are two solutions to this problem and one is nicer than the other for the horse. The shoeing solution is to put clips on the shoes. Clips will help hold the shoes in place and prevent them from sliding around each time your horse stamps a fly. But an easier solution would be to keep your horse in during the day when flies and insects are active or provide him with a shelter or shade.

Flies breed in moist decaying organic matter and horse manure and bedding are a favorite with them. Keeping your barn and paddocks free of manure will help tremendously. If your paddocks are too big to patrol with a wheelbarrow drag them with a pasture harrow. This acts to break up the manure into pieces too small for flies to breed in easily. These pieces then dry in the sun, making them largely uninhabitable by fly larvae.

Add to that a good system of fly traps with effective bait which can trap many thousands of adult flies, thus cutting down on the next generation and keeping the little monsters off your horses and you.

Lastly if your horse has lousy feet with poor hoof walls this can contribute to lost shoes. The hoof wall needs to be strong enough to hold the nails and withstand the tremendous forces generated by the horse. Remember there are only six to eight thin little nails holding that shoe on. If the wall those nails are driven into is flaky or weak they won't hold. There are lots of dietary solutions and hoof supplements that can address these hoof problems and you can find information on that elsewhere. Consult your Farrier or Veterinarian for advice on this.

One last word of advice: The fact that your horse keeps losing shoes does not mean you have a bad Farrier. As I’ve said there are several factors that can cause this problem and most are not caused by shoeing. Ask your Farrier to help you solve the problem rather than getting mad and blaming him/her for it. There's a better than even chance it's not your Farrier's fault.

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