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  • Angeline Othen

No hoof, no horse

You may have seen me post recently pictures of the ponies having their regular Farrier visit. In that post I mentioned a well known phrase “No hoof (foot), no horse”. Essentially meaning that your horse is only as good as the feet that carry him. If your horse’s feet aren’t well looked after, he can’t perform correctly and without pain.

Many of the choices we make every day, from the feeds we give them to the ground they are ridden on, can have a significant influence on the health of our horse’s hooves.

In its most basic form, we can care for our horses feet by ensuring that they are picked out daily, generally a few times! Kept clean and clear of damage. Damage can occur for a number of reasons such as cracks and chips caused due to ground conditions, nutritional deficiencies and lack of maintenance from a Farrier.

Routine hoof care

Not all hoof care is the same for every Horse. It will vary depending on the Horses hoof conformation and hoof structure, environment, climate and use.

Daily care for healthy feet:

  • Pick out hooves and check that they’re in good condition

  • Check for splits, cracks, flares and overgrown misshapen hooves

  • Check shoes for signs that a Farrier is needed, for example risen clenches, overgrown and misshapen feet

Routine hoof care also needs to include a regular visit from the Farrier.

Who is the Farrier?

Correct trimming and shoeing are vital to the horse’s welfare. It's important to ensure that you employ the services of a good, well qualified Farrier.

Farriers spend years learning their craft and are incredibly knowledgeable. They have a complex and deep understanding of the hoof and the effect that it has on the horses way of going and general health and wellbeing.

It's important that the feet are trimmed accordingly, whether shod (with shoes) or not. Maintaining balance is important as inaccuracy can lead to lameness and aggravate other syndromes affected by unbalanced feet. It can affect the horses entire movement and development and cause ongoing problems.

Shoes are not always needed. It depends on the amount and type of work the horse is doing. Sometimes only front shoes may be needed. Your Farrier will be able to advise on the best option for your horse. None of the Riding School horses here are fully shod (shoes on all 4 feet). Some are shod on the fronts only, others are 'barefoot' (no shoes at all). This is due to some requiring shoes as they do more road work. Also not all horses can cope with being barefoot and need to have at least front shoes on.

How often should a horse be visited by the Farrier for a trim or to be shod?

Ideally shod horses need to be re-shod every four to six weeks irrespective of whether they have

worn the shoes out or not. The hooves grow continuously and when shod the hoof cannot wear down as it can with an unshod horse.

Unshod horses still need to see a Farrier as their hooves need to be regularly trimmed. Soft surfaces such as pasture and stable bedding do not wear the hoof down at all, therefore the hooves need to be trimmed about every three to four weeks, maximum six weeks.

The image opposite shows a half trimmed, overgrown hoof.

What other factors affect hoof quality?


Bad quality/lack of food can be a factor of hoof problems. However, it can be used to help rectify any issues. Making sure that you feed the best quality feed that you can will help.


Very dry and very wet environments aren't conducive to quality hooves.


Exercise is important to assist with circulation to the hoof. It encourages growth.

Needless to say, our horses and ponies at the Centre have daily maintenance and regular Farrier visits to keep their hooves as healthy as we can!

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