How to help a horse with a thrown shoe

It might start with a slight clicking noise or a change in your horse’s gait, or it could be obvious when you pick his foot up to clean the hoof. A loose, bent, or “sprung” shoe can show up toward the end of a shoeing cycle, or the shoe can get caught on something as your horse gets off a trailer or walks through a rocky area. For whatever reason, if the shoe is no longer attached solidly to your horse’s hoof, or if it’s not sitting perfectly flat and straight, it should be removed to keep the horse from losing it completely and probably tearing off a chunk of hoof in the process.

If you’re at home and the shoe is loose but not badly bent, all you have to do is contact your farrier and ask him to visit in the next day or two and reset the shoe. Don’t ride or turn your horse out in a large area while you’re waiting for the farrier to come.

The situation is a little different if the shoe has been deformed or is quite loose and you’re far from home. Larger shows usually have a farrier on the site to take care of emergencies, but if you’re traveling, at a smaller show, or in the middle of a long trail ride, you might have to remove the shoe yourself.

What you can do before this happens: Get a set of tools (clinch cutter, hammer, shoe puller) used in removing a shoe and take them along when you travel. Ask your farrier where you can get these tools. Learn how to remove a shoe; your farrier is also good resource for this knowledge. Carry a protective hoof boot on travels and trail rides.

What to do in the moment: Tie your horse or have someone hold him. With the horse’s hoof on the ground, set the edge of the clinch cutter against the clinch (bent-over end of the nail that emerges from the outside of the hoof wall) and tap with the hammer to straighten the bent part. You can also use a metal file to rasp away the bent-over end. Practicing at home is a good idea! After the clinches are straightened or removed, pick up the horse’s hoof and hold it between your knees with your head toward his hind legs. Using the shoe puller, pull out as many nails as possible. Then take hold of one heel of the shoe by sliding the blades of the shoe puller between the shoe and the hoof. Tilt the handle toward the center of the hoof to start pulling the shoe off. Repeat on the other side of the shoe, alternating sides and moving the shoe puller closer to the toe as the shoe loosens. Remove remaining nails as they become loose. After the shoe is off, put a boot on the hoof to protect it and keep the horse balanced until you can get the shoe replaced.

What to do to avoid this problem in the future: You can’t totally prevent all thrown, loose, or bent shoes, but you can take steps to minimize the chance of having this problem. Be sure your horse receives all necessary nutrients for good hoof growth and structure. Most fortified grains contain everything the average horse needs for strong hooves, but some horses benefit from a hoof supplement that adds extra biotin and other specific nutrients. Follow a regular schedule of farrier care; most shoes need to be reset about every four to six weeks. Pick out the horse’s hooves at least once a day, checking to see that the shoes are still straight and tight. If you notice that a shoe is starting to loosen, or the hoof walls or heels are growing out around the shoes, call the farrier and schedule a trim and reset, even if it’s not yet time on the calendar.

No matter what devices farriers use, their goal is the same: to give each horse the best opportunity to run to his potential. Here’s how they help racehorses succeed on the track.

How to help a horse with a thrown shoe

Just as a saddle must fit both horse and rider, a horseshoe must fit both athlete and sport. A Clydesdale pulling a wagon in a parade down a paved street requires a much bigger and heavier shoe than a hunter-jumper performing in a manicured dirt arena.

Likewise, Thoroughbred racehorses wear specialized shoes that protect their feet without interfering with their speed.

Most horses that require shoes wear some version of a steel plate, but not racehorses.

“Racehorses run in aluminum shoes because they are lighter,” says Ada Gates Patton of Pasadena, California. She was the first woman licensed by a racing commission to shoe Thoroughbred racehorses on the track in the United States and Canada and did so for 15 years. She now owns Harry Patton Horseshoeing Supplies, in Monrovia, California, and is the horseshoe inspector for the annual Rose Parade.

“Weight (feels) heavier the further you go,” she says. “If you carry a basket of laundry, and you’re walking down the road with it, by the time you’ve gone three blocks, it’s gotten heavier and heavier.”

Because winning or losing a race can depend on mere hundredths of a second, shoe weight can make a huge difference.

“Feet are a horse’s survival tool,” says Gates Patton. “As prey animals, they run away. So they have tremendous sensitivity about their feet.” While the difference in weight between a racing plate and a normal steel shoe might not seem much to us, horses notice the difference, and it can impact their stride at top speed.

Another key factor when a racehorse is barreling down straightaways and around turns is balance.

“The racehorse is shod every 30 days and has a short foot,” says Gates Patton. “We don’t do a big trim, but it’s a trim that makes a measurable difference to the horse in his breakover (the moment each heel lifts off the ground), his speed of breakover, and getting on to the next stride. His mission is speed and breakover.”

Even though the aluminum shoe is lightweight, it still protects the foot well. Horses at racing speed are hitting the ground with great concussive force, Gates Patton says, which is why very few racehorses compete barefoot.

Shoeing the Individual

While each racehorse is different, most tend to race about once a month. That schedule allows trainers and farriers to consult on whether they should make any shoeing changes from race to race.

Just as with regular steel shoes, farriers can modify aluminum racing plates to help the individual horse. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, for example, bruised his left front foot as a 2-year-old. Trainer Bob Baffert and farrier Wes Champagne decided to outfit him with a half-plate to protect the top half (toward the toe) of that foot’s sole. The colt wore that shoe type throughout his 3-year-old season, which included his Triple Crown run and victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“Bruises, abscesses, quarter cracks, and hitting (forging or interfering) are the top issues that farriers and trainers address together,” says Gates Patton.

Bruises and abscesses can plague racehorses just as they can other equine athletes. In these situations, trainers work with their veterinarians and farriers to decide what therapeutic measures to take. The farrier’s knowledge and skill direct how he or she will modify the shoe to help protect the tender area.

Quarter cracks (fissures in the widest part of the hoof wall that usually appear at the coronary band and grow toward the ground) can be more serious and might require stall rest or turnout. Sometimes farriers can patch minor quarter cracks, allowing the horse to continue racing.

Hitting occurs when a horse’s natural stride causes one of his hooves to strike another limb. Corrective trimming and shoeing can adjust the stride in some cases so the horse no longer hits himself.

Corrective trimming often begins on the farm, when the horse is young. As with any horse, regular trimming early can help a foal grow into a conformationally correct adult. If a Thoroughbred is prepared for an auction as a yearling, he is even more likely to be trimmed frequently.

Because racehorses are handled so young and so often, they usually behave very well for shoers.

“Racehorses are beyond broke for shoeing,” says Gates Patton. “They just stand there. That’s a big plus when a racehorse goes into a second career.”

Racetrack farriers have several other shoe options besides standard aluminums, including glue-on shoes. These can help horses that don’t have strong hoof wall. They can also be useful if a horse is recovering from an issue such as an abscess, which can weaken part of the wall to the point that the foot can’t take a nail.

“Glue-on shoes are a tremendous boon to all horses, but especially to racehorses,” says Gates Patton. “They can serve a very good purpose. The decision to use them is made in concert with the trainer and the shoer.”

She says one disadvantage to a glue-on shoe is that it might not stay on as well as a traditional shoe with nails.

Horses occasionally throw shoes when racing or training.

“A shoe is under much more stress during a race than the shoe of a backyard trail horse,” says Gates Patton. “When that hoof hits the ground, the heel hits first and then slides and breaks over to go onto the next stride. There is a lot of shearing going on during that slide process. If the track is muddy, deep, or sticky, it’s going to really grab that shoe,” potentially pulling it off.

Racetracks keep a farrier on call in case a shoe comes loose before a race. Sometimes the track delays the race while a farrier quickly replaces a shoe. For example, in late 2010 as rain pelted Hollywood Park in Southern California, millionaire Comma to the Top lost his right hind shoe in the mud when walking from the barn area to the paddock. Though it took a while to replace the shoe, the horse went on to win that day’s $750,000 CashCall Futurity.

Essential Accessories

Depending on the time of year and the weather, farriers can modify racing plates to give a horse better traction. Rain is the biggest culprit, because a muddy track can get slippery. Trainers monitor exactly what type of wet track they are dealing with, and if they deem it necessary, they ask farriers to put on traction devices.

“You can customize the shoe for the surface,” says Gates Patton. “The morning of the horse’s race, you can put on stickers,” which are similar to calks or “studs” used on sport horses.

The farrier could replace the shoe with one that has traction devices already built into it. Most of the time, though, farriers add jar calks or mud nails to a normal shoe for traction.

After the race, the farrier removes the devices so they won’t interfere with the horse’s stride over normal surfaces.

Many times, racetrack officials announce the use of “stickers” to bettors. It is important that the public knows which horses are wearing stickers, so they can incorporate that knowledge into their race analysis before placing a wager.

No matter what devices farriers use, their goal is the same: to give each horse the best opportunity to run to his potential.

“My goal is that he has a perfectly flat, balanced foot under his leg,” says Gates Patton, “so that he has the most perfect stride he can have.”

by Firn Hyde | Jun 7, 2018


Hoof Stamping Due to Flies

The Problem: Horses are one of the most tactile-sensitive animals in the universe. Despite being almost ten times the size of humans, their skin is significantly thinner, making it easier for their touch receptors to pick up on sensation. This helps to explain why the irritating tickle of a fly on the skin is so much more aggravating to a horse than to a human.

One of the horse’s most important mechanisms for dealing with flies is to stamp. While they can shiver the skin on the rest of their bodies in order to shake off flies, and their long tails can reach their flanks and bellies to swish the flies away, the skin of their legs is incapable of shivering and their forelegs are out of reach of their tails. This leaves them to stamp their front feet in order to get rid of the flies. Excessive stamping serves to loosen the nails of the shoe, eventually causing the shoe to come off completely.

The Solution: This problem can be mitigated by appropriate fly control. One method that will give almost instant relief is to apply a suitable fly repellent to your horse’s legs at least once a day. It’s also nice to have a gallon refill on hand .

The Problem: Where horses are involved, there will always be mud. Especially in areas with heavy rainfall, it’s inevitable that at least part of your horse’s field will end up being boggy, and this can pose a problem for horses’ feet. Mud can cause problems such as thrush, quarter cracks, and cracked heels. More to the point, it causes the horse to lose shoes more easily.

The main reason why shoes are lost in mud is because when the foot is wet, it expands. This causes the nail holes of the shoe to expand, too, loosening the nails. With the shoe already loosened, it only takes a step into deep mud to suck the shoe clean off the foot.

The Solution: The best thing that can be done to prevent this from happening is to control the presence of mud in your horse’s life. When building paddocks, try to ensure that they have adequate drainage; digging drains to divert runoff around the paddock can also help to keep the ground dry. Leaking water troughs or buckets are also an important cause of mud. These should be repaired anyway to prevent the wastage of water.

If there is no way to prevent mud from forming in the paddock, there are still steps that can be taken to improve the ground conditions. Charcoal, or wood chips spread onto the surface absorbs the wetness without becoming boggy and slippery.

Alternatively, there are products that can be applied to the horse’s foot to make it more waterproof, such as this Mud Shield Powder or a more generic all-around hoof dressing like Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Dressing .

Hoof Condition

The Problem: The condition of the hoof wall also has an influence on the hoof’s ability to keep a shoe on. Where the hoof wall is strong and elastic, the wall will be stable and the nail holes will keep their shape, keeping the nails snugly in place.

However, if the hoof wall is brittle, it will crack and crumble around the nail holes. The nails will then start to fall out of the hoof wall, loosening the shoe. Even worse, should the horse overreach or get his shoe caught on something, he might tear an entire section of his hoof wall out.

Poor hoof quality also has more important consequences than simply casting shoes. Conditions such as seedy toe, quarter cracks, and even laminitis can have lifelong consequences for your horse.

The Solution: Like most things with horses, hoof condition is strongly influenced by nutrition. One of the most important substances for hoof wall condition is biotin, which can be fed in the form of nutritional supplements like this one . Farrier’s Formula is also an old favorite.


The Problem: Overreaching is a common fault in the horse’s action. When the horse moves, his hind foot should step on or over the print left by the front foot on the same side (“track up”). Some horses, particularly those with short-coupled or long toe-low heel conformation, don’t get that front foot out of the way quickly enough. This results in the hind hoof striking into the sole or heel of the front hoof.

Overreaching may result in cuts or bruises to the bulbs of the heel, but if the hind foot catches on the heel of the front shoe, it can result in the shoe being pulled off. This can be particularly dangerous as the shoe may just be loosened at the back and shift, driving the nails into the sole.

How to help a horse with a thrown shoe Durable Neoprene Overreach Boots

The Solution: It is possible to limit a horse’s tendency to overreach by correct trimming of the foot, particularly if the horse has long toes. Shortening the toes and correcting the hoof-pastern axis will improve the horse’s action. However, it will likely always remain a risk for some horses, and these can be turned out wearing overreach boots. Plain rubber boots with a fleece lining are the most common and affordable, but the more durable versions are made of Neoprene .

Faulty Shoeing

The Solution: If multiple horses in the stableyard are losing shoes, the farrier might be the problem. Educate yourself on what a properly shod foot looks like and ensure that your horse is being shod correctly. Alternatively, you can ask for a second opinion from another farrier. When selecting a farrier, it’s important to check his credentials; be sure he’s qualified and ask other horse owners that you trust for references.

When a horse’s shoe comes loose the signs can be subtle or dramatic. A twisted or dangling shoe will be hard to miss, but if a sprung shoe pretty much stays in place, the only clue might be a sliding sound as the affected hoof hits hard ground. A bent shoe or one that’s working its way off can alter a horse’s gait or even make him appear lame.

How to help a horse with a thrown shoe

The best way to handle a loose shoe depends on the circumstances and the hoof’s condition.

The consequences of a loose shoe can be equally variable. Usually, it’s little more than a nuisance that requires a short visit from the farrier. Sometimes, however, a shoe may cause injury as it loosens or wrenches free.

The best way to handle a loose shoe depends on the circumstances and the hoof’s condition.


Even the best-set shoe will eventually loosen over time. Giving each shoe a “wiggle” as you handle your horse’s feet each day may provide an early warning that the nails on one are starting to lose their grip. If the shoe is still in place and all the nails are in their original positions, you may be able to secure it until the farrier arrives. Any one of these steps may help keep the shoe in place if the farrier cannot come right away:

Tighten the clinches. After a farrier drives each nail into the hoof wall, he bends the exposed nail tip that emerges from the hoof wall downward into a hook shape, called a “clinch,” that helps to secure the shoe. To tighten clinches on a loose shoe, you’ll need a farrier’s rasp and clinchers, a tool used to double over the cut-off nail. First, remove the old clinches: Place the hoof just above your knees, with the sole facing downward, as you squat slightly with your legs together. Then use downward strokes with the rasp to file down the clinches. Be sure to use the metal cutting edge of the rasp and to stay on the clinches—you want to avoid rasping the hoof wall as much as possible. You’ll need to reposition yourself to access the clinches on each side of the hoof. Then use the clinchers to bend the newly exposed nail shaft downward. In some cases, if you need to deal with just a nail or two, you can just tap the clinches down gently with a lightweight hammer.

Wrap the hoof. Any of a number of methods for wrapping a hoof may help secure a wobbly shoe. With self-adhesive wrap, a figure-eight approach is effective: Start by wrapping around the coronary band and heels two or three times, then begin the figure eight by bringing the wrap down over one heel and up over the toe on the opposite side, then crossing over the front of the toe and dropping down to come up over the opposite heel; repeat that maneuver several times, then finish with two final passes around the perimeter of the hoof. Gorilla or duct tape applied in short strips over the sole may also do the job—but take care to avoid getting tape stuck on the coronary band or pastern. Remember that the bandage will need to stay dry, and you’ll have to add more tape frequently if the horse is on abrasive surfaces.

By Barry Davis | Submitted On August 02, 2006

If you are just a beginner to the game of horseshoes then the first thing you need to do is learn how to throw them. If you are a professional horseshoe pitcher, then it never hurts to revisit the basics and get your game back on track. For the purpose of this article we will assume that you are right handed. If you are left handed, just apply everything in the opposite way.

A key thing to remember when reading this is that horseshoes is just like any other skill in life. It takes practice to become accurate. So if you are serious about developing this skill, be prepared to invest many hours practicing your pitching. However, unlike many other sports, this game can be fun for everyone even if you can barely hit the pin!

So it is time to pick up the horseshoe. But before you go and throw it at the pin, take a good look as to how you are holding it. What you want to do is hold the horseshoe on its side like a backwards “C”. Grab the bottom side of the horseshoe so that the last knuckle by your fingertips is on the inside edge. This will let your fingertips curl up from the inside edge of the horseshoe. Your thumb will be on the flat side of the horseshoe so that the tip of your thumb meets up with the tips of your index and middle finger.

The placement of your grip should be roughly in the middle of the leg, or shank, of the horseshoe. This type of grip is called the 1 1/4 turn. This is one of the best grips to use for a beginner. This grip requires much less wrist motion than other types of grips. This lets the pitcher focus more on the throw than the wrist action which usually gives you more control. When throwing a horseshoe with the 1 1/4 turn you want to let it have a little more speed during the throw. The best way to get a ringer with this throw is to have the horseshoe come in and hook the stake from the right side. It will be able to hook that stake well and help you get those ringers landing throw after throw.

The most common mistake when throwing a horseshoe is forcing it to turn in the air. When thrown correctly, the horseshoe will do the work for you in the air. If you force it to turn you are not only losing accuracy on the throw, but you are also causing an unusual turn in the air which can cause the horseshoe to land on its side and roll. The object here is to get the horseshoe to land flat or “dead” around the stake.

Now that you have a grip on the horseshoe it is time to look at the swinging motion of your pitching arm. Hold the horseshoe out straight in front of you at eye level and aiming at the stake. Your feet position is really optional. You can either stand with your feet together or with your left foot about 6 to 8 inches behind your right foot. In either case, you want the majority of your weight to be on your right foot. As you begin your backswing, you want to take the horseshoe and turn it into a vertical position (like shaking hands). The horseshoe should stay in a vertical position for the entire backswing. On your upswing, as the horseshoe passes your right leg, bring the horseshoe back to the level or horizontal position. Release the horseshoe when it gets back to a line between your eyes and the opposite stake. Keep your wrist locked and straight and release the horseshoe in a level position to have it land flat or “dead”.

Now before you swing away here, we need to talk about your feet positioning during the throw. Regardless of how you started (feet together or left foot back), you want to have a gentle transition of weight from your right to your left foot. When your backswing is at its peak, begin shifting your weight and stepping forward with your left foot. As your upswing starts to pass your knees you should have most the weight on your left leg. This way your arc isn’t solely dependent on your arm muscles, but also the spring motion from your body and legs.

The most important part of your swing is then the follow through. After you have released the horseshoe, continue your throw. You will end up with your right arm almost straight up in the air and all the weight on your left foot. Just like any other sport or skill, the follow through can make or break your shots.

A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse hoof from wear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface (ground side) of the hooves. 1 Learning to Play Horseshoes. 2 Gripping the Horseshoe. 3 Perfecting Your Throw. Alternatively, use the more competitive “cancellation” scoring system. Award 1 point each round to the player whose horseshoe is nearest to its stake, or 2 points if a single player throws both horseshoes closer than.

How To Display A Horseshoe 5 Steps With Pictures Wikihow

The Right Way To Hang A Horseshoe Hunker

A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse hoof from wear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface (ground side) of the hooves. 1 Learning to Play Horseshoes. 2 Gripping the Horseshoe. 3 Perfecting Your Throw. Alternatively, use the more competitive “cancellation” scoring system. Award 1 point each round to the player whose horseshoe is nearest to its stake, or 2 points if a single player throws both horseshoes closer than. The horseshoe does not have to lean to qualify as a leaner, and the points remain the same no matter how close the leaner is as compared to another leaner. Rule 3: Give two points to the player who threw both horseshoes closer to the stake than his or her opponent’s.

How To Display A Horseshoe 5 Steps With Pictures Wikihow

How To Display A Horseshoe 5 Steps With Pictures Wikihow

Horseshoes Rules Made Simple and Game Etiquette Do you want to play horseshoes like a pro? Learn the horseshoes rules, regulations, and game etiquette so that you can play it in style this summer. if you want to build your horseshoes game platform yourself – here is our DIY guide and. How to Hang a Horseshoe. Square cut nails add a rustic touch. Image Credit: SomeMeans/iStock/GettyImages. Use a ruler or tape measure to ensure both sides of the horseshoe are at the same height. Adjust as needed. Mark the ideal location on the wall with a pencil. Horseshoe shrinks down the size of the music information page considerably, and then squeezes it below the toggle buttons; you can then use a 3D How to get it. Right now, purchases for jailbreak tewaks are not enabled in Cydia for iOS 10 devices, and Horseshoe happens to be a paid jailbreak. Using horseshoe meters. Learn how to visualize data with a horseshoe meter. What horseshoe meters visualize. Use a horseshoe meter to gauge metric changes against a set of ranges or a target value. Use case examples.

How Do Horseshoes Stay On Does It Hurt The Horse Quora

Horseshoes What Exactly Are Their Purpose Mountain Creek Riding Stable

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how to throw horseshoes like a champion, from setting up your court to different strategies for gameplay. A whole lot of people have put a whole lot of time into determining what the best way to throw a horseshoe is. It’s a tricky skill to master, and there are. Horseshoes have many purposes. They prevent excess or imbalaced wear of the hoof, and can provide gentle spreading to help correct contracting heels. They lift the foot off the surface of the soil or pavement to help prevent bruising, they provide. Learn how to play horseshoes with our simple guide covering all the basics, including the setup, rules, and playing tips. Here’s our complete overview of how to play horseshoes, a classic backyard game that never goes out of style. Way before we had cornhole, there was a game known as horseshoe. To score a point you have to land your horseshoe closer to the stake than your opponent. Whoever’s horseshoe lands closest scores a point. The smaller the horseshoe the harder it is to score a ringer. That’s why most people use bigger horseshoes that are specifically designed for gaming and not for.

How To Hang A Horseshoe For Good Luck This Question Has Been Asked For Centuries

Horse shoes usually remain on the animal’s hooves until the farrier returns, but horses occasionally throw shoes out in the paddock or during a ride. Sometimes part of the hoof wall comes off with the shoe, which can cause pain, and it is important to check the hooves of shod horses after every ride to detect this problem.


Examine your horse’s hoof as soon as you realize he has thrown a shoe. Look for missing chunks of the hoof wall as well as nails still embedded in the hoof. Sometimes a horse will only partially throw a shoe. If this is the case, it is important to remove the shoe completely before moving the horse. Riders and stable owners sometimes keep farrier tools on hand. Learning how to use pincers, nippers and rasps will make it easier to tend to your horse when the farrier is unavailable.


Contact your farrier or veterinarian when your horse throws a shoe. A professional should evaluate the hoof and fit your horse for a new shoe as soon as possible. A missing shoe makes your horse feel off-balance and can cause him to pull a muscle. If your farrier or veterinarian cannot respond immediately, consider fitting your horse with a hoof boot to protect the hoof in the meantime. Your veterinarian might also recommend packing the hoof boot with cotton to prevent bruising and abscesses or wrapping the hoof with duct tape to protect it until professional treatment can be rendered.


You might not notice a lost horseshoe right away, in which case your horse might be ridden partially barefoot for an extended period of time. The shoe protects your horse’s hoof from uneven terrain, stones, gravel and other irritants, and its loss might cause sole bruising, especially if your horse has always been shod. A horse that has suffered a sole bruise will usually exhibit symptoms of lameness and his heels might be warm to the touch. Call your veterinarian if you suspect a sole bruise and put your horse on immediate rest. Your vet might recommend a poultice for a short period of time.

Riding Barefoot

Some horses live their entire lives barefoot, never wearing shoes. This does not mean you can ride your horse while he is missing a shoe, however, because the loss of height in one hoof will leave his legs uneven. This is especially true if your horse suffers from a thin sole. Some riders remove the other shoes after one is thrown, but this should only be attempted by experienced professionals who know how to properly remove shoes. Even then, it is unwise to ride a normally shod horse barefoot without the advice of a qualified farrier or veterinarian.


Approximately 80 percent of lost shoes occur on the front hooves, but this situation is rare among most horses. A lost shoe is often caused by muddy terrain, overreaching by the hind hooves or poor farrier work. If your horse loses shoes on a regular basis, have him evaluated by a veterinarian. You might consider hiring a new farrier or having the shoes replaced more frequently.

Protecting Your Herd From Dominance Injuries

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How to help a horse with a thrown shoe

Gigja Einarsdottir / Getty Images

A herd or pasture bully can wreak havoc on the other horses it lives with. Bullies can injure other horses by biting, striking and kicking them. They can run them into things and through fences. A bully can impair the condition of submissive horses by preventing them from getting to hay. They can wreak havoc on turnout blankets by shredding them as they bite at the horses wearing them.

Sometimes herd bullies act on their own, and sometimes they have a partner (or partners) that joins in terrorizing the rest of the herd. Bullies can be mares or geldings, big or small, and can be any breed or age. They’re difficult to deal with because you can’t control what goes on in the pasture when you’re not around.

Horses in a herd have a hierarchy. There is often one horse that is the leader, a few that may find favor with the leader, and sometimes, one submissive soul that takes the brunt of any abuse handed out. Little can be done to influence this pecking order.

How to help a horse with a thrown shoe

When You Are in the Pasture

One thing you must do, however, is to make it clear to every horse in the herd, that when you are present, you must be respected. No horse should ever present its heels to you, lay its ears back, or bite at you when you are with it in the pasture. If you are just socializing, every horse must know that you are the one that chooses when the social time is over, and they should not be allowed to walk away of their own accord. You are the one that decides when the interaction is over.

When a horse is disrespectful in the pasture, it is the one time that punishment in the form of a smack or sharp word may be appropriate. If a horse is known to be disrespectful in the pasture, it may also be appropriate to carry a whip so that you can use it to keep the horse a safe distance from you and to apply a quick punishment in the form of a flick.

You can’t punish horses for their actions towards other horses in the pasture because punishment rarely works and you won’t be there enough to do it consistently. Jostling for herd dominance and places in the hierarchy is natural horse behavior.

Protecting the Other Horses

There’s a limited amount you can do to protect other horses from pasture bullies. If the bullying becomes injurious to other horses, you may have no other choice but to keep the bully separated. Build an extra paddock, or perhaps section a portion of a field off with an electric fence. Or, you can try changing the members of the herd around so that the bully is pastured with a more dominant but confident horse that will keep it in line.

Be sure your paddocks aren’t overcrowded, that horses have lots to eat, and they are not bored and standing around looking for something to do. Frequent exercise may also help your pasture bully expend pent-up energy.

Sometimes, battles happen over food. If this is the case, try adding an extra pile of food, so when the bully chases someone from theirs, there is another pile to eat. Space piles of food or buckets far apart, so the bully has farther to run and the victims have more time to getaway.

If a bully is shredding turn out blankets, a bitter no-chew spray might help. It might dissuade some horses. Be sure to check blankets often. A badly ripped blanket can become a hazard if the horse gets tangled in it.

If the bully or a group of bullies is only chasing one horse, it might be best to keep that horse separated. Sometimes, horses will pick on one horse enough that they lose weight and get injured often. If the bully or bullies are shod, this can increase the chances of a serious injury for other horses. It’s important not to put very young, small, or elderly horses (that might not be able to get away quickly) out with a pasture bully.