Should I keep my concerns to myself?


A friend and I were discussing his horse's front foot pain.  Treatment for the pain is periodic injections in the pastern  area that will cost around $400 per injection.  No X-rays were done.  Diagnosis was made through blocking injections.  
The vet also suggested the farrier make some trimming adjustments before shoeing. When my friend told me his 16 year old mare is never without shoes because he doesn't want to bother with hoof boots and rides daily, I said he may want to consider whether the constant use of shoes could be part of the problem.  Is it possible for a horse to never be without shoes, assuming the shoeing was correctly done, and suffer no ill effects?  I mentioned to him the problem of the weight of the horse hanging entirely from the hoof capsule as it is when the horse is shod, rather than sharing the weight with the sole as is the case when the horse is barefoot.   I'm not sure I'm even right about this and don't want to pass on misleading information.

Lynn and Mica
2011. N. CA

Josephine Trott

Hi Lynn,

One suggestion - my trimmer heard of these shoes, polyflex,
that make some horses sound even though they've had soundness issues in normal shoes - basically because they are glue on and made of composite material, not metal.  Even if the nails don't 'quick' the horse, for some horses they are uncomfortable - or at least that's what it seems.  I've dealt with my share of falling off hoof boots and can understand your friend's reluctance.  I have barefoot horses, am a big advocate of barefoot is best, but also know of horses that have been shod their whole lives and have been sound.  Up to their mid 30s.  

You might suggest these, or even Epona Shoes (which don't hang all the weight on the walls as do normal shoes. - as possible options to help the horse's pain levels without expensive pastern injections.  I'd think they'd be worth a try.  However, with application of all shoes, a correct trim is vital.

Davis CA 06/09

Lavinia Fiscaletti

Hi Lynn,

Always a loaded question when you are dealing with someone else's horse.

From what you've said, your friend needs to have radiographs done to see what is going on. Blocking injections are good for locating where the pain is coming from but don't provide any answers as to why. Before spending $400 on injections, it would make sense to know why there is pain. Most likely, there are trim issues that need to be addressed. The shoes and injections are masking/putting band-aids on the problem(s) rather than attempting to solve them. Good that the vet recommended trim changes but that also suggests there are more trim issues than have already been mentioned.

Many horses live in shoes their entire lives. Is it the best thing for the health of these horses feet - no. But it is the easiest, cheapest thing for their owners and is quite common practice. If the trimming is done correctly, the negative effects are minimized and the horse can live out its life serviceably sound. The best case scenario would be that the shoes being applied would be composites of some sort, glued on with DIM or packing underneath to disperse load-bearing appropriately, changed every 4-5 weeks to keep everything optimized. This best-case is also going to be quite expensive so not likely to be path of choice for the average horse owner. Without getting into a philosophical debate, metal shoes are the least expensive, most widely accepted means to keep the average horse sound enough to perform its intended job for the average owner with the least amount of hassle for all concerned.

If an owner is going to go this route, then at the very least make sure the trim itself is optimal as that doesn't require the investment of any more money or time on the owner's part and helps the horse the most.


Moderator/ECIR Support


Thanks, Josie, I will suggest those options with my friend and I’ve also suggested joining this group. He is a person who enjoys learning and his horse would benefit greatly from what he could learn here. 

Lynn and Mica
May 2011