This is perhaps the most common complaint that is heard amongst horse owners all over the country. Most owners will pass judgement on a farrier’s workmanship and ability by the fact that the shoes stay on or are thrown, usually no fault of the farrier at all. Oh, I don’t know about that, you might say. Well, it should be noted that a horseshoe, properly put on, does not fall off by itself. This means that the reason for a lost shoe is either the fault of the workmanship or outside interference, of which there are many. I’m not saying that there aren’t shoes that are thrown, that aren’t because of poor workmanship, but I am saying there are many more reasons why a shoe comes off, one of which is the shoes are attached to a live, active, athletic animal whom will twist himself into a pretzel in a moments notice, with the power of ten average sized men.
There are cases of shoes staying on a horse for up to ten months or more. (Pity the horse!) Also, cases of shoes falling off only hours after shoeing. Granted these are extreme examples, but how does the owner determine the cause of the lost shoe? First, regarding workmanship, use the “shoeing checklist” immediately after the work is done. This will eliminate workmanship as the cause if the shoe is lost. Secondly, here are some of the common outside reasons for pulling a shoe:
- Wooden floors where caulks and toe grabs can get stuck. It should be pointed out, that some people handling their horse will hold onto the lead shank too closely and therefore turning them in the person’s space, which is too small and so they have to PLANT their hooves to move rather than lifting their feet. This places extreme pressure on the shoeing and the nails/clinches, being mild steel can easily be pried up, loosening the shoe.
- Trailering — stepping off a ramp or catching the shoe on the edge of a step-up trailer. Don’t forget your horse is all keyed up with the ride and new surroundings and won’t necessarily be as careful or attentive as they normally are.
- Pawing at wire fences or gates. It’s better that your horse’s shoe comes off in cases where the wire is involved than to rip part of their hoof off. In cases like this, most owners accept that this is not the farrier’s fault, however, I have experienced those that refuse to acknowledge that it was their fencing, even though the marks on their horses’ legs made it clear that it was the fence. Why? Simply because they didn’t want to have to pay for the replacement of the shoe. Believe me, payment is expected.
- Making a sharp turn full out with a racing horse that is not accustomed to checking himself on a turn. Frankly, any kind of activity that involves checking themselves or sharp turns can result in stepping off a shoe, especially if your horse is tired, gawking around, or just a little clumsy that day. They are not machines, but live, wiggly friends, and are allowed to make mistakes once in a while.
- The slippery conditions of ankle-deep mud. Although, this is not near the problem that some claim it to be. I ran a 50 horse operation that had a bog at the back door where all the horses had to walk through to come into the barn. Not once did a shoe that was on in regulation, come off because of the mud. Just lucky? I don’t think so.
- Uneven cement flooring or steps leading into stalls or out of barns. I would rather see cement flooring with an uneven surface than a slick, smooth surface simply because of the traction. However, there needs to be an understanding that shoes do get wedged or caught on this type of flooring under certain conditions. Uneven ledges, gutters, etc. obviously pose a problem regarding shifting a shoe. I personally have shod in these types of facilities for years and rarely lost a shoe, but it can happen.