Horse shoes provide a solid foundation

Mar 09, 2018 Jennifer Caldwell/

Equipment which can help a horse’s performance in both training and racing was discussed last week. However, one fundamental piece of equipment wasn’t mentioned.


But aren’t horse shoes simply pieces of metal shaped into a curve and nailed to the bottom of a horse’s hooves? Well, yes and no.

The following is a simple breakdown of the horse hoof anatomy:

Just like people have different-sized feet, horses have different-sized hooves. The shape and size help determine the type of shoe, but it is only a small part of the equation. Conformation, stride, occupation, and so much more goes into determining how a horse is shod.

The types of shoes can, and probably do, fill a textbook, including variations due to material. Shoes may be made out of iron, aluminum and steel, can be applied using nails, glue and plugs, and so on.

Race horses primarily sport a shoe made of lightweight aluminum called racing plates. There are many different types of racing plates utilized for different racing surfaces, including front regular toe (used for multiple track surfaces), front low toe (hard or fast tracks), outer rim (turf and dirt tracks), inner rim (deep sandy tracks), wedge (raises and protects heel to reduce strain) and mud calk (wet, muddy or sloppy tracks).

Every racecourse is different in terms of rules and some don’t allow mud calks or toe grabs, which have raised front portions to provide traction. In those cases, a queens plate may be used to reduce strain.

There is also a bar shoe, which is essentially a regular plate with a closed heel. They are typically used to protect the hoof from various problems and complaints.

From just this brief explanation it’s clear that shoeing a race horse is a complex and involved issue. But it’s also a crucial one.

As the saying goes, “No hoof, no horse.”

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