Why do horse hoofs need so much care, and why do they need horseshoes?



Wild horses seem to get by just fine without people caring for them. How does all this care make their hoofs different/better than if they stayed natural?

In: Biology

Wild horses are constantly wearing down their hooves on rough plains, rocks, gravel. Just like our own finger nails, if you let them get too long they split, can lead to infection etc. Trained horses on the other hand have relatively soft stables and paddocks so their hooves don’t wear the same way and periodically need to be trimmed. Working horses on the other hand (like mounted police and draft/carriage horses) spend a good chunk of their day on pavement which would wear down their hooves too fast, hence the shoes.

Horse feet are designed to carry more or less the weight of one(1) horse and no more. We expect the same horse feet to carry a horse worth of weight followed by 200+ pounds of other stuff and it’s not great.

It’s all about environment. Wild horses run on all sorts of terrain and they’re allowed to run as much as they want. So they naturally toughen up their hooves while also trimming them down.

Horses in captivity are typically on grass, so their hooves are more susceptible to cracking, which is why people nail horseshoes into them. It makes them more tough. Also, since they don’t get to run on harder terrain, they don’t file down their hooves (which are kinda like big fingernails tbh). If a horse in captivity is neglected it can get [out of hand.](https://imgur.com/a/q6ChnX4)

I knew a guy who would show his horses and cows with the rubber tread from old car tires. Spit the rubber tread and nilon bands from the steel bands, stamp out the shape then fold and tack them. He said it sounds weird but they work great and keep the joint impact low for his horses when he rides them on concrete and pavement .

It is my understanding that the “frog” (the soft part in the center of the hoof’s bottom) acts like a pump that helps with the animal’s blood circulation in the leg. Shoes arbitrarily attached for the wrong reasons can cause more problems than they solve.

IMO, the only thing more overdone than the things people do to (not for) a horse is the amount of clothes they buy for a Barbie doll. A horse is a herd animal that grazes constantly and uses flight when in danger. So let’s put him in a 15′ x 15′ stall by himself, where he can’t flee or react to strange noises or danger, feed him twice a day, and then wonder why he’s cribbing the stall walls. Get him a psychiatrist … the owner, not the horse.

Water makes horses hooves soft and prone to damage so when the ponies of the Huns made it from the dry steppes to the wet areas of Europe they faltered because they didn’t have their horses hooves shod. If the horses walk on very solid ground like roads the hooves can crack or split so need to be shod. If horses run on dry grass all day they don’t need horseshoes.