Does it hurt horses when you put a shoe on them? When you reshoe a horse and pull the old nail out to put a new one in, do you put it in the same hole? If not, how does that hole heal and fill on its own?
No, shoeing a horse causes no pain. Horse shoers, also called farriers, are well trained to perform all aspects of hoof care and balancing for soundness, comfort and correct movement. The old shoes are removed by filing away the clinches (more about clinches later…) and then pulling the old shoe along with the old nails.The horse’s hoof is constantly growing so before applying new shoes the shoer trims away the excess hoof wall. Often this means cutting off about 3/8 inch of hoof. The bottom of the hoof, called the sole, also grows constantly and needs to be trimmed, so after the shoer removes the mud and debris from the cleft of the hoof he or she will carefully trim the sole and frog (pad) to remove the excess and deteriorated hoof material. It is kind of like giving the horse a pedicure, but much more complicated because the hooves must be shaped correctly so that they land, break over and travel in a balanced manner as the horse moves or runs. Each hoof is different and each horse moves differently, too, so the shoer must shape each hoof to aid the horse’s movement.The old shoes are not put back on as they will have been worn thin, even though they are made of metal. Horses are heavy and apply a lot of force and friction to their shoes!Each of the new shoes is carefully shaped to match the shape of each hoof. That way, the shoes don’t interfere with the careful shaping and balancing of the hooves.The shoes are held on with a very special kind of nail. If you look at a shoeing nail closely you will see that the shaft of the nail is not round. It is rectangular with flat sides that taper to a very sharp point. On one of the wider sides of the nail you will see a pattern of parallel lines that have been scored into the metal, giving that side a distinct texture. When the shoer places the nail he or she makes sure that textured side is turned to face the hoof wall. As the nail is driven into the hard, insensitive hoof material that textured side causes the nail to bend. As a result, the tip of the nail exits the hoof partway up the hoof wall - generally about 3/4 inch above the shoe. (Since 3/8 inch hoof material was cut away the old nail holes are now out of the way for applying new nails.) As soon as the nails are fully driven into and through the hoof wall, the shoer cuts off the exposed points of the nails and then bends the remaining stub firmly down against the hoof wall and smooths off any rough edges to avoid them injuring the horse. It is the bent nail shafts, called “clinches”, that hold the shoes in place.