Shoes for young horse

Hi, when do you know when it s Time to put a set of front shoes on a young horse that started training? And AT what age normally? Thanks

Front and/or hind shoes go on when there’s a need for them, usually when the terrain they cross daily is rocky. Or they’re actively training and competing in a specialty that requires certain equipment- like going xc and needing 4 shoes with stud holes, or sliding plates for reiners. There’s no reason to shoe a horse just because it’s in training.

In fact, shoes hinder foot development and the later you can put a shoe on a young horse the better foot that horse tends to have later in life. A well maintained foot with regular balanced trims is going to be the true key to good feet for any horse. Shoes are not bad by nature, but “regular” open heeled shoes can often cause more problems than they solve.

Boots, if available, can be a great alternative for horses that need protection for hacking out on terrain but don’t need shoes 24/7. There are also lots of new options on the market from 3D pads to composite wide web shoes that provide more support for the bony column than open heeled shoes. It’s worth pointing out that no shoe will fix a bad trim - so a good farrier is the key whether you leave a horse barefoot or shod.

Edited to add a specific answer: it’s time to shoe a horse when it’s needed for a specific purpose. Stud holes or sliding plates, or the horse needs protection from rough terrain on the daily. Just being ridden or in training doesn’t mean the horse needs shoes! Besides, barefoot is usually cheaper and no shoes to yank off in muddy turnout :sweat_smile:


But what if thé horse IS sensitive in normal training?

Sensitive how? Tender footed? That’s not normal for a horse to be tender in a footing ring or grass arena. If they are, it’s time to do some investigating - shoes may indeed be the answer but they are a bandaid solution while you actively pursue the underlying issue causing pain. Again, I’m not against shoes as a rule (my horse is in shoes, pads, and wedges right now!), but you should know WHY you’re putting shoes on.

Personally I’d be having the vet out to do hoof testers and balance X-rays (that you can send to your farrier!), and see what answers you can find. For my horse it was NPA and thin soles - now that I know that, we are working on pulling toes and heels back, and stimulating sole growth.


Your horse was tender footed or lame before doing thé xrays and tests?

He had some outward signs his feet were out of balance, and he was backsore. He also moved very short strided. He wasn’t limping lame - but certainly wasn’t 100% sound.

Did you have to put shoes on for a while or only with trimming you got it right? And how old was thé horse?

Shoes are only on temporarily - though I’m not opposed to them if he needs them later. I have shoes on him because he has wedges on the fronts to help correct his hoof/Pastern angle, and because we can set the shoe back and roll the front edge to bring breakover farther back than the farrier can with trimming alone. I have had wedges on the back as well, and he works on a gravel road so I have shoes and pads all around for that reason alone.

Edited to add: the plan is for this horse to go back to barefoot ultimately.


For me if the horse is showing any foot discomfort when being ridden, that suggests either the footing or the demands of work contribute they get shoes.

Especially if the horse is 100% comfortable barefoot otherwise.

Depending on the horse and the type of riding as they mature will determine if they can come off eventually or stay on indefinitely.

How old is the horse? What breed? What is the work load and discipline?

I keep my youngsters barefoot until I start riding them regularly. So they are usually still barefoot when I sit on them in their 3 year old year. Then I usually go to 4 shoes in their 4yo year when they start jumping and being ridden more consistently.

I used to start with fronts and then leave them barefoot behind for another year. But I had a couple where the hind shoes changed things a lot (increased the power and stability behind) to the point that I quit trying to stagger front/hind.

I think every horse is an individual, though, (of course), and different horses need different things. If I had a horse who seemed sore, I would certainly want to know why. It’s possible that they ‘need’ shoes, but also possible that it’s simply the need for a different trim…or it could be nutritional, or work load-related, or body related or riding related, etc. And my opinion on which it’s most likely to be would vary with the answers to the 3 questions above.

1 Like

Horses wear shoes for one or more of these three reasons: protection, correction, and traction.

When your vet and farrier agree that the horse needs shoes is the time to shoe.

This is obviously very individualist with many, many variables. Some horses need corrective shoeing days after birth some horses go their whole lives without shoes.

Have excellent professionals and follow their advice.

And always do periodic rads to make sure that the angles inside the hoof actually are what you think they are.


Most of my horses have great feet, however I am showing them behind regardless of soundless because they’re Reiners and they get sliding plates.

In regards to up front, mine are shod if I feel I need to correct their growth or in the rare instance they’re thin soled.

Thanks but what tells you that you should put shoes on your three Years old? Some unconfort in thé Gates? Hoof Wear?

@sara78 - I don’t think I’ve ever put shoes on a 3yo, though technically, I guess several have gone into shoes right as they turned 4 and headed into a routine, so only in that very last few weeks/months of the 3yo year. In the true 3yo year, I would be highly concerned if they showed discomfort in their gaits when I was trying to back them, and probably wouldn’t proceed to back them until that had been dealt with. I would be concerned with the same in the spring of their (coming) 4yo year.

So yes to hoof wear, and to the increased stability (for lack of a better term) I think it gives them. I might not worry about that if I had a softer riding surface, but my coarse sand wears on them pretty decently…especially in the dry summer months.

I also usually put my babies through the young jumper classes, and want the ability to use studs. And I don’t want to be adding shoes right before a show…so do want them accustomed to being worked in shoes from the beginning of that year.

1 Like

Sara, if your horse is sore, your first question shouldn’t be about shoes. Your first question should be about why the horse is sore.

And you need to have your vet out to find that answers. If you put the wrong shoes on for the wrong reason.regardless of age, you could create more problems.

A horse forum is no substitute for a vet. No matter how much collective knowledge the forum has.


I brought back home my three Years old this week. His feet are really long, hé s totally sound in thé Arena, just a bit careful when walking on gravel. My concern IS that if trimmed his feet stay balanced for 3 weeks more or less, thén they Wear/grow oddly. My farrier Comes every 6 weeks for my other horse and hé lives very far away so hé will not Come in between to trim him. That IS why i was thinking that if it IS better have him shod or have him unshod but unbalanced for half of thé cycle

Lots of horses need done more often than 6 weeks - 3-4 is not uncommon. Can you ask your farrier to show you how to use a rasp and swipe at your horse’s toes in between their visits? It’s really quite easy, especially when your farrier does a good job and you just have to maintain. Shoes won’t keep the horse balanced longer - in fact they’ll prevent natural wearing of the foot and allow MORE growth. That doesn’t mean shoes are the wrong choice eventually, just not what I would expect to be the right choice right now. I’m no vet, though.

Sounds like in your case I’d start by asking your farrier about showing you how to rasp first - you won’t be able to skip visits but you’ll keep your horse more balanced. If that doesn’t work, and the horse is still sore, I’d be asking the vet out for some hoof testing and maybe X-rays.


His feet are very long on a 6 week cycle? Or did he miss for some reason? Or, he wasn’t trimmed while he was off at training?

I wouldn’t be concerned about a horse who walks more carefully over gravel, but is sound in work. Uneven/sharp gravel can be really painful, even to a horse with great feet, so maybe he had a bad experience.

If you trust your farrier and the horse is coming back from another farrier’s care, I’d just get him back on schedule and revaluate.


Yes it s possible that they skipped because normally AT home hé s never so long

Well before I go down a rabbit hole on shoes, I’d just get him trimmed by your normal farrier and then see how he is. Bad trim is often the problem (and/or no trim).