Young Hunter's first shoes completely changed their movement?!

So here’s the situation. My little 4 y/o WB mare just got her first pair of shoes this week. Standard front set, steel. She has really good feet but I put shoes on her since the work load is increasing + starting to jump and I didn’t want her to get foot sore and associate work w/pain.

To my horror, she’s gone from a cute little point-your-toes type mover, to moving like a cart horse with a lot more knee action. GAH! (I’ll get video to show the difference).

Has this happened to anyone else? Is it possible to minimize the effects with adjustments to how she’s shod? I know they always move their best when barefoot. This farrier doesn’t specialize in HJ, I had been using her because she is good with the young ones and was convenient to use.

If it were me I would keep her barefoot until she gets sore. She may never! If she does aluminum isn’t a bad option. Otherwise she may eventually adjust to steel.


Yes, I’ve seen it happen quite a few times.

Almost every hunter (that moves well) goes in aluminum. I don’t even bother trying steel on a mover if I can help it, always straight to aluminum. You can also ditch the shoes entirely. There are things a HJ knowledgeable farrier can do to improve movement but it’s unlikely to add more than a .5 out of 10.


Give her a bit more than a week to adjust, if it is her first time with shoes. She should return to normal or even be a bit better. I rarely see horses go worse unless there is a soundness or discomfort involved.


Yes exactly. It will take a little time to remodel the muscling to compensate for the extra weight of the shoe. Right now, the horse can feel the shoe, is thinking about it, even if it’s a minuscule difference in effort.


I knew a lovely little Arab stallion who couldn’t figure out how to canter when he got his first set of front shoes.


For the best flat and soft movement, keep her barefoot if you can. Only shoe if you MUST to keep her comfortable and safe… you may be forced to shoe her if she has poor quality feet, or if conditions force you to shoe.
The weight of the steel shoe does classically make for higher action, that’s why racehorses are shod with aluminum (and hunters). However, aluminum does not have the metallic memory of steel, and will spread under pressure- not keep their shape well. Aluminum horseshoes also wear out quickly in abrasive footing- requiring reshoeing often, sometimes before there is enough growth on the hoof for a farrier to work with adequately- thus the classic “bad feet” on TB racehorses- they are often reshod every 4 weeks. The steel shoes spring back into shape better than aluminum ones do, and thus absorb some concussion better. But you get the higher action due to the weight.

If you can stay barefoot, and the horse is happy with that, you avoid all this crap. You avoid losing shoes, having them torn off by over reaching, or ??? You avoid injuries that may occur from brushing/interference, or stepping on the opposite foot (or on your foot). And you avoid a $200 farrier bill every six weeks. If you can avoid shoeing the horse, “bonus” for you and the horse.

If your horse has good feet, and is performing well barefoot, and your workload does not include a lot of work on rocky ground, or slippery mud, at speed, or demands that she work hard for many hours per day and can not take a day off (cowboy on the range working cows or as a pack horse), you may be able to keep her barefoot indefinately. Hoof quality is dependent on lifestyle, quality of farrier work, diet, genetics, and environment. Dry environment and low humidity, and lots of movement helps- not a lot of time spent in stalls.
And yes, mine are barefoot, and compete barefoot, hunters and jumpers. No problems, and nice flat movement, plenty of traction in sand or those fancy engineered footing rings.


Thanks everyone! Really appreciate everyone’s feedback.

I’ll give her this shoeing cycle to see if she gets use to them, otherwise will probably go back to barefoot since we were happy there!

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My very flat moving gelding showed no difference with his first pair of steel shoes, my current less strong but very nice moving mare went from a 9 to a 6. Both had short cannon bone ratio to forearm, I will keep my mare in the steel shoes and just not worry about it as I believe the weight will build muscle strength, and she will be a better end mover as a result. When she gets to shows, she will show in aluminum, and when she works up to being really competitive over low fences, racing plates with no toe grabs. She has thin soles, so not going to train or show barefoot.

Just speaking up on behalf of farriers. Shoeing a horse can improve the mechanics and offer an advantage in competition.

I attended a lecture last week given by the Lead Farrier at the Tokyo Olympics. He firmly believes that had the Swedish horses been shod they wouldn’t have lost the gold medal.


I also have a cute mover who changed when first shod.

She got used to it. I also had to stay on the farrier to keep the toes where they should be, which helped.

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But they did win gold??


Just coming back to say it was Peder Fredricson who lost the individual gold. Of course Sweden won their first team gold in a very long time. Well done to Sweden! Sorry, mea culpa.

What exactly were his reasons? I’m following the Swedish barefoot “thing”…

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Also adding that the barefoot King Edward just won the LGCT Super Grand Prix tonight.

Obviously barefoot doesn’t work for every horse but I also don’t think horses inherently need them for a job like the hunter ring


I think that with the modern surfaces you see now at the big venues like the Olympics, barefoot would probably have some advantages over shoes. The footing is plenty grippy and springy for turning quickly and taking off. In fact so much so it can give them sore feet and coffin joints from a lot of landing on the synthetic surfaces. Where a bare foot is designed to be able to absorb some of that shock better.

I took a close look at some horses at the World Cup in Omaha since they had the warmup area in the center of the vendors. Several horses had shoes up front with wider plates. My farrier does this sometimes too for horses showing a lot on the fiber footing to give them more slide than they’d get in a regular shoe, to try to counteract the extra grip of the footing on landing.

Of course the Swedish horses are very carefully managed in the rest of their lives to keep them barefoot, and they can’t compete barefoot on surfaces where they’d need studs (grass).

Ben Benson was talking about being the FEI Lead Farrier for Tokyo and all the decisions, lists, changes, challenges and headaches as well as the fun in providing farriery services for a couple of hundred horses, over several weeks, coming from many nations. He said that horses’ hooves were changing by as much as quarter of an inch between starting a period of exercise and finishing that exercise because of the great heat and humidity. They were constantly adjusting shoes. The welfare of horses was paramount and extraordinary steps were taken to keep them safe at all times.

The barefoot comments were at the end. As Benson said, before “barefoot trimming” there was “trimming” and that has always been part of the farriers job.

The Fredricson horse had been having some soundness issues which is why it was without shoes. It was kept barefoot at the Olympics because the rider knew that it would be on synthetic surfaces and/or grass throughout the competition. The horse was trimmed more frequently than usual, every three weeks or so apparently. Also, a glue was used - in some manner, I can’t recall - to maintain the foot shape. Benson thought being shoeless actually to be more work than having shoes. Also, that correct shoes can mechanically help the horse shave split seconds off time. That is as I recall: not necessary what was.

Yes, this is my understanding about the new synthetic services as well. They give extraordinary grip, which creates more joint torque because there is less slide.

There is also less cut-in for the toe, so it delays break over. Furthermore it is so firm that if a hoof comes down on one side first as they do in speed turns, instead of cutting into the footing, the hoof stays on top, and Makes a impact first on one side, then levels out, while the rest of the limb is still at an angle.

I have ridden on the surfaces and they do feel good. Very secure…a bit firm for me…But there are these questions. No footing is perfect.