Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Horse Has a Flat: What to Do if Your Horse Throws a Shoe on the Trail

The equivalent in the horse world of having to “change a flat tire in the middle of the night in the rain” is having to care for your horse that throws a shoe in the middle of a forest. Just as you would have a jack, tire iron, and spare tire available for your car emergency, you also need to have necessary tools and supplies available to you to fix your “horse flat”. These items should be carried in your saddle bags to have available on the trail. They aren’t going to do you much good if you are 10 miles deep in the forest and they are securely tucked away in your trailer at camp. Most horse folk who trail ride carry a hoof pick with them; however, it is equally important to carry a shoe puller/nipper, as well as a boot, baby diapers, and duct tape.

Many things can cause a loose or thrown shoe while riding the trails. Deep mud can be problematic as well as underbrush or simply your horse taking a miss-step. Once you hear the tell-tale sound of a loose shoe, immediately stop and assess the problem. If the shoe is merely loose, but the overall integrity of the shoe set is still good (i.e., not hanging sideways or dangling), you can continue riding but keeping a constant watch on the shoe if its integrity deteriorates.

If the shoe has been partially pulled and the shoe is dangling by what few nails remain intact, you must remove the shoe completely from the hoof. Move your horse to as level ground as possible. Ask a friend to assist by standing at your horse’s head. Use the shoe puller/nipper to nip the heads off the remaining nails and then use the puller/nipper, starting nearest the heel, to remove the shoe by pulling inward toward the sole of the foot. Never pull outward to the outside of the hoof as you risk damaging the hoof wall. Be careful and aware that your horse’s foot may be injured or sore and he may be reactive if a tender place is touched. Be sure to remove any remaining nails that may be in the hoof.

Once the shoe has been removed, you can place the foot in a pre-fitted boot (if you have one) or you can pad the hoof with baby diapers and then wrap it securely with duct tape. This will protect your horse’s foot from further injury if it was hurt when the shoe came off, as well as make walking over rocky terrain more comfortable.

At this point, your riding for the day is pretty much over and a return to camp is best. If your horse does not appear lame and you have the foot securely wrapped, you can ride your horse back to camp; however, if there is any indication of lameness and soreness, it is best that you lead him back to camp.

Once back in camp, you can contact a farrier and/or veterinarian to tend to your horse.

Happy trails!

By: Darlene M. Cox (

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