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Types Of Horse Shoes That You Should Know

14 Mar 2023

Domesticated horses can be compared to the superstars of the track who are sponsored by big shoe companies, while wild horses are more akin to the fantastic barefoot runners of our time.

Being a runner myself, I have immense admiration for all runners, including animals.

Running is an excellent form of exercise and self-expression, but it's also a great way to connect with nature and feel one with the planet.

In this article, you'll learn about the diverse shoeing options available to a farrier and the specific functions each shoe serves.

Types of Horseshoes

Regular, rim, bar, heart bar, egg bar, and wedge horseshoes are the most typical. The needs of the horse dictate when and how each style of horseshoe is used.

In medieval Europe, when shoes were in high demand, different types of horseshoes were already in use. During this time period, blacksmiths made footwear for specific purposes, such as combat, travel, commerce, and farming.

There are at least 20 distinct styles of horseshoes available today, each of which can be tailored to the individual horse. List of the most common horseshoe styles:

1. Regular Keg Shoe

 Regular Keg Shoe

It's safe to say that the most common and well-recognized type of horseshoe is the regular keg shoe, also known as a u-shape or basic horseshoe. Nail holes are punched into a flat, simple shoe.

Horseshoes have an open back so that they can rest over the hoof's heel. Hooves that are in good health and do not require any special attention or horseshoes can be left bare.

A shoe is secured to the hoof by nails driven into the shoe by the farrier. Keg horseshoes are typically made of steel but can also be crafted from aluminum.

On average, you should expect to replace them every 4 to 6 weeks.

2. Rim Shoes

Rim horseshoes, at first glance, look very similar to standard keg horseshoes, but there is one major distinction between the two.

The nail holes have been pressed deeper into the hoof wall, raising the ridge, which improves the horse's grip when running.

Horses that compete frequently in barrel racing, polo, pole bending, and timed events benefit most from rim horseshoes.

Although steel is the material of choice, aluminum versions do exist.

3. Racing & Sliding Plate Shoes

 Racing & Sliding Plate Shoes

Despite their temporary nature, these shoe styles have the potential to greatly benefit horses in competitive situations. When it comes to stopping quickly, sliding plate shoes give racehorses a distinct advantage.

Racing plates are designed to protect a horse's hoof from damage while racing.

4. Wedge Shoes

Wedged shoes are often effective for treating navicular bone issues and tendon strains in horses. To "treat ailments that would respond to raising the foot angle," these shoes are "widely used."

When the hoof angle is increased, pressure is taken off of the hoof's delicate structures.

5. Heart Bar Shoes

 Heart Bar Shoes

Horses that wear heart bar shoes have their frogs enclosed by a series of bars shaped like a heart.

The temporary use of shoes like these helps shift the hoof's weight distribution away from the hoof wall and onto the frog.

When a hoof has been damaged (cracked, etc.), a pair of heart bar shoes is the best option for protection. The horseshoe will relieve stress on the equine equivalent of the skull, known as the coffin bone.

In order to prevent further injuries, heart bar horseshoes should only be applied by experienced horseshoe farriers while the horse is under the supervision of a veterinarian. Materials for heart bar shoes range from aluminum to steel, depending on the circumstance.

6. Concave Shoe

The inner edge of a concave horseshoe is rounded off, making the ground surface narrower than the foot surface (the opposite of a "seated out shoe"). This is a hunting shoe that prevents the wearer from "overreaching." As an alternative to regular shoes, concave shoes are more comfortable and less likely to be sucked off during strenuous activity.

7. Egg Bar Shoe

 Egg Bar Shoe

Many horses with navicular disease benefit from the extra support that an egg bar horseshoe provides the hoof's heel. Damage to the navicular bone and other supporting structures of the hoof can lead to this excruciatingly painful condition.

Egg bar shoes may have a wedge installed in the heels, depending on the horse's health.

8. Clipped Shoes

The coffin bone is a small, spherical bone found within the hoof structure; the name is fitting. A clipped shoe will give the horse more support after this bone has been broken.

The shoe is held in place by either a toe clip or up to four clips on the sides. This shoe is suitable for use as either a corrective or standard option by a farrier, and can be used on horses that tend to lose their shoes.

9. Glue-On Shoes

You can find a wide selection of glue-on horseshoes in a number of different styles and sizes. These are typically attached to the horse's foot with an adhesive, and come in a variety of plastic materials. There are some drawbacks to using these if you're a pet owner who finds the idea of nailing on a shoe to be a little too invasive. Glue-ons are generally more expensive than nail-ons, and many farriers lack experience with them. For horses with poor hoof wall quality or damaged hooves, however, they can be a matter of life and death. Nails tend to fall out of these horses' feet, leading to constant shoe replacement and further foot damage. The best option for this horse is glue-on shoes. Additionally, they are typically made to lessen the effects of concussion, making them a good choice for even the most poorly built steeds.

10. Three Quarter Shoe

Three quarter bar shoe is one from which an inch or two of the heel has been removed. The shoe is used in cases of capped elbow, to prevent brushing in 'toe turn out horses, and to alleviate pressure on corn. In most cases, the shoe's haft, or its branch, will be cut off.

11. Straight Bar Shoes

 Straight Bar Shoes

In contrast, the connecting bar on straight bar horseshoes is also straight. Used on horses with hooves that have suffered from cracking, scalping, or cross firing.

For a horse, "scalping" occurs when the toes of its front hooves are making contact with those of its hind legs.

When a horse is walking or running, cross firing occurs when the back hooves make contact with the front hooves.

The use of straight bar horse shoes has declined in favor of egg bar shoes, but they are still occasionally employed.

12. Hoof Boots Horseshoe

Hoof boots are a suitable alternative to horseshoes for horses that cannot have their feet shod for various reasons.

Hoof boots for horses are simple to apply and remove from the animal's hooves. This means that the boots need not be worn constantly by their owners.

In addition, they are perfect for horses with hoof problems like laminitis, infections, cracking, and more.

Regular trimming and care for the horse's hooves is still required even if boots are used for riding. However, a traditional horseshoe is unnecessary.

Horseshoe Materials

Horseshoes have historically been crafted from a wide variety of materials. Rawhide shoeing stuffed with grass or other natural materials and secured to the hoof with leather straps was supposedly the first type of horseshoe known to man. These prehistoric footwear looked more like modern boots than shoes and dated back to around 600 BC.

Steel, aluminum, rubber, and plastic are now the standard materials for horseshoes. As a result, these materials are frequently combined in composite shoes.


Steel is the standard material for horseshoes. Its popularity stems from the fact that it is a long-lasting material that can be found easily and at a low cost.

Steel shoe production in the United States began in 1835, in the city of Troy, Michigan. Keg shoes are a common name in North America today for shoes made of machine-made steel.

Furthermore, a horse's movement is significantly altered by the addition of steel shoes. They help the horse trot with more energy by increasing the flexion of its lower leg joints. Because of this, carriage and dressage horses benefit greatly from wearing steel shoes.


As a second choice to steel, aluminum has become increasingly popular for making horseshoes. American Equus claims that using aluminum horseshoes can improve a horse's speed. Because of this, they are frequently used as racehorse breeds.

Aluminum horseshoes also reduce the horse's knee action and hoof flight, according to research published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. Because of this, the horse can move its legs a fraction of a second faster, which can make a huge difference in a race.

Take into account the fact that aluminum is roughly 2.5 times lighter than steel.


Due to their ability to allow for natural hoof expansion and reduce stress on tendons and joints, rubber horseshoes are gaining in popularity among equestrians. They can be found in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and many of them feature a cushioned pad under the frog for added protection from impact.

Modern rubber horseshoes are said to last just as long as their metal counterparts, despite rubber's softer nature. Depending on the style and the owner's preference, they can be nailed on or glued to the hoof.

Horses that spend a lot of time on the road, like carriage or police horses, usually have metal shoes with a rubber coating to protect their hooves. This not only gives the horse more traction and reduces the noise of its hooves, but it also shields its joints from the shock of impact.

Plastic (Polyurethane)

Plastic horseshoes are just as good for a horse's feet as rubber ones. Most commonly, they are made of polyurethane, which can be easily molded to fit the horse's hooves.

Plastic horseshoes have the same pliability and expansion potential as natural hoofs because they are made to mimic the composition of a hoof. Additionally, they do a great job of protecting the horse's skeleton and joints by softening the impact of the ground on the horse's feet.

A plastic horseshoe's only drawback is that it wears out more quickly than its metal counterpart.

Composite Materials

Composite footwear, which combines metallic and synthetic elements, is gaining popularity in Europe. These glue-on shoes, in contrast to conventional footwear, allow the hoof to retain its natural flexibility while still serving its functional purpose.

These shoes have a metal shank for extra durability and are typically made of plastic or rubber. Some composite footwear is designed in a more conventional shape, while others offer the frog more structural integrity.


Should All Horses Have Shoes?

Conversely, whether or not a horse needs shoes depends on the horse's individual circumstances. Due to balance problems, the need for more traction on certain types of terrain, or foot and/or hoof conditions, some horses need to wear shoes.

Please consult your horse's veterinarian and farrier if you have any doubts as to whether shoeing would be beneficial to your horse in particular.

Can Horseshoes Cause Pain?

Fitted properly, horseshoes shouldn't hurt a horse. Since a horse's hoof has no pain receptors, the fitting process should be painless for the animal as well. However, if the fitting is done improperly, your horse may experience pain, so it is best to have a professional farrier perform the procedure.


Your horse's hooves will need to be trimmed and reshod at regular intervals to accommodate the animal's health and growth. However, if you let too much time pass between farrier visits, your horse may develop an unpleasant foot condition.

Keep in mind that each horse has its own specific requirements when it comes to shoeing. Nonetheless, it cannot serve its purpose as a well-cared-for domestic animal without proper attention to its feet.

Many therapeutic and practical considerations go into the design of horseshoes. To make the final determination on what is best for your horse, consult only with a qualified equine veterinarian or farrier.

Please use the space below to share any thoughts, questions, or concerns you have about finding the right horseshoe for your horse.

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