Do Race Horses Wear Shoes?

Marcus Bazzano
By Marcus Bazzano
Do Race Horses Wear Shoes?

Do Race Horses Wear Horseshoes?

Racehorses typically do not wear horseshoes, as they can be a hindrance to speed and agility. However, the majority of racehorses have been shod with shoes made of aluminum, which have to be redone every month.

What Does Shod Mean When It Comes To Horses?

When a horse is “shod”, it means they are wearing horseshoes. Horseshoes are metal or synthetic plates attached to the hooves to protect them from wear and tear, provide support, and improve traction. The process of applying horseshoes is called “shoeing”, and is typically done by a farrier.

Why Do Horses Need Shoes?

Horses need shoes to protect their hooves from wear and tear, provide support and traction, and prevent injuries. Shoes help absorb shock, distribute pressure, and prevent cracking or chipping of the hooves, especially for horses working on hard surfaces or with specific hoof conditions.

A Household Cavalry farrier shapes a horseshoe. Photo by Getty Images.

Do Horses Like Horseshoes?

Horses generally tolerate horseshoes, but some may find them uncomfortable or irritating. A properly fitted shoe can minimize discomfort, and many horses become accustomed to wearing shoes as part of their regular routine.

What Kind Of Shoes Do Racehorses Wear?

Racehorses typically wear specialized lightweight shoes designed for speed and performance. These shoes are usually made of aluminum or titanium and have a unique design to provide maximum traction and support while minimizing weight. They are often fitted with a specialized pad to help absorb shock and reduce stress on the hooves.

What Is The Purpose Of Horseshoes?

The purpose of horseshoes is to protect and support a horse's hooves, providing:

  • Protection from wear and tear
  • Traction and grip
  • Support for the hoof and leg
  • Relief from pain and discomfort
  • Correction for hoof deformities or injuries
  • Prevention of hoof cracks and chips

Overall, horseshoes help maintain the health and well-being of a horse's hooves.

Horseshoes are seen during Sydney Racing on the Kensington track at Royal Randwick Racecourse. Photo by Getty Images.

Do All Horses Need Shoes?

Not all horses need shoes. Horses that may not require shoes are:

  • Living in natural environments with soft terrain
  • Not working or performing high-impact activities
  • Maintaining good hoof health and growth

However, horses that may need shoes are:

  • Working or performing regularly
  • Exposed to hard or rocky surfaces
  • Suffering from hoof injuries or conditions

Normally, a farrier or veterinarian can determine if shoes are necessary.

How Are Horseshoes Attached?

Horseshoes are attached to a horse's hooves through a process called shoeing. Here's a brief step-by-step overview on how horseshoes are attached:

  1. Trimming: The farrier trims the hoof to prepare it for shoeing.
  2. Cleaning: The hoof is cleaned and disinfected.
  3. Fitting: The shoe is heated and shaped to fit the hoof.
  4. Nailing: The shoe is attached using special nails that don't harm the horse.
  5. Clinching: The nails are bent and clinched to secure the shoe.
  6. Finishing: The hoof is filed and polished to prevent chipping or cracking.

This process is typically done on a monthly basis, depending on the horse's needs.

How Much Weight Do Horseshoes Add?

Horseshoes typically add a small amount of weight to a horse's hooves, depending on the type and size of the shoe. On average, a horseshoe can weigh:

  • 3-6 ounces (80-170 grams) for a light racing shoe for horse racing
  • 6-12 ounces (170-340 grams) for a standard steel shoe
  • 12-16 ounces (340-450 grams) for a heavier therapeutic or corrective shoe

This added weight is relatively minimal compared to the horse's overall body weight, and is designed to provide support and protection without hindering movement or performance.

Discarded horseshoes in the barn area during the morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Photo by Getty Images.

How To Remove A Horseshoe?

Removing a horseshoe requires care and attention to detail to avoid damaging the hoof or causing discomfort to the horse. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Prepare the horse: Ensure the horse is comfortable and secure.
  2. Clean the hoof: Remove any dirt or debris from the hoof and shoe.
  3. Loosen the nails: Use a specialized tool (nail puller or clinch cutter) to loosen the nails holding the shoe in place.
  4. Remove the nails: Carefully pull out the nails, taking care not to damage the hoof wall.
  5. Remove the shoe: Gently pry the shoe off the hoof, working from one side to the other.
  6. Inspect and trim: Inspect the hoof for any damage or wear and trim as needed.

It's recommended to have a professional farrier or veterinarian remove a horseshoe to ensure the horse's safety and comfort.

How Often Does A Horse Need New Shoes?

A horse with horseshoes should have their shoes replaced every 4 to 6 weeks. Some factors that affect how often a horse needs new shoes include:

  • Horse's Activity Level
  • Terrain and Surface Conditions
  • Quality of Hoof Growth
  • Uneven Wear on Hoof
  • Excessive Hoof Growth
  • Slipping or Tripping

Can Race Horses Wear Rubber Shoes?

Racehorses can wear horseshoes made of various materials, but rubber shoes are not a common option. Rubber shoes are not used for racehorses due to their specific needs for protection, support, and traction which is vital for a racehorse.

Can Race Horses Wear Aluminum Shoes?

Yes, racehorses can wear aluminum shoes. They are lighter than steel shoes, which makes them ideal for racehorses that need to be fast. Aluminum shoes also provide added traction, which helps racehorses maintain speed, especially on wet or slippery surfaces.

Used horseshoes at Gary Moore's Cisswood Stables in Horsham, England. Photo by Getty Images.

Do Horseshoes Hurt The Horse?

Horseshoes themselves don't hurt horses, but improper fitting, nailing, or over-tightening can cause discomfort or pain. Regular maintenance and a skilled farrier can ensure a comfortable and safe shoeing process, prioritizing the horse's well-being.

What Are The Benefits Of Back Shoes On Horses?

Back shoes on horses provide better shock absorption, improved hoof flexibility, and increased traction. They also promote overall hoof health, allow for vertical flexion, and offer versatility with boot options. Additionally, they can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional shoeing.

How Many Horseshoes Are In A Set?

A standard horseshoe set typically includes four horseshoes, two stakes, and a carrying case, providing everything needed.

How Much Do Horseshoes Cost?

The fees charged by farriers can vary, see the average fees proposed for the cost of horseshoes in different scenarios down below:

  • $131.46: This is the average fee charged by full-time farriers in the United States for trimming and nailing four keg shoes.
  • $94.49: This is the average fee charged by part-time farriers in the United States for trimming and nailing four keg shoes.
  • $125.52: This is the average fee charged by full-time farriers in the United States for resetting keg shoes.
  • $43.13: This is the average fee charged by full-time farriers in the United States for trimming only.
  • $37.22: This is the average fee charged by part-time farriers in the United States for trimming only.
A Household Cavalry farrier replaces a horseshoe. Photo by Getty Images.

What Is A Farrier?

A Farrier is a professional skilled in the care and maintenance of horse hooves. They trim and balance hooves, shoe horses, and provide overall hoof care to prevent lameness and promote equine well-being.

How Much Do Farriers Make?

Farriers' earnings vary based on experience, location, and services offered, but on average, they can earn between $40,000 to $80,000 per year, with experienced farriers potentially earning over $100,000 annually.

How Much Does It Cost To Shoe A Horse?

The cost of shoeing a horse is dependent on a number of factors, but according to the American Farriers Journal, the average cost of shoeing a horse is $142.09, but this cost is likely to have increased.

When Were Horseshoes Invented?

The invention of the horseshoe can be traced back to around 400 BC, with early forms of protection being found in ancient Asia, where horses' hooves were wrapped in rawhide, leather, or other materials.

Marcus Bazzano
By Marcus Bazzano

Marcus is a young but experienced sports journalist and content creator, having been in the industry 5+ years. He has written racing specific content for leading racing sites such as RacingBase, Odds and now Fan Odds. Marcus learnt his love for racing from his father, who has owned multiple horses in Marcus' lifetime.