Last Updated on February 27, 2023
We know that horses are not cheap to maintain, but just how much does it cost to shoe a horse? Understanding the costs of routine care is an essential part of budgeting for keeping a horse – horses need far more than just food and shelter! Hoof care is an expense that many people underestimate, so today we are going to reveal exactly how much it cost to shoe a horse.
When asking yourself what the cost of shoeing a horse is, a better question may be what are the potential costs of not shoeing your horse?
Providing the correct hoof care for your horse can help fix conformation faults, protect weak hooves and prevent bruising from constant impacts and stones. So, whether your horse just needs a regular hoof trim, or requires specialist shoes, spending money on hoof care is a vital part of keeping your horse healthy.
The cost of shoeing a horse often is the only factor people take into account when deciding whether or not to shoe their horses.
But when making this decision, it is essential for you to also look at the bigger picture. Cutting back on shoeing costs can be a false economy, leading to more expensive healthcare costs further down the line.
So, when figuring out how much does it cost to shoe a horse, we first need to take a look at why shoeing horses is necessary!
Shoeing a Horse: Should Your Horse Wear One?
There are several factors to take into account when deciding if your horse should wear shoes or go barefoot.
Your horse’s natural hoof health and structure and the level of activity your horse engages in will help to determine if your horse needs shoes or not.
Horse Shoe Pros
- Prevents wear and tear
- Adds protection against hard and uneven ground
- Protects against bruising
- Can help to correct foot balance issues and conformational faults
Horse Shoe Cons
- More expensive than leaving a horse barefoot
- Can make the hoof more sensitive and less able to cope without shoes
- Poor shoeing techniques can damage the hoof
- Cheaper than shoeing
- The hoof will be more robust and hardwearing
- Thicker soles will develop on the hoof
- Harder to correct poor hoof balance or conformational faults
- Hooves can be prone to bruising, cracks, and overwear
- The amount of work the horse can do may be limited
- Riding activities may be restricted to softer ground
Shoeing a Horse: Is it Necessary?
As with many points of discussion in the equine world, the answer to the question ‘is shoeing a horse necessary’ depends on the actual horse. According to the Practical Horseman, horses with naturally strong and healthy feet who are accustomed to rough terrain could go barefooted on most occasions.
On the other hand, horses with musculoskeletal problems, like arthritis or ringbone, or conformation issues will most likely need shoes. In these situations, the shoes help to balance the hoof and protect it from the impact on the ground.
Shoes are often also necessary on horses that are frequently ridden on harder ground, such as tarmac roads or stony tracks.
Why Should I Shoe My Horse?
The choice of whether to shoe your horse or not is dependent on the horse in question, and the level of ridden work they are expected to do. For instance, if you’re working with a show horse, shoeing them will add protection to their feet when outside the arena, and also help in preventing costly injuries.
Also, high-level jump and event horses may benefit from wearing shoes because of the increase in concussions their feet experience.
And finally, workhorses who are always out in wet and slippery ground conditions can benefit from wearing special shoes which will help in adding traction to their movement.
Four Reasons to Shoe Your Horse
According to Travis Burns, CJF, TE, EE, FWCF, assistant professor of practice and chief of farrier services at the VMCVM, there are four good reasons to shoe your horse;
- Protection: For horses whose feet often wear down faster than they grow, as a result of making the hoof horn soft and prone to bruising. In this situation, shoes might probably be an ideal option, at least temporarily.
- Therapeutic: Some horses need specifically designed shoes to help treat lameness problems or to manage/compensate for conformational defects. A shoe can help a weak hoof capsule hold its shape, and get back its proper balance.
- Proper traction: Horses carrying out certain equestrian sports require different levels of traction. For instance, those that run and jump need more traction, while reining horses, which are often obligated to make sliding stops, need less of it. Specialist shoes can be used to alter the level of traction for each horse.
- Gait alteration: If a horse has gait problems, such as hitting opposing limbs with his feet as he moves, the farrier can use special shoes to prevent this. Also, wearing your horse a shoe can help in changing or enhancing a certain phase of the horse’s stride and alter animation, especially in some gaited breeds.
*This list was featured in the article, Got Healthy Hooves? Here’s How to Keep Them That Way by Heather Smith Thomas, published on thehorse.com on May 22, 2019
Do Horse Shoes Hurt?
If done correctly, putting shoes on a horse does not hurt. The hard outer horn of the horse’s hoof is similar to human fingernails and does not contain any nerve endings. So, just as you rarely feel any pain when you trim your nails, the same goes for a horse’s hooves.
When shoes are put on a horse, nails are placed in this hard outer hoof wall to hold the shoe in place. These must be carefully positioned – a nail that is too close to the sensitive inner portion of the hoof can be very uncomfortable for the horse. This is why horseshoes must only ever be applied by a qualified farrier.
Some horses find the sensation of the nails being hammered into the hoof uncomfortable at first, but they soon become accustomed to it. If your horse is young, nervous, or is being shod for the first time, it can help to tap the sole of the hoof every day to get them accustomed to the sensation before the farrier visits.
How Much Does it Cost to Shoe a Horse?
While the main factor that affects whether to shoe your horse or not should always come down to the health and well-being of your horse, it is inevitable that finances will also be a factor. But just how much does it cost to shoe a horse? How much do horseshoes cost in comparison to barefoot trimming? Let’s find out!
According to the latest Farrier Business Practices survey conducted by American Farriers Journal, the average nationwide price for trimming four hooves and applying four keg shoes is $142.09. However, this data is now quite old and costs have risen considerably since then, so you can expect to pay upwards of $200 for a full set of new shoes for your horse.
In comparison, a routine hoof trim is much cheaper, costing between $40 – $60. Many farriers will charge a lower rate for a group of horses at the same location together, as this reduces their time spent traveling and traveling costs.
As the skill and quality of a farrier’s work increases, the cost of shoeing a horse will increase as well. Thus, keep in mind that not only will you be paying for the farrier’s time, but also cover the cost of materials that will be used in shoeing, the delivery gas mileage, and any other overheads the farrier might take on. Farriers are highly skilled and work very hard, and it is important to remember this when you need to hand over a large sum of cash for your horse to be shod!
How Often Does a Horse Need to See a Farrier
Most horses should be seen by a farrier every six to eight weeks for routine maintenance. The frequency of farrier visits will vary depending on whether the horse is shod or not, and the individual requirements of the horse.
Shod horses must be regularly attended by a farrier, as the hooves continue to grow and the shoes can become loose. If left too long, the hooves can become misshapen and the shoes might fall off. Regular farrier visits are essential to trim the hooves to the correct shape and refit the shoes.
If the horse does not do a vast amount of work on tarmac roads, it may be possible to refit the same shoes once, twice, or even three times. Horseshoe repair and reshaping is a good way to save a few dollars, but it will still be more expensive than barefoot trimming.
Barefoot horses still require regular trims from the farrier, even if they are not in regular ridden work. The hooves of a horse grow continuously and they can wear down irregularly, causing cracks, defects, and bruising.
What to Look for in a Farrier
The American Farrier Association can help you find experienced farriers in your area by searching the country, location, and special certifications you may be looking for.
To get help from a quality farrier, you can ask for recommendations from your veterinarian as well as other horse owners, and be sure to inquire about their educational and training status.
Do not let the cost of shoeing a horse deter you from talking to farriers and learning how their trade can help you keep your horse healthy and safe from harm. It is normal for farriers to charge more as they gain more experience, so if you need a farrier to carry out specialist remedial shoeing work you may find that it can be quite expensive. However, these professionals can transform a lame horse into a competitive athlete again, so most horse owners think the cost is worth it!
Is The Cost of Shoeing a Horse Worth It?
Given the length of time between shoeing and the expertise you’re paying for, the cost of shoeing a horse can be incorporated into your horse care budget. If you want to ride your horse regularly on rougher terrain, or if your horse has poor-quality hooves, then shoeing is an essential expense that cannot be avoided. While some horses can go barefooted, shoeing can help fix a variety of issues and protect your horse from injuries.
For horses in light work or those retired to pasture, it may be possible to leave them barefoot. In this situation, regular trimming is still necessary, so farrier care should always form part of your horse’s healthcare budget.
How to Trim and Shoe a Horse
The task of trimming and shoeing a horse should only ever be carried out by a qualified professional or an apprentice in training. An unqualified or untrained person can permanently injure a horse by shoeing it incorrectly and may cause lameness so severe that the horse has to be euthanized.
The process of shoeing a horse first involves trimming the hoof to the correct shape and length. A premade metal shoe is then adjusted to fit the horse perfectly and nailed into place. The placement of these nails is particularly important, as only certain sections of the hoof can withstand being nailed into.
Is it Hard to Shoe a Horse?
Shoeing a horse is hard, both in terms of technical skill and physical effort. The person shoeing the horse must understand the structure of a horse’s hoof and the mechanisms of the way a horse moves, to enable them to trim the hoof to exactly the right shape. Farriers train for many years to learn the skills to do this, and it should never be done by an unqualified person.
The physical effort involved in shoeing a horse is considerable. It will involve bending over and holding up the leg of the horse for long periods, whilst simultaneously carrying out tasks such as removing old shoes, trimming the hoof, and nailing the new shoe into place. It is also necessary to work with a hammer and anvil to shape the metal shoe to fit the horse.
What Size Shoe Does My Horse Need?
Your farrier will most likely have a supply of premade horseshoes, which will then be shaped to fit the precise shape of your horse’s hoof. An experienced farrier will be able to see what size shoe your horse needs just by looking at the hoof, but it is also possible to measure a horse’s hoof to determine what size shoe it needs.
The length of the shoe is measured from the tip of the toe to the back of the frog. The width measurement is taken from the widest point of the sole. All four hooves should be measured, as the hind feet are commonly a different size to the front feet.
If you are ordering specialist shoes for your horse, such as plastic shoes for ponies with laminitis, it is a good idea to refer to the manufacturer’s website to check the sizing. Most manufacturers will have a guide on how to measure your horse’s hooves to help you decide what size to order.
How Long Can a Horse Be Without a Shoe?
Now and again you will come across a situation where a horse loses a shoe. This may be because it is overdue for shoeing and the shoe has become loose and fallen off. Some horses will also accidentally pull their shoes off.
This should not cause any harm to the horse, but it is important to get the shoe replaced as soon as possible. Check the hoof for any remaining nails and remove them, and avoid walking your horse over rough or stony ground. It is also essential to find the missing shoe, as it will contain nails that could injure your horse.
Is it OK to Ride a Horse With a Missing Shoe?
Although some horses can be ridden without shoes, if a horse is accustomed to wearing shoes it should not be ridden with a missing shoe. The sole of the hoof will be far too sensitive to withstand being ridden, especially over hard or stony ground. If the horse stands on a stone, bruising can occur under the sole of the hoof which can make the horse lame for several days.
For a horse that normally wears shoes, losing a shoe feels very much like we do when we have to walk barefoot! It is better to wait until the shoe has been replaced before riding the horse again.
How to Sedate a Horse For Shoeing?
Some horses find the process of being shod very scarily, and they need to be sedated for this procedure. Combining sedation with training techniques can help your horse become accustomed to the attention of the farrier, enabling you to reduce the level of sedation in the future.
There are several different types of sedation available for horses, with varying levels of efficacy. The strongest type of sedation for horses is administered by intravenous injection, and can only be given by a veterinarian. This can be a costly way to have a horse sedated for shoeing but may be necessary for a very nervous horse.
A good alternative is prescription-only sedatives that are given orally to the horse. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the best type for your horse and advise you on the dose. You then give the medication to the horse at home, either directly into the mouth or in the horse’s feed.
For these sedatives to be most effective, they should be given before the farrier arrives, when your horse is calm and relaxed. Leave your horse alone to give the sedative chance to work.
What is Horse-Shoe Called?
There are several types of horseshoes, all with different names. The basic horseshoe is U-shaped and called a regular shoe. Other types include the bar shoe, heart bar shoe, egg bar shoe, rim shoe, and wedge shoe.
Is it legal to trim your own horse's feet?
As a horse owner, you may choose to trim your horse's feet yourself instead of hiring someone to do it for you. But have you ever wondered if it is legal for you to trim your horse’s hooves? Well, if you do choose to trim or rasp your own horse’s feet that is a perfectly legal thing for you to do. But, if your horse wears shoes or you are planning to have shoes put on your horse it is illegal to prepare the hoof for the shoe to be put on. This is illegal because if you are not a professional farrier it is likely that you could cause serious injury to your horse and put the horse through unnecessary pain by putting on the shoe incorrectly.
What is the difference between a farrier and a barefoot trimmer?
Well, the answer will vary depending on who you are asking, a farrier or a barefoot trimmer. So on this topic, most farriers will say that they believe the horse’s hoof will function the best and it's highest potential when a shoe is placed on the hoof for additional support.
Barefoot/natural trimmers believe the horse’s hoof becomes constricted when wearing shoes. They feel the shoe causes the hoof to no longer function properly and restricts circulation within the hoof, compromising the horse’s overall health.
Can I shoe my horse?
In most countries, it is illegal for non-farriers to put shoes on or prepare any hoof for a shoe to be put on. If you are not a farrier and have not attended farrier school or worked as an apprentice you run a very high risk of hurting your horse from improper shoe placement.
Should a farrier trim the frog?
The farrier needs to trim the horse's frog just as they would trim the rest of the horse's hoof. Trimming the frog helps maintain proper hoof balance. The frog also acts as a guide for the farrier to trim and follow the natural shape of the hoof. For most horses, the frog will naturally slough a couple of times per year, but for some, it remains attached leaving rough edges and an uneven surface. This can lead to discomfort in the horse’s feet due to uneven weight distribution. Having the farrier trim frog makes the sole of the hoof uniform and helps maintain proper hoof function.
How long are horses sore after pulling shoes?
Under the perfect circumstances when a horse's shoes are pulled they would be perfectly sound, but often this is not the case. Horses' feet come in many shapes and sizes and can become sore under many different circumstances. When a horse's shoes are pulled the sole is now having more direct contact with the surfaces they are walking on. So, depending on your horse and how long their shoes were on, they may not be sore at all or they could be footsore for as long as three weeks.
When pulling your horse’s shoes it is important to remember that not having shoes on is not the cause of hoof soreness. A horse's hoof becomes sore writhing the hoof that is creating discomfort. Some horses may be sore for up to three weeks.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.