What are clips?
Clips are “tabs” on horseshoes that help the shoe stay in place. Most commonly, there are toe clips and quarter clips, but in special cases, a skilled farrier can move them to any part of the shoe.
Why use clips?
I am speaking for myself, because my views of using clips on horseshoes likely differs somewhat from other farriers, but some of those reasons include:
- The owner requests them. Yup, that’s a reason.
- Extra stability is needed to keep the shoes from shifting or coming off, i.e. – a “package” is applied such as bar shoes and pads, or most often a traction package is used. Many jumper trainers and riders prefer them.
- The shoes won’t stay on for a reasonable amount of time without them. In my area, this is often because the horse is turned out and the shoes get “sucked off” by the mud.
Some people have very strong opinions for using or not using clips.
There are good reasons for concern about using clips.
On rare occasions, they can be somewhat dangerous. If the horse catches the shoe and only pulls it part way off, it could step on the clip and cause a puncture wound to the sole. I find this to be quite rare, but it does happen. Amazingly, the clip almost always ends up right in the white line area causing no injury, but leaving a hole or damage to the hoof wall which just grows out.
When using clips, the same “sprung shoe” situation can bend the shoe enough to be a problem for the horse to stand on until the farrier can arrive or another skilled person that happens to have the proper tools can at least safely remove the shoe. Without clips, the shoe would just come off. In that case, you could even potentially hack the horse if the hoof looks good.
I don’t believe the theory that they “hold the foot together” in situations such as flares (which are actually caused by dynamic balance, aka hoof landing, and is effected by trimming).
In my experience, the clips often cause more damage in high impact activities because their presence erodes the integrity of the hoof wall. In my many years of shoeing upper level eventers, I found that clips were a double edged sword. Whether they were hot fit, cold fit, tight to the hoof or not, the clips themselves often shatter the hoof wall around the clip area. Without the clips, the combination of traction devices and high impact work causes the shoes to shift. In the past, I have often found the need to hand make shoes with custom punched nail holes to help get better nail placement.
This isn’t an indictment against clips, just some food for thought. I use them on probably 50 percent of the shoes I nail on.