Shoeing the sport-horse

When it comes to shoeing dressage, hunter jumpers, and event horses, each have different needs and ways of going, but high fidelity balance is always important.

Balanced shoe with proper expansion.

The basics: Trimming and shoeing the green horse.

All horses should be trimmed with a well-balanced foot and smooth edges. This is an absolute necessity for any horse, but especially an active one. Many lameness issues are affected by the trim.

A horse that is not working much doesn’t usually need shoes. In fact, shoes aren’t necessary unless the horse is not able to do its job comfortably without them or there is some advantage that will make him work or move better.

The level of training corresponds to what level of shoeing is needed. A horse should have basic training using basic shoes. This allows the horse to learn naturally.

More advanced training often requires more advanced shoeing to aid them in their job.

I try to keep my client’s horses as barefoot as possible. I have quite a few horses that train and compete well barefoot, so it is certainly possible, but they need to be managed properly.

If the horse is being ridden more than 3 or 4 times a week for an hour or more at a time, front shoes and trimming the hinds may help them be more comfortable. Most of my school horses are setup this way and are very reliable.

Horses can get sore in the hind hooves as well, but mostly, shoes are added for performance or therapeutic reasons. From a performance aspect, a lot of support can be gained from adding hinds shoes and done with good timing, can make the horse advance tremendously. The best timing is after they have been introduced to using their hind end and worked with some engagement through the paces. Then consider putting some hind shoes on and PRESTO! You may have a new horse. One with a solid engine.


Dressage horses do a lot of upward and downward transitions and lateral movements. Power from hind quarters requires balance of traction, flotation, and support of limb to aid movement in the ring.

Front hoof balance for an upper level dressage horse is critical because the concussion from an extension landing can cause any imbalance to show as lameness.

Dressage riders can tell when their horses are not moving perfectly, and a farrier should watch the horse work to find out how to balance the horse optimally.

When shoeing dressage horses, I like to use a wide-webbed relatively heavy, and rolled steel shoe up front. Often I use a perimeter fit (meaning shoe is fit to the edges of the hoof and not set back off the toe).

The rear hooves are shod with a slightly more narrow webbed steel shoe for traction that will aid impulsion.

Many dressage riders say they like a trailer on the outside branch or at least a wider webbed lateral (outside) branch for the hind shoes.


Jumpers need a lot of help on the front and hind to support a huge launch and landing. We are not looking so much at a type of movement, but more the ability of the horse and rider to get around the course. A farrier needs to consider proper support and traction (drive in studs, screw in caulks, etc.). We also use more bar shoes on jumpers.

Hunter Jumpers

Hunter jumpers are more on the forehand than dressage horses. Horses move in a smoother style with less knee and hock movement or “action.” The weight of the shoes is important because a heavy shoe will cause more action.

Most equitation horses use aluminum shoes on the front and light steel behind. Properly applied break-over (shoe set back off the toe) of the front and hind can enhance the movement.

Lower-level jumpers often have some sort of permanent low level traction applied to the shoes and higher jumpers often have “drilled and tapped” holes which the rider can use to add, remove, or change traction as needed.

Event Horses

Event horses need solid shoes which are well designed for balance of weight, durability, traction, support and staying on in extreme conditions.

As a horse that does basically all of the above with some real galloping thrown in, they have to stay in the middle of how the dressage and hunter jumpers are “optimized”.

Many event riders prefer a “concave” shoe that cuts into the ground more than the flat shoe of the other disciplines. Shoeing for eventers is often highly customized.