Never Turn Horses Out Together Wearing Hind Shoes

Never turn out horses together in a field when any horse has hind shoes.

If I punched you in the jaw with my fist, you would remember how much it hurt. However, if I hit you in the jaw wearing brass knuckles (as in the header picture), I will break your jaw, which could kill you: same punch, different material.

Horses kick each other all the time, leaving swellings and cuts, but the materials of the hoof and skin often create glancing blows. But when a metal shoe is attached to the hoof, the chance of breaking bones is greatly increased.

Next time you are around a horse, I want you to feel these areas. The first is above the knee on the front limb. Feeling the upper arm on the inside of the leg above the knee, you will feel a large area where only skin covers the forearm bone. No muscles are covering this area. The same is true for the second area I want you to feel above the hock on the inside of the upper hind limb (the gaskin)—only skin covering the bone.

These two unprotected areas are where kicks commonly occur. As the two horses position themselves to deliver hind kicks, their bodies turn at an angle to each other. As a result, the kicking hoof misses the near limb and travels to the inside of the far limb, hitting this unmuscled area. This unprotected bone fractures, and in any horse greater than 600 pounds (275 kg), surgical repair is impossible, causing euthanasia of the horse.

A true story. I told Marie not to turn horses out together with hind shoes. She and her husband were my elders and well known for their horsemanship in the area. They were the “old-timers,” and she responded, “I’m not worried about it. These mares have been with each other forever, and if they haven’t kicked each other by now, they never will.”  She laughed and went on with her business. One month later, she called in a sobbing voice with the words, “Geoff, you were right. I think my mare has a broken leg. Come now.”  One mare kicked the other in the forearm on the inside above the knee, and the bone shattered. I could only euthanize her.

In my practice, every horse with a broken leg in the forearm or gaskin always was with another horse wearing hind shoes. Marie’s story will happen to you, too, if you continue to turn out horses with other horses wearing hind shoes. 

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