This past season while working in Wellington, Florida, I witnessed a small bay fancy hunter horse. Her mane was groomed into tiny braids tied with yard and a full sewn-in fake tail. She was warming up, casually and quietly like any fancy hinter would, when she landed off a warm-up fence, clipped her front shoe from behind, and proceed to land on said shoe.
One end of the moon-shaped shoe went into the frog, embedding itself at least three to four inches, and at an angle. With the finesse of a true horseman, the rider was off before the very next step the horse took. Luckily, we had a vet in the barn aisle, who quickly rushed out to aid in the process. The shoe was embedded so deeply in the foot that it took multiple attempts by not only the vet, but the barn manager, the horse owner, and the trainer from taking a try at getting at wedging the hunk of metal free. Fully tacked, breathing heavily, and clearly in a world of pain, the little hunter horse required not only numbing material to its foot, but a tranquilizer as well. Once the medications settled in, the vet was able to leverage all the strength could while the mare stood still. The shoe was successfully removed and did not hit anything in the foot that could have spelled disaster. She would have a full recovery.
If you were in that situation, would you know what to do? Here are some basic steps on what to do, and some tips you may not know when it comes to specific situations.
1. Find the Shoe
This is a very important (and often skipped) step. If you don’t find the shoe as soon as possible, it presents itself as a hazard in the arena, the turnout, or the stall. The last thing you need is another horse stepping on it and unknowingly causing a preventable injury.
2. Duct Tape Improvisation
If the hoof is still intact for the most part, and not showing any signs of serious damage, pull out your good old duct tape. It is important to keep the hoof cushioned and held together, to help prevent soreness and any other hoof pieces from breaking off. Create a woven pattern by laying out strips of duct tape side by side (see photo above). Be sure to make it large enough for your horse’s hoof – you can always trim the edges later. Take another set of strips and weave over-under-over-under until you reach the end.
Apply this woven square to the bottom of your horse’s hoof. You may choose to pack it with some sort of heat drawing salve and a baby diaper, if so, do that first. Take the roll of tape and wrap it on the edges of the woven square. Be sure to leave no exposed ends and wrap underneath the edge of the hoof a few times – as this is the part that will bear most of wear and tear.
3. Call Your Farrier
Call your farrier and explain the situation. Make sure to give him details as to soundness of the horse or if any hoof wall was pulled. He can help you decide what kind of attention it needs. If you ever are hesitant when it comes to shoes, dialing your farrier should be your immediate reaction. When it comes to pulling shoes that are half-off or at risk of coming off, allow someone with experience to pull the shoe. You can cause further damage or injury by attempting to remove a shoe improperly.
4. Avoid All Exercise. Avoid Turn-Out if Possible.
Even though my specific example of a horse-losing-a-shoe experience was pretty unpreventable, here’s to hoping the former outlined steps will prevent you from experiencing any other – more dangerous and more expensive – freak accidents in the future