Shoeing Draft Horses


"Team Butler"

“The Butler Team” recently won the three-man draft horse shoeing competition at the Four Corners Contest in Castle Rock, Colorado. The horses were well behaved and were owned by a carriage company in Denver. (Apparently there are nine carriage companies in Denver).

We drew a Shire horse with beautiful feet that stood perfectly. Everything went well for us. It was the first time that Jake and Pete and I have competed together. Jake trimmed and nailed, Pete struck with the sledge hammer and clinched, and I made the shoes. I’m most grateful for that experience of working together. It brought to my mind the differences in shoeing draft horses as opposed to shoeing light horses.

Front Foot

The Finished Front

The Finished Hind


Draft or heavy horse shoeing is different from light horseshoeing. Draft horses move slowly. They often pull heavy loads. They are heavy and their feet need more protection than light horses. They are very strong, and though they are often gentle for most work, they sometimes resist shoeing.

A heavier thicker stock shoe is required due to the size of the animal. Our horse required 18 inches of ½ by 1¼ inch stock to cover its front foot. We used 17 inches on the hind foot. Horses with smaller feet can be shod with a lighter section. Nail holes are punched over the white line and at the pitch of the hoof wall to insure safe and secure nailing.

The shoe was fullered to make it easier to extract the nails and to provide some traction. The fullering fills with dirt – you have dirt against dirt which provides more traction than steel against dirt. Heel calks from one-half to one inch in height are popular for farm and pulling horses. Toe calks one-half inch in height are usually only put on the hind shoes of farm horses. One-inch toe calks that are tilted forward, so they will dig in as the foot breaks over the toe, are put on the front and hind shoes of pullers. Horses used on asphalt road surfaces are often shod with Borium® or bolt-on replaceable rubber “tires.” Borium® can be put on with a forge or with an oxy-acetylene torch.

A wider web shoe is desirable since many draft horses are flat-footed and have a weak hoof-bone attachment that may be compromised by their weight and concussion on road surfaces. Although they need sole protection, they must not have sole pressure. The inside of the shoe must be seated out, sometimes called concaved (hollowed out), to prevent sole pressure and bruising when the sole descends slightly each time the horse’s foot bears weight.

A longer shoe is desirable to support the limb. It also should be a bit wider than the hoof from the last nail hole back to the heel to give more surface area to distribute concussion and prevent corns and deep flexor tendon injury.

The shoe heels should be made and fit to make room for the frog and allow easy cleaning of the foot. They should be finished straight up and down to provide the most ground surface area possible.

The outside branch of the shoes should be fit wider than the hoof since most draft horses are base narrow. The outside of the shoe should be boxed (filed on the foot surface) to reduce the chance of another horse in the hitch treading off the shoe. The inside branch should be safed (filed on the ground surface) to prevent injury when accidently treading on the opposite foot.

Toe clips should be used to prevent shoe shifting when the heavy shoe hits the ground. It is possible for the nails to be sheared off when a heavy horse’s foot strikes the ground. Clips on ½ by 1¼ stock should be an inch high and triangular in shape and without sharp points.

Front View

The nails should be appropriate to foot size (we used number nine nails on our horse) allowing you to drive them 1/3 of the way up the hoof wall with the nail line parallel to the coronary band. Nails must be driven above the chips and cracks found in neglected feet. Broken out areas can be filled with superfast by Vet Tech. Feet should be dressed to correspond to the shape of the coffin bone. The shape can be determined by looking down at the silhouette of the coronary band.

Horses that are not well trained for shoeing should be put in a stock or given a drug by a veterinarian to help them stand still when being shod. Each time the foot is put down it should be put down slowly to prevent the horse from falling. Also, dropping a foot with a heavy shoe on it can cause the coffin bone to fracture. Charges for shoeing drafts should be twice what you charge for a saddle horse since it is more than twice as much work.

Show draft horses are shod differently than working horses. The size and especially the width of the feet are exaggerated. Square shoes that have inserts welded on the inner web allow feet to be built to a greater size. These shoes are manufactured by Will Lent in Michigan. We have applied some for clients here at the school. We used a great quantity of Adhere or Superfast composite by Vet Tech to fill in the space and create square feet. We offer specialty courses of one week in length for those that are interested in draft horse type shoeing at 1-800-728-3826.

  1. Heidi WagnerJune 23, 2011   

    Terrific example of perfect

  2. Joepaul Meyers,C.J.FJune 25, 2011   

    HEY…VERY nice work and finish !!
    Of course…You would not expect less from the Butler’s…

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