Do horse shoes hurt horses: Answered & Explained

No equestrian would ever like to put their friendly steed in pain. Right? This is the reason most of the concerned horse owners want to know: do horseshoes hurt horses? Is shoeing important for keeping a horse’s hoof safe?

It is important to put your horse in the right shoes. Here’s an explanation of the need for horseshoes for your horse’s hoof safety, not ‘pain’.

Why do Horses Need Horseshoes? 

There are the wild horses who cover miles to get food and survive in the wild. Thankfully, the horses at the barn can get nutritive feed with little hustle.

Every horse has a unique ability to cope with the surroundings and the amount of work they’re subjected to. Most riders argue for using horseshoes for their horses.

The benefits of the horseshoe for your horse are:

  • Brittle Nature of Hoof: No matter how well you try to keep your horse’s hoof, they are always prone to crackling with the changing environment and weather.
  • Providing Additional Support: Horseshoes aid in balancing and aligning the horse that is having some conformational challenges.
  • To Strengthen and Protect Hooves: Horse legs are the most precious of all for us and for them too. The hoof needs shoes to be safe against wear and tear while riding on hard surfaces.
  • Therapeutic purposes: The use of shoes helps horses who have suffered from laminitis or any similar medical condition affecting their hoof health.
  • Enhancing the Performance of the Horse: There are different opinions of riders on barefoot and shod horses. Some riders enjoy riding their horse with the horseshoes, while some don’t. Horses with shoes outperform others in competitive events like show jumping.

Do Horseshoes Hurt Horses?

It won’t be right to say NO. When a trained farrier performs, showing correctly with all the precautions, horseshoes won't hurt your horse.

Horseshoe making mainly involves the use of aluminum or steel. In many practices, they use rubber or plastic-made shoes too. However, there is no match of these with those of metal shoes. Metal’s tough and sturdy nature provides the support and right fix to the horse’s hoof.

Then this metal is what will hurt my horse? Big no.

Scientific studies and research on the biomechanics of hoofs suggest horseshoes fitting properly and maintained under the observation of a farrier or veterinarian cause no harm to the horse.

Farrier fit the horseshoe on the palmar (ground) side of the hoof. The anatomy of the horse’s hoof proves the claim that it doesn’t hurt a horse while putting the shoes on.

The hoof structure comprises living and dead tissue. The dead part is the build-up of keratin protein. We can understand it with the example of keratin protein in our nails and hair. It doesn’t hurt to trim our nails or hair, likewise horse’s hoof wall comprises a dead tissue that is insensitive to pain because of the absence of any nerve.

No nerve → No pain receptors → No pain.

If you notice the pain after shoeing or during shoeing, then it is a sign of faulty shoeing.

Why is Hoof Wall Insensitive to Pain?

Keratin protein forms the external hard structure of the hoof, which helps protect the inner sensitive structures of the hoof like the sole and the frog.

This hard structure is devoid of any blood and nerve supply, making it an insensitive structure.

Also, the hoof contains multiple thick layers of keratin, strengthening it and resistant to shock.

When the farrier is fixing the shoes for the horse, it is on the hoof wall (external hoof). Nails driven in an oblique direction fixed horseshoes to the wall.

The process of removing the old shoe and replacing it with the new one is not painful when done with the preciseness.


Q 1. Is it cruel to put horseshoes on horses?

Ans- No. Horseshoe fixing is a completely painless process for the horse. Horse hooves comprise hard and insensitive protein, keratin. Nails used to fix the shoe are bent on the other side of the hoof oblique and their pointed end is bent in the form of a hook.

Q 2. Why do we use horseshoes for horses?

Ans- There are several benefits of using horseshoes for horses. Shoes prevent the hoof from wearing and tear while running on rough terrains. Horseshoes provide stability and support to the horses with faulty conformation. Therapeutic custom shoes are available to correct medical problems for horses.

Q 3- How often do horseshoes need to be replaced?

Ans- It takes around 1 year for the hoof to renew completely. Every month horse’s hoof grows nearly to a quarter of an inch. You may call the farrier every 6-8 weeks for cleaning, trimming (if needed), and replacing the shoe. The time also varies according to the horse’s needs.


No, horseshoes don’t cause any injury or pain to your horse. The statement is correct for the shoeing to be performed correctly under expert supervision.

The external hoof wall doesn’t contain any live tissue or nerve endings to induce pain in horses. The farrier fixes the shoe with a nail taking care of the white line (junction between the hoof wall and internal sensitive tissue).

It depends on your choice, and your horse’s comfort in whether to wear the horseshoes.

Shoeing is completely safe on horses, and it doesn’t hurt them.


Dr Akanksha Agnihotri is another animal lover like you cum veterinarian by profession. She has earned her B.V.Sc & AH from COVS & AH, Jabalpur, India. She has a knack for befriending animals/pets and treating them compassionately. She believes...