Since ancient Roman times, people have used horseshoes to protect their horse's hooves. Today's farriers have access to horseshoes in a variety of styles and materials to meet modern horse's individual needs. Farriers can purchase some horseshoe styles in bulk from manufacturers, but they must custom forge others.
The fullered horseshoe is the "basic" horseshoe, used for recreational or trail riding. This style has creases along the centers, called fullers, and this is where the farrier places the nails that hold the shoes to the hooves. The fullers fill with dirt as the horses move, providing traction. These horseshoes are machine-made and sold by the keg.
The rim horseshoe is forged from steel, and each one has a wide groove that runs around the entire perimeter. This provides more traction than a fullered horseshoe, and is commonly used on horses that compete at high speeds, such as barrel racers and polo ponies. The outer rim may be higher than the inner rim, or the inner rim may be higher than the outer rim, depending on the horse's needs.
The slider is wider and longer than other types of horseshoes, anywhere between 1 and 1 3/4 inches wide, depending on sizes of the hooves. These aluminum shoes are specifically designed for reining horses so that they can perform sliding stops.
This type of shoe is also called a "baby slider." Like the slider, this shoe has a little traction, but does not allow the horse to slide as far. This shoe is designed for young reiners just learning a sliding stop and for rope horses who need to slide after the riders rope cattle.
The straight bar horseshoe has a piece of metal between the horse's heels to protect the heels and bulbs on the feet. These are for horses who need more support in that area. For example, horses with sheared heels, white line disease, or quarter cracks benefit from this kind of shoe. These shoes may have a leather pad between the shoes and the hooves for additional support. Farriers may custom forge this shoe, or may purchase them in bulk from manufacturers. Straight bar shoes are less popular than egg bar horseshoes because of the risk of crushing horse's heels if not properly fitted.
The egg bar horseshoe design is similar to the straight bar, but the egg bar has an additional piece of metal that extends one inch toward the horse's frogs on their hooves. These aluminum shoes are lightweight. Farriers can add wedges under horse's heels with this shoe if horses need additional support. These shoes may also be "bonded," meaning they have a layer of rubber between the hooves and the shoes, which absorbs more concussion as horses move. This shoe is for navicular horses and those who compete in high-stress athletic events, such as racing, show jumping and high levels of dressage.
Egg bar shoes can cause injury during turnout if horses snag front egg bar shoes with hind hooves, or if horses catch these shoes on wire fencing. Consider limiting turnout to small areas with wood fencing and applying oversized rubber bell boots that cover the back of the egg bar shoes to minimize the chances of injuries.
Like the straight bar and egg bar horseshoes, the heart bar horseshoe supports horse's heels and bulbs, but adds additional frog support. Horses wear this type of shoe temporarily while recovering from founder or laminitis, usually only on the front hooves. Farriers must custom forge this horseshoe.
The Right Shoe
In 1751, the book No Foot, No Horse, the author notes the importance of hoof care, including proper shoeing. Today's well-trained farriers have extensive knowledge about which shoe, if any shoe, is best for each horse.