Six Different Types Of Horse Shoes: Uses And Where To Purchase

Part of owning a horse is the ongoing care and maintenance of their overall health. Horseshoes have been an integral element of this since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Horseshoes can protect your horse’s hooves and can be used as part of a treatment plan for a number of hoof conditions.

It is strongly advised that you do your research into all aspects of horse ownership and maintenance before purchasing one. 

There are some horseshoes that must be purchased from specialized retailers. These include heart bar shoes and sliding plates. The design and application of these shoes require a lot of knowledge and experience, meaning that you cannot just get them from anywhere. These shoes should be sourced from a reputable farrier. 

Most other horseshoes can be purchased online from specialist horseshoe retailers or from farriers. If you are not experienced with horse ownership or do not have a good base level of horseshoe knowledge, we strongly advise contacting a farrier for advice.

This is their profession and they will be able to tell you what type of shoe will be best for your horse. They will also be able to apply the horseshoe to your horse’s hoof for you, making life much easier. 

How To Choose A Horseshoe

There are a number of different factors that you should consider when choosing a horseshoe. These include the horse’s specific body design, i.e. how their hooves, legs, and body are formed and their associated medical history.

As well as this, the workload and the activity level of the horse will dictate the most appropriate horseshoe design. You should also take into consideration the surface type your horse will be walking on, as different shoes are best suited for different surfaces. The discipline level and your budget are often limiting factors in your decision too. 

A good farrier will be able to completely transform the way that your horse moves just by adding or removing horseshoes. They will take the time to look at your horse’s hooves and the manner in which they are built and move. Old injuries and illnesses, or chronic health conditions, can impact the required horseshoe type.

For instance, if your horse has a past hip injury, your farrier may opt for bar horseshoes to support the joint and limb.

Traditional Keg Shoes

These are used by most horses and are the commonly pictured U-shaped shoe. These horseshoes are made from steel with a groove running through the center. This is called a fuller and is where the nails are hammered into the shoes.

This prevents the nails from falling out of the shoe and the shoe from falling off. The horseshoes are not attached at the heel and this area is left open. The shoe is attached smoothly at the toe. 

You can also choose to drill and tap these horseshoes. This lets the horse rider insert studs into the shoe to provide additional grip on slippery or uneven ground. This is the right type of horseshoe for horses with no real mobility issues, performing light to medium work on a solid and even ground.

Rim Shoes

These are visually very similar to traditional keg shoes. They are also made of steel, but the fuller appears different. As you can see in the picture, the fuller tends to be deeper and run around the entire curvature of the shoe. 

This provides more grip for the horse on slippery surfaces. This is a popular horseshoe choice for dressage, eventing, jumping, and endurance riding on uneven or slippery surfaces. 

While these shoes are typically made from steel, you can also purchase aluminum versions. These are only really seen on riders at the higher levels. They are used immediately prior to events to allow for a reduced weight to be felt on the horse’s feet. 

Bar Shoes

There are a number of different bar shoe designs for horses. They are an incredibly important tool when attempting to treat foot problems in horses. These shoes are added to help alleviate symptoms of issues, and with the intention to help treat the underlying problem too. This practice is known as remedial shoeing. 

Bar shoes are closed at the heel instead of being U-shaped. This helps to provide support to the heel and walls of the hoof.


These are the most common types of bar shoes. They are used to treat hoof wall issues, where the horse is suffering from quarter cracks or white line disease. These shoes can help to keep the hoof intact as it attempts to heal.


This is the most specialized type of bar horseshoe and is not very easy to source. They are not sold online and should only be used by a vet and a farrier. Both professionals should work together to apply the horseshoe.

Pressure is applied to the frog of the horse to gently force a rotated pedal bone back into the correct position. This shoe is used to treat a condition known as laminitis. 


This is another type of bar shoe. They are rounded around the heel area and are primarily used on horses with weak or low heels. They provide a lot of support to your horse. 

Racing Plates

These horseshoes are a similar shape to rim shoes but are most commonly made from aluminum. This makes them a lot lighter than traditional keg shoes and allows your horse to run faster. This is very useful for horse racing, where speed is of the essence. 

These shoes are much less durable and will need to be replaced about every 4 to 6 weeks. They are only designed to be used for a few days in a row, over the racing period. They should be put on your horse just before a race to allow them to run fast while remaining safe. 

Sliding Plates

These shoes have an unusual appearance, a longer and narrower U-shape. The horseshoes will fit onto your horse’s foot all the way back to the bulbs. The toes of the shoe are rolled and the heels are not the same shape on both sides.

The interior of the heel is more narrow than the exterior, which ensures that your horse’s feet remain straight and in alignment. These shoes are only used on the back feet of reining horses. This helps them to slide to stop, skidding to a halt with their back feet on the ground.

Traditional keg shoes generate a lot more friction between the ground and your horse’s feet. This puts a lot of stress on your horse’s legs, reducing the sliding ability and increasing the potential for injury. 

The grip of sliding shoes is incredibly poor and they should never be used for cross-country riding or jumping. In these instances, the horseshoes are likely to cause accidents and injuries. You should only purchase these shoes from a reputable farrier with experience in shoeing reiners. 

Glue-on Shoes

As the name suggests, these shoes are attached to your horse’s hoof with an adhesive. They are typically made of plastic and can attach with most adhesives. Many horse owners prefer this kind of shoe as there are no nails required.

However, these shoes are not as durable as the more traditional options and they tend to have a higher purchase price too. Typically farriers are not as well-versed in their knowledge of these shoes either. 

For horses with poor hoof wall quality or severely damaged hooves, these glue-on horseshoes can be life-changing. Damaged hooves will not retain nails effectively, rendering all the other options useless.

Trying to attach horseshoes will result in further damage to the foot and hoof. Glue-on shoes reduce concussion too, making them a good choice for horses with poor conformation. 

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