What do bar shoes do?

Can you tell me what bar shoes do? My horse was on-and-off unsound in front until my farrier put him in bar shoes, and now he is sound. But I am curious as to how they actually help.

MG, Wellington

Answer: Thanks for your question. Great to hear that you’ve made the improvements and your horse is now sound.

There are a number of different types of bar shoes and each one will do a different job. Three of the most commonly used bar shoes include egg bar shoes, heart bar shoes and bar shoes (often called straight bar shoes). The phrase bar shoe usually suggests a complete shoe which is sometimes described as being round in shape (rather than a regular shoe which is open at the heels.

An egg bar shoe is traditionally, as the name suggests, egg shaped with the bar extending rearwards from the heel and is often used to provide support the back of the leg and associated apparatus (tendons, suspensory ligament etc). When correctly fitted in this way, there is always the risk of the shoe being pulled off and lost but the egg bar can be particularly effective for treatment of injury or other such problems of the back of the leg.

A straight bar shoe traditionally has a straighter bar than the egg bar and is usually fitted with less protrusion from the rear of the foot. One of the common uses of this shoe is stabilisation. For example, for use on horses with severe cracks or other lameness complications when reducing the amount of movement in the hoof capsule can be beneficial.

Jim Blurton Heart Bar Shoe

Heart bar shoes have a plate which extends over the frog and is (usually) fitted to apply various levels of pressure on the frog. Traditionally, heart bars are used for cases of laminitis where the frog pressure from the bar is utilised to spread some of the load onto the frog area and prevent rotation of the pedal bone. Heart bars should only ever be fitted with the cooperation of a vet and xrays are vital to determine the position of the bone before applying the frog piece – not doing so can have serious negative consequences.

Bar shoes can be very useful and are commonly used for short periods of time to achieve a particular goal.

David Hankin Dip.WCF

This question and answer originally appeared in NZ Horse & Pony magazine January 2011

Jim Blurton Bar Shoes

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