Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Loose Shoe

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • Shoes have repeatedly come loose, despite farrier efforts.
  • You believe that the problem relates to poor quality hoof wall.

A nail-on shoe is held in place by close fit to the sole, nailing and clinching, or in some case clips (flanges of steel created in the shoe and fit to the hoof wall). Shoes loosen due to poor hoof wall quality or poor nail placement or clinching. Crumbly, poor quality hoof wall may not hold nails and may shell off, causing the shoe to come loose.

In most cases, if left long enough, a shoe ultimately comes loose. How long this takes depends on how much the horse moves, and the abrasiveness of the footing that the horse moves on. The metal of the shoe, and the clinches, ultimately will thin and fatigue.

A loose shoe must be dealt with immediately. If not remedied, the clinches could pull off a significant chunk of hoof wall with the shoe. A loose shoe might also pivot around to where the horse steps on the nails or clips. The nails or clips can penetrate the sole and cause serious injury.


A loose shoe usually needs to be removed altogether but in some cases may just need the clinches tightened.

Pull the shoe, or have your farrier pull the shoe. Assess the horse for lameness at the walk, and feel for digital pulse and heat in the hoof. Consider why the shoe became loose, and address the potential cause.


As long as there is not lameness or injury, your vet should not need to be involved. If shoes come loose frequently, then shoeing technique and other factors need to be examined.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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