we know, a horse´s hooves are an extremely important
part of its anatomy, so we feel that this subject deserves
closer attention, especially concerning the Shire breed.
The Shire is a big, heavy animal. The size of its hooves is
closely related to its body weight. It is important to understand
that the shape and size of the hooves are to some extent the
result of the stresses and strains they are subjected to,
but are also formed by inherited factors.
Concerning heritability, hoof shape and the posture of the
legs can both be passed on. Often a fault in either parent
becomes more noticeable in its offspring. Faulty stance can
lead to problems not only in the legs and joints, but can
particularly affect the hooves too, often giving them an unsuitable
The horse rests 60 percent of its body weight on its forelegs,
which means that normally the front hooves are larger than
the hind hooves by approx. one shoe size, but there can be
We believe that the Shire needs its large hooves to act as
`shock absorbers´, partly against pressure from the
ground, and partly to bear its own body weight – a Shire
horse weighs a great deal! When we say `large hooves´
we reject large, cracked and spread hooves. Allowing a horse´s
hooves to spread in order to make them larger is painful for
the horse and is to be condemned. A large hoof at the coronet
will be reflected by a large hoof at ground level. Hooves
should be round in shape, not pointed and narrow, be broad
at the heel and should allow frog pressure. Forming a large
hoof by rasping the walls to fit a smaller shoe is bad practice.
The shoe should be slightly (2-3 mm) larger than the hoof.
Fitting a Shire with shoes that are too narrow will constrain
the hoof´s natural function so that it cannot expand
as the horse shifts weight from foot to foot. In the long
run this can cause it to hobble and also give rise to other
problems in sinews and joints. The bigger the hoof, the larger
the `shock absorber` will be so as to reduce the strain on
the legs and joints. A smaller hoof bears more pressure per
surface unit, which can result in greater strain in legs and
joints.We have asked many breeders and Judges why they believe
that hoof size is so important; their answers are listed below.