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Large Horse, Small Hooves

An expert farrier explains how to handle a large horse with small hooves.

Here to weigh in on the management of large horses with small hooves is Andrew Elsbree of Greenville, New York, past president of the American Farriers Association and a certified journeyman farrier.


I have an 85-percent foundation-bred mare. She is a little less than 15 hands but is robust in her chest, neck and hips. She has very small feet. What impact might this have on her, and should I take any special considerations in training, trail riding or hoof care?

Glenda Meredith


It's important to keep plenty of foot on the horse and to always shoe that particular horse with plenty of support.

Any time you have a small foot with a huge body mass, you want to make sure that foot is well protected. If it were one of my clients, I would shoe the horse with either pads or a good pour-in pad to protect the bottom of the horse's feet, because what you want to do is reduce the pounds per square inch. There are only two ways you can do that: have a smaller horse on the small hooves, or build bigger hooves for a large horse.

I would always make sure her feet have plenty of length, as much as she can work with, and use a pad or pour-in pad to protect the bottom of her feet.

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.