What Are Keg Horseshoes? Advantages & Disadvantages
If you’re unfamiliar with the work of equine hoof care specialists (a farrier), you may find all the talk around the types of horseshoes available a bit confusing to say the least.
You may also be unfamiliar with the utility of horseshoes and whether these might hurt horses or not.
But don’t worry, in this article I’ll clear all that up for you so you can have a better understanding of equine hoof care.
What is a Keg Horseshoe?
Before I clarify what a keg horseshoe means, I’ll first clarify what a horseshoe is and what its utility is.
Horseshoes are a U-shaped plate fitted with nails to the hooves of horses with the goal of enhancing and protecting their hooves, especially if said horse is participating in various work activities.
Horseshoes improve balance and add traction when a horse is engaged in work activities like carriage pulling.
But sometimes, horseshoes are needed for medical reasons. Like in the case of horses suffering from laminitis or arthritis, which can weaken the strength of the legs and hooves.
Without getting into the pros and cons of shoeing a horse, there are advantages and disadvantages to it, and ultimately it comes down to the preference of the owner and a potential medical or work-related need.
As you may have intuited it, there are different types of horseshoes available, one of which is the keg horseshoe.
So, what does a keg horseshoe mean? And how does it compare to the other types of horseshoes?
A keg horseshoe is simply a horseshoe that isn’t custom-built for the hoof of a horse, instead it’s made by machine and available in various standardized sizes.
Don’t mistake standardization for inflexibility, however, because these keg horseshoes are created to fit a variety of horse hooves, unlike custom-built ones, which fit only the hooves of the horse they’re built for.
As with everything there are pros and cons to using keg horseshoes. I’m going to cover these below so you can make up your own mind about their utility.
Advantages of Keg Horseshoes
Keg horseshoes have several advantages over custom-fitted ones:
Generally, anything that’s custom-built, or tailor-made is going to cost more than something that’s mass-produced.
This holds true for keg horseshoes as well. They’re usually more affordable than custom-fitted ones.
Creating a custom-fitted horseshoe takes more time than a keg horseshoe, so by choosing these instead of a custom-made one, you can save time because they’re widely available.
Plus, they can be replaced anytime if needed, without having to wait for the horseshoes to be ready.
– Range of materials
Keg horseshoes can be made from a range of materials including steel, copper, aluminum, rubber, etc. depending on what you need them for.
Their wide availability and affordability make keg horseshoes by far the most commonly chosen ones.
They’re a convenient option that most horse owners will gravitate towards, especially if they’re working with an experienced farrier.
Disadvantages of Keg Horseshoes
For all their advantages, keg horseshoes have a few shortcomings too:
– Not a perfect fit
Because they’re not adapted to any one particular horse, keg horseshoes are created in different sizes to fit different hoof sizes.
Because they’re not a perfect fit, there’s a degree of error in matching the horseshoe to a particular hoof.
– Relies a lot on the skill of the farrier
Fitting a keg horseshoe and securing it on the hoof relies a lot on the skill of the farrier. If the shoeing is carried out by an unskilled farrier, it can easily cause discomfort and injury to your horse.
Types of Keg Horseshoes
Because of their convenience and availability, most horses will be wearing keg horseshoes. Here’s a quick overview of different types of keg horseshoes, just to give you an idea of the types available:
Keg horseshoes are usually manufactured either from steel or aluminum, although other materials like copper, plastic or rubber are also available.
– Hot or cold keg horseshoes
Hot horseshoes should not be confused with hot shoeing, which means heating up the horseshoe to make it easier to fit. A hot horseshoe is one with a long heel, whereas a short-heeled horseshoe is called a cold horseshoe.
Hot fitting is actually checking if the horseshoe fits well enough by burning an imprint of the horseshoe on the bottom of the horse’s hoof wall.
Cold shoeing is simply fitting the horseshoe without using a forge, making it a faster method, but one that requires a great deal of skill from the farrier.
– Shape & other features
Horseshoes are available in different shapes (rim shoe, bar shoe, heart bar, egg bar, etc.) and they’re more suitable for different purposes.
For example, rim shoes are more popular for sports offering horses a bit more traction. Bar hoes, on the other hand, offer more heel support because of the extra bar at the back of the shoe.
Horses with laminitis, for instance, are better served by heart bar horseshoes, while egg bars are recommended for horses with navicular disease.
Do Hot Horseshoes Hurt Horses?
Hot horseshoes, i.e. long-heeled horseshoes, don’t hurt horses. Hot shoeing or hot-fitting a horse can hurt them if the farrier is not skilled enough.
It’s a matter of knowing how hot the shoe should get and how to pair it correctly with the sole. You don’t want the horseshoe to have a glowing red or orange, a ‘black heat’ is plenty to complete your imprint.
Take your horse only to experienced farriers to avoid causing pain and discomfort to your horse. Shoeing should not be a bad experience to your horse when performed correctly.
Depending on what activities your horse performs, horseshoes may be needed to provide balance, traction, comfort and even safety to the hooves and legs of your horse.
It’s your choice whether you’d prefer a keg horseshoe or a custom-tailored one. Regardless of your choice, a skilled and experienced farrier is crucial to making sure your horse’s horseshoes are well-fitted.
The choice between using horseshoes or not is also yours, however, if your horse has diseases that affect the hooves or your horse is a workhorse or racehorse, horseshoes are usually recommended.