The allowable size of the padded shoes worn by some Tennessee Walking Horses is regulated under the United States Code of Federal Regulations. Prior to being allowed to compete in a horse show, as part of the inspection process, each horse’s shoes are inspected to ensure compliance with the law.
Individual pads shall be ½” minimum and made of leather, plastic or a similar pliant material. Each padded shoe is custom made to fit the horse. One size does not fit all. The height of the padded shoe is determined by the natural hoof length and cannot exceed 50 percent of the natural hoof length. The height of the padded shoe is measured from the tip of the toe down to the surface of the shoe. (Example – a horse with a 4 inch natural hoof can have up to a 2 inch padded shoe)
Metal hoof bands are permitted to anchor or strengthen pads so long as the band is placed at least one half inch below the coronet band. Bands must be a maximum of ¾” and a minimum of ½” in width. Bands must be made of a 16 gauge or smaller flexible steel. Band are typically loosened when the horse is not being ridden.
No objects or material inserted between the pad and the hoof are permitted, except for acceptable hoof packing, which includes pine tar, oakum, live rubber, sponge rubber, silicone, commercial hoof packing or other substances used to maintain adequate frog pressure or sole consistency.
The weight bearing surface of the hoof (bottom of the padded shoe) must be level.
One individual pad is nailed to the hoof and is commonly referred to as a “nail pad”. The nail pad is nailed to the hoof in the same manner as a keg shoe. Any remaining pads added are then nailed to the nail pad – not the hoof. The flexible steel band is applied in accordance with the federal regulations as a safety measure and adds stability.
The average weight of a padded shoe consisting of 4 flats, 2 wedges and a full rubber bottom is 3 1/2 pounds, which is less than 1/2 of 1% of a 1000 pound horse’s body weight, while the Plantation shoe – 3 1/4 pounds; Trail Pleasure shoe – 1 1/2 pounds; and Keg shoe – 3/4 pound. By way of example, men’s work boots (non steel toed) weigh 2 – 3 pounds and would be 1% of a 250 pound man’s body weight.
Increasing the size of the surface of the hoof by use of pads, increases the surface area for greater weight distribution. The use of plastic pads and often a partial or full rubber bottom rather than a metal horse shoe also acts as a shock absorber. The combination of increased surface and the material used reduces stresses on the lower limbs.
At the 2014 and 2015 World Championship horse show, random horses were selected to undergo digital xrays. Those xrays were reviewed by three veterinarians who found no illegal objects and no health concerns with the hoof. Additionally, random horses were also selected to have their shoes (flat shod and padded) removed. Three veterinarians examined the hoof walls and soles of each and found all to be within acceptable condition.
Show Divisions of American Saddlebred, Hackney, Road Horse, Morgan, Fresian, Percheron, Arabian, National Show Horse, Racking, and Dressage horses all allow for padded shoes of some type and size.