A Brief Explanation of the Different Types of Horseshoe

– Nigel R Brown AWCF

In order to understand the different types of shoe that are available it is important to understand the features that make up the shoe.



The section (or piece) of steel/aluminium used to make horseshoes can vary from horse to horse for example- the size of equine, the work it is doing, the surface it is worked on or the presence of any foot/limb problems and the need for ‘grip’: -

Size of Equine

It goes without saying that an 11hh pony will require a smaller amount of steel for a shoe than a 17hh shire. However, it does not always follow that the bigger the horse, the bigger the foot – a 14hh cob could have a bigger foot than a 16hh thoroughbred. The equation to calculate the length of section required, that is the straight piece of metal to make the horseshoe, is –
LENGTH + WIDTH + 2 inches


This can alter the wear on the shoes and stress the shoes may come under for example a horse racing five furlongs will require a light weight shoe whereas a horse pulling a cart/carriage will require a heavier more hard wearing shoe. The amount of work is also relevant – is the horse being ridden for an hour every day or an hour once a week?

Surface Worked On

A shoe on a horse worked on the road is likely to wear more than a horse worked in a ménage or on soft ground.

Foot Problems

If a horse has a foot or limb ailment it may need a change of shoe. This can be achieved by using a wider or narrower/thicker or thinner section.


A wider, flatter section can provide more support but will often not provide as much grip as a narrow thicker section.

The Different Types of Section

1. Flat Bar
2. Fullered Bar - the groove/crease is called the fullering. Nail holes are placed in the fullering.
3. Concave – the name given to the sloped internal edge of the bar. This section is also fullered.
4. Rolled / ½ RoundDifferent types of section

All of these sections can be purchased in different widths and thickness to be cut to make shoes or to be purchased as ready made shoes. They are also available in different materials e.g. aluminium (light but will wear more quickly) or steel (heavier and longer lasting). 
Image to the left shows Flat Bar (Left), Concave (Middle), Fullered (right) 

Different sizes of horseshoe nail

Nail Holes

These are required to be in the shoes to allow the nails to pass through the shoes and into the foot to attach the shoe to the foot.
The placement of the nail holes is very important.
Nail holes should not be in the back third of the shoe as this will interfere with the mechanics of the foot.
The number of nail holes should be balanced wherever possible for example three on the inside and three on the outside and as few as possible to hold the shoes on for the time and work required of it. A small pony may have four, two on the inside and two on the outside, whereas a shire may have eight, four on the inside and four on the outside.
Nails should be placed to avoid any hoof problems e.g. cracks, splits, areas of poor horn, infections. 


This is the piece of steel/aluminium that protrudes upward from the shoe on the foot surface. It is there to help to keep the shoe in place and to stabilise the hoof capsule and can appear in many different places around the shoes to suit individual requirements. There also shoes available that do not require clips at all.


This is the name given to the end/back of the shoe and can vary in shape from the type of shoe and the feet the shoe is being fitted to. For example 'upright' heels, or a 'sloping/hunter heel'.


Different Types of Shoe

Hunter Shoe

The section used to make a hunter shoe is a fullered concave section. This section is thick but narrow to give maximum grip but can be fitted tight to the foot and heels giving rise to the term “Penny on a Penny”, meaning that the shoe is fitted with no width or support so that there is no steel exposed outside the hoof wall. The heels are sloped to match the heels of the foot. This particular type of fit for a hunter shoe is aimed at reducing the risk of a horse/pony losing a shoe –it makes it very difficult for the horse (or indeed another horse) to tread on it’s own shoe.

Advantages -

  • Lots of wear and grip on road and field
  • Very hard to pull off by deep going or feet.
Disadvantages -
  • Can be bad for feet if ill-fitted
  • Do not provide support
  • Not good for horses with flat feet or feet with low heels.
  • Required shoeing every 3 – 4 weeks

Image above shows an example of a concave front hunter shoe, note the heels of the shoe slope to mirror the heels of the horse once the shoe is on the foot. 

Fullered Shoes

A shoe made from a fullered section is often used on feet that need more support at the heels. The shoe may be fully-fullered, when the groove extends from heel to heel or, three-quarter fullered, when the toe area has no groove which will increase wear.


The photograph shows a piece of straight bar being 'fullered'  

Advantages –

Greater wear
When making them from bar stock you can put the fullering/groove in course or fine to make sure that nails are perfectly placed in the shoes
Allow greater support of feet and heels (shoeing with extra support can mean the foot has something to grow onto e.g. 6-8 weeks shoeing cycle)
Can make good shoes for horses with foot/limb problems

Disadvantages –

Can be heavier due to section of material
Often gives less grip than concave (see below)
As the shoe is wider than the foot it has an increased chance of being pulled off

Concave/Riding Shoes

This is still the most commonly used for horse and pony shoes. It comes in narrow to wide section from thick to thin.

Advantages –

Versatile use from ‘hunter fit’ to ‘support fit’
Good grip on roads

Disadvantages -

Not as much wear

Plain Stamped Shoes

Maximum wear shoes, flat bar section used with just a stamp for each nail required.

Advantages –

Maximum wear, used in shire shoeing, heavy horses, driving horses etc

Disadvantages –

Can be very slippy, not much grip
Traditional and often had ‘heels’ for example ‘calkin and wedge’ and  ‘scotch heels’ to help with grip



Studs come in all shapes and sizes either permanently in the shoe or screwed in.


These are put in the shoe during shoeing and stays in for the duration of ther shoeing cycle. The majority of the time they are made from a tungsten pin which is a pin itself or inbedded into a stud or nail, for example stud nails.

Advantages –

Quick to use for the farrier

Disadvantages –

Can only be placed in shoes where a nail is used for example to forward, to one side
Can only use the size of nail that can be used in the hoof wall e.g. small nail, small pin 

These consist of a tapered pin made of tungsten. A hole is drilled in the shoes and the pin is tapped into the hole.

Advantages –

Large piece of tungsten giving maximum grip
Can be laced anywhere in the shoe from tow to heel

Disadvantage –

Need a drill to put in the hole 

Plugs are tungsten pins encased in a stud. These can be put into a hole that has been punched into the shoe which can be flushed with the show or protruding.


A hole is punched into the shoe which is ‘tapped’ e.g. the hole has threads put in. This allows the horse owner to screw in a stud of their choice.

Advantages –

Studs can be changed as ground conditions change

Disadvantages –

Inappropriate selection of studs has been suggested to cause foot/limb injury
Maintenance required, threads may become damage making it difficult to screw the stud in

'Stud Nail' 'Tungsten Pins' 'Stud Plugs'

Horse Shoe Gallery

- a small examples of shoes which may be used, not an exhaustive list!


Cob Shoe.
Plain stamped shoe with 'trailer' heel on the outside of the shoe (right of the picture).
This a traditional shoe shaped in a way believed to assist with the movement of the horse.  
Graduated Lateral Extension Aluminium Egg-Bar.
An egg-bar shoe is completely round shoe aimed at extra heel support in remedial shoeing.
This particular shoe is a three quarter fullered shoe and includes a 'lateral extension' which means that the lateral (or outside) part of the shoe is wider to give support to the outside of the foot/limb. The graduation of the shoe means that it is thicker at the heels than the toe to assist with hoof-pastern axis.
Aluminium has been used as a lightweight example.  
Hind Bar Preventer Shoe.
A further type of bar shoe, this particluar example is aimed at 'preventing' interference (the horse knocking into itself) from the other hind foot.
The outside is fullered whereas the has two plain-stamped nail holes.  
Onion Shoe
A fully fullered shoe with the heel spread inwards at the heels for extra support
Machine-made Concave Shoe
Toe clip at the front, used for general purpose
Machine-made Quarter Clipped Front Shoe, Three Quarter Fullered
This particular shoe has a 'half-round' or rolled section ideal for help with break-over (a crucial stage in a horse's gait).  
Machine-made Aluminium Racing Plate.
Aluminium is used in shoes for racehorses because it is extremely light in weight. However these shoes are unsuitable for work on hard surfaces due to the fact that they wear more quickly.  
Lateral Extension
A three-quarter hind shoe with one toe clip. This shoe is aimed at supporting the outside of the foot/limb.  
Machine-made example of a 'Natural Balance' shoe
Natural Balance Shoes may help to increase natural break-over (see above).