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When to Use Onion Shoes in Horses

Therapeutic horse shoes, such as onion shoes, have become increasingly popular to treat different hoof conditions. The onion shoe is typically used to remedy bruising, hoof disease or tendon problems, but use of onion and other therapeutic shoes should be based on proper diagnosis by a veterinarian. In addition, direct, detailed communication between the veterinarian and the farrier is key in developing a plan for proper treatment and healing.

Onion Shoe

An onion shoe is built with heels and heel quarters that are two times wider than the width of the rest of the shoe. The reason for this width at the back of the hoof is to protect the area where the bar and the hoof wall meet. This area is also known as the seat of corn.

When to Use

Bruising can occur at the corns, or onions, from shoes that are too small or do not properly protect the heels of the hoof. When a horse's onions are bruised, the wide part of the onion shoe covers the bruised heels and allows them to heal. In addition, onion shoes can be used to treat navicular syndrome and deep flexor tendon injuries or strains, but use of the shoe should be determined by a veterinarian and farrier.

Hoof Preparation

According to professional farrier Jack Millman, onion shoes or any other horseshoe can only be beneficial when the hoof is trimmed properly. A horse should be loading his weight over the center of the hoof. Even weight load distribution is important for blood flow. If too much weight is set on any one part of the hoof, it could cause blood flow restriction to that portion of the hoof, resulting in stunted hoof growth. This is why a farrier must trim the hoof in a manner that will evenly distribute a horse's weight throughout the hoof.

Use Duration

Millman also says onion shoes, as well as most therapeutic shoes, should only be used as long as the horse's condition requires it. "If the horse is healthy enough to go back to his normal, everyday work, then he can go back to a regular shoe," explains Millman. "Barefoot is only an option if the horse can perform to the level you want him to without shoes." Millman also adds that he finds the onion shoe to be a good general use shoe that can be used for an extended period of time, but it's still important to talk to your farrier to determine if the onion shoe is right for your equine.