Shoes for Coffin Joints

By Terry Golson

Back in August Tonka went lame on his left front. Monika, our veterinarian, took a look and determined that the likely culprit was a sore coffin joint. (Read about that here.) We decided to try injecting it with a cocktail of drugs. It worked! Tonka moved happily once again. (This blog details these results.)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t a permanent cure. Lately Tonka has started out our ride with a head bobbing stride or two at the trot, especially on turns. This is a sign of pain.


But before I’d get too concerned, he’d work out of it and move like this. Lovely!


Tonka has also been jumping happily.


He’s landing fine, and eagerly cantering to the next obstacle.


Still, that intermittent lame step wasn’t something to ignore. I scheduled an appointment with Monika. When the vet tech hand-jogged Tonka, my horse took only two off steps on a straight line on a hard surface, otherwise he traveled fine. When lunged in the footing in the arena he went totally sound. It was good that a week earlier, Monika happened to be riding at the same time that I was, (she boards her horses at my barn) and noticed Tonka’s head bobbing during our warmup, or she wouldn’t have seen what I was concerned about.

We decided to be proactive. From the outside the hoof looks like a solid block, but inside there’s a blood supply, nerves, bones, joint capsules, tendons and ligaments. A small triangular bone (the coffin bone) can cause trouble. If it tips the wrong way it can cause pain. The x-rays didn’t show anything dramatic, but there was an ever so slight angle to it that Monika said might be causing Tonka’s intermittent lame step.

He would get shoes to support his heels and keep that coffin bone from pricking the sensitive inner hoof.

Fortunately, we have a super farrier, Rebecca Watts, who is skilled at such work.

Here are Tonka’s new shoes:


There’s a lot to them. I’ve labeled the parts.

  1. Underneath all of it is a high-tech shock absorbing foam.
  2. A wedge-shaped pad to lift the heel, and also provide even contact across the frog.
  3. It’s snow season, this keeps ice balls from forming in the shoes.
  4. The steel shoes have studs to keep Tonka from slipping on ice.

Hoofs, like fingernails, grow constantly. The shoes themselves wear down. Tonka sees Rebecca every five weeks. Yes, this is very expensive. Tonka’s new shoes cost $100 more than the previous style, and those were already pricey.

Costly, but worth it. With his new shoes on, Tonka immediately felt better. He’s moving with more freedom in the shoulder, and, so far, hasn’t taken a single off step.

Does your horse wear anything fancy on their hoofs?

12 thoughts on “Shoes for Coffin Joints

  • Pam Whitehead

    Scary! My friend’s horse had similar shoes (resulting in crushed, under-run heels) and ended up so lame the vet suggested she be PTS. She was under a well-respected equine hospital at the time. I eventually convinced my friend to try barefoot as a last resort. Many years later the horse is still with us, although her feet will never be quite normal as she was in ‘remedial’ shoes from an early age. Look at for info.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Bad shoeing can certainly harm a horse’s hoofs, but good shoeing can be a lifesaver. Tonka has been barefoot and was not happy. I’ve been fortunate to have superb farriers taking care of his feet.

  • Sally

    Yep! Fancy shoes are us!. My gelding has compromised front feet from years of neglect before me. He is barefoot during soft ground weather (boots to ride) but when he needs shoes he gets glue-ons. Currently they are composite shoes, with dental impression material (DIM) between sole and shoe. The whole thing is casted on. This set up is flexible and shock absorbing. He loves them!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      It’s interesting to hear your positive report on the glue-ons. A client of mine recently had the opposite experience. Her horse had a reaction to the chemicals that led to heat, lameness and swelling. Fortunately, that’s been resolved. It sounds like the ones that you use are different than the ones she tried. There’s a lot of innovation happening.

  • Shannon

    My mare has navicular. My vet is a fan of barefoot shoeing, so we tried for over a year to rehab her. She has quite hard feet and had been barefoot before for two or three years with me, but always had something niggling going on that stayed subclinical. Shoes helped for a year or so, but when my farrier retired and a new farrier changed her angles too rapidly, she went completely lame and developed multiple splints in both front legs. After her navicular diagnosis, we tried osphos and barefoot for a year again. She got better once her angles resolved, but never came fully back to where she had been. She is currently wearing a similar set up to Tonka’s, without the studs and orange snow guard, and helping a young teenager learn to ride as part of a love-lease. I wanted her being barefoot to work, but it isn’t always a miracle cure.

    Best of luck with Tonka, Terry. I’m glad he’s happy again.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      The osphos can make a big difference. Years ago a horse of mine had to be retired due to navicular. These days there are so many protocols that can extend their comfort and our ability to partner with them. I, too, wanted to keep Tonka barefoot, but he told me otherwise 🙂

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Nice shoes. This time of year, though, Tonka needs all those “bells and whistles.” Those snow pads are a game-changer. Without them, he’d be walking on snowball stilts. A friend’s horse has abscesses from hard mud ice balls – so the pads are also a necessary preventative.

  • Michelle McMillen

    Lance has never been shod; I’m not a “barefoot advocate,” he just has good (and BIG) hooves and hasn’t needed shoes (I have used Renegade boots on the front for rocky trail rides, but he doesn’t love them). Stella isn’t shod, either; time will tell if she will need them.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Isn’t Lance a mustang? I thought that I was getting a sturdy Paint, but Tonka’s soles are thin and sensitive. He was so delighted to get shoes on.

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