It has been common practice to use heavy, thick, weighted horse shoes on gaited horses to emphasize the unique gaited movements they were bred for. Breeds such as the Tennessee walking horse often wear large and complicated horse shoes during competition to demonstrate the most heavily emphasized gait possible. Gaited horses who do not use these types of shoes are referred to as being flat shod.
The term flat shod means that the horse shoe is not stacked, weighted, unusually thick or otherwise designed to emphasize the gait any more than the horse does on his own without shoes on. The term is not normally used outside the gaited horse community because the vast majority of horses who are not gaited never even encounter a horse shoe that is not flat unless there is a flaw with the hoof that needs to be specially remedied by the farrier using a corrective shoe.
The Flat Shod Shoe
Flat shod horses have their own classes in many gaited horse show circuits.The Walking Horse Trainer's Association has different restrictions for shoe size depending on the specific competition class the horse is entered in. Country pleasure and trail pleasure horses are allowed to wear shoes that are a maximum of 3/8 inches thick and 3/4 inches wide. Lite shod horses should wear shoes that are no more than 1/2 inch thick by 1 inch wide. Most other gaited breed associations provide similar restrictions and rules for their flat shod competitors.
The Pleasure Rider
People who don't compete in horse show competitions with their gaited horses keep their horses flat shod, if they wear shoes at all. Flat shod gaited horses are considered normal outside the show ring, because clunky, gait-accentuating weighted and stacked shoes are not functional or beneficial outside the show ring.
The debate over using weighted and stacked horse shoes can get very heated. Proponents of flat shoes argue that the horse's movement should be left natural and that there is less joint damage and lameness when you are not attempting to alter the horse's movement unnaturally. Flat shod classes are becoming increasingly more common in the gaited horse industry as the use of heavy, weighted shoes has come under scrutiny from animal rights activists.
- Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images