Could your horse benefit from copper horseshoe nails?
- Copper-coated horseshoe nails are a relatively new thing. Several years ago, the Royal Kerckhaert company in Holland brought a line of copper-coated nails to market.
- Originally tested as horseshoe nails made entirely of copper, it was discovered that these were too soft. The next step was to coat the traditional steel horseshoe nail with copper and try that combination out, which is where we are today.
How can the copper coating help my horse?
- It’s been known for ages, like literal centuries, that copper has antimicrobial properties. The copper ions like to attack and eat through the cell wall of bacteria. Turns out, this is a death sentence for bacteria. Like the bacteria that cause the wicked and dreaded white line disease. Sorry, not sorry, bacteria.
Using a copper-coated nail may help your horse in a few ways.
- There are many claims about this copper revolution, lots of anecdotal reports, and a bit of science. The reports from farriers that use these horseshoe nails are positive, which is obviously good news. Obviously, more formal science needs to be done, but we are headed in a good direction for hoof health as we learn more about copper and the hoof.
- The nails can be manufactured to be a little longer than a traditional steel nail, which is great for horses with brittle or shelly hoof walls, as the nail can be placed a bit higher.
- The antimicrobial properties provided by the copper appear to reduce the chance of white line disease in the nail holes, and the copper coating won’t rust inside the hoof, which typically happens with steel nails. Rust weakens the nail, and then your horse has rusty stuff inside his hoof.
- Overall improvement of hoof health is reported, as the white line and hoof wall appear stronger and healthier after using copper-coated nails.
But what about the science?
- In the few studies that have been done, there is an association between better nail hole health when using copper-coated versus steel nails.
- Essentially, this study examined the nail holes after the nails were removed. These were compared to nail holes when using traditional steel nails.
- For more details of this study and some pretty cool photos of up-close nail holes, read this from The Hoof Blog.
After about 3 weeks or so. Still so pretty.
Questions I had about copper horseshoe nails but don’t have anymore. Such as, won’t the copper turn green?
- As of today, my horse has been “wearing” his shoes with copper-coated horseshoe nails for three weeks. My farrier made the switch, and I trust his judgment. My horse also has a history of one pesky little white line disease crack, but it’s inches away from the nails. I’m pretty sure the copper will have ZERO influence on this crack.
- I thought that after three weeks, the copper would have turned into a lovely greenish shade, much like the Statue of Liberty. Nope, still copper in color. Turns out, that patina can take decades to happen unless you are super crafty and want to force the patina color by speeding up oxidation. I’m not crafty, so I’m skipping this part.
- I also wondered about cost, and yes, the copper adds a bit of cost to your farrier. Who may, or may not, pass that along to you.
- Update! After a few cycles of copper horseshoe nails, my farrier has abandoned this practice. Many of his clients were finding that the nails were not as strong, and ended up with wiggly shoes.