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Leather Pads, are a natural fibre. They are better for long or extended useage. The are the preferred pad. Easier for the farrier to shape to the hoof and are more forgiving, if not quite so fitted! Being natural, the hoof doesn't collect moisture as readily.
Plastic Pads, are man made non breathable materials. These type of pads are better for short periods where surfaces are rougher, and wear is greater. Not as highly recommended for recouperation of any hoof problems, except where damage could be continued or increased without a pad protection. Being man made material, they have a tendancy to collect moisture more readily within the sole/frog of the hoof area.
Pads are used for protection of the sole and hoof;
Extension of the hoof;
To even up two hoofs, either in the front or back;
To adjust the movement or gait of a horse.