Equestrian Blogs > Longrein's blogs > Barefoot vs Shoes

Barefoot vs Shoes

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I have been reading some stuff regarding the benefits of NOT shoeing your horse. With all things being equal: ie no existing problems has anyone got any thoughts on this 'new' idea of NOT shoeing their horse.
Natural Barefoot trimming etc etc.

My horse, a quarter horse, has very 'hard' feet..... blunts the farriers rasp etc etc. Not quite that bad, however the 64 million dollar question is: Should he be shod before riding. Now I do understand that a lot will depend on where he is being ridden.
But I am interested if anyone has had any experience with this.

Is it a benefit to the horse, more natural or is it 'fraught' with danger. The obvious end result being whats more comfortable and beneficial for the horse ???
Interesting topic !.

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My mare has nice hard morgan feet and was never shod until last years when she developed an abcess after some really wet weather, she needed shoes for about 6 months to support her foot as she lost a small section of outside wall. She kept going mildly lame as circling was putting pressure on that outside wall with the chunk broken out. Now that has grown out and she is back barefoot again, the shoes turned a miserable horse into a happy one instantly so even tho i prefer the barefoot way - never say never - they can be a good short-term solution.

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Blackjack1,
Good comments, I know there are heaps and heaps of comments regarding this subject and depending on whom you talk to you will get a different answer. I have been trimming my QH for the last 3 months (Barefoot) and have used boots when going out on dirt, gravel roads for rides. He is fine with these. Instead of trying to read all the different comments pros and cons regarding this subject I have decided to do a Diploma in Podio-therapy. I will learn all the ins and outs of this.
This Diploma is using a guy called
Prof. Robert Bowker PhD, currently head of the research team at the University of Michigan?s Equine Hoof Laboratory.

Hopefully by the end of the Diploma I will be able to answer any questions, comments regarding BF trimming.

Watch this space.
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I have always had shod horses. I now have 2 transitioned barefoot Tennessee Walkers and they are doing great! Farriery takes away alot of the natural foot, all of which are necessary to enhance balance. Barefoot requires boots and timeout if necessary while transitioning. It is not an overnight acquisition. The results a year later are remarkable. Horses were made without shoes and barefoot does not affect their abilities to perform regardless of the discipline. I have seen sloughed hooves from chronic founder turn around through barefoot trimming. When you see your horses perform on any surfaces, barefoot mind you, it is exhilirating! There are all kinds of boots to utilize in your transition period as to not cut out on your riding all together. Making the decision to go barefoot is the best thing you can do for your horse, along with turnout, and proper diets. Go for it, God created them to perform barefoot.
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Very interesting topic! It always comes up on rides. I've always trimmed my barefoot Buckskin my self because he's a specialist horse and works in soft arenas. My trail horse I have shod by others and always keep duct-tape in my saddle bags which I find work better than an ez boot.
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that is the hardest thing in finding a farrier who does this 'barefoot trimming' as I have had my TB stripped bare of his hooves in the name of bare foot trimming, the pain this horse went thru is not nice. However my QH who never had shoes even on hard surfaces is trimmed without the extra paring, and has never been sore. Too many farriers or would be farriers believe paring back to the max increases the hardness in the hooves forming callouses like camels(Hey they are not camels DOHH) need their feet done the same to experience the unneeded pain my horse went thru. If that is wot the pple think of the benefits of bare foot those pple need their toenails taken off and ask them to tip toe thru rocks,YES I feel passionate about this because I have seen the damage caused by those who think they know!! However the few who understand this method are like a goddsend and horses do well without shoes, as we do not interfere with their natural development and confirmation.
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Howdy Longrein, I agree with Montana mostly. I have heard of many people with hoof and lameness problems then going barefoot with regular trims and their horses being able to compete again and are totally sound. I usually keep my horses barefoot. I have even been on a pack ride for 9 days and my pack pony went barefoot and was fine. Mainly riding on dirt tracks with some climbs in hilly country. It does take time to harden up the hoof so you need to persevere. Getting an experienced barefoot trimmer is a good idea too. To stop horses from foundering and to keep their feet in good condition seaweed meal fed freely and dolomite in the feed do a good job. Our feeds in Australia lack magnesium etc because of the use of superphosphate which holds the nutrients in the soil for up to 7 years.(read Pat Coleby's book on Natural Horse Care). An excellent book for Aussies as it explains our soils and what is lacking in our feeds. I have found personally the dolomite and seaweed meal to be an excellent cure for founder. A horse I had was cantering around everywhere within 4 weeks on this diet, with regular trimming as well.(heel and toe)Seaweed meal has all the nutrients at the right amount for most animals.
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Longrein, I am not sure if your horse has had laminitis but if it has not it is really only a small risk. I have had a mare founder on Oaten hay (same as we feed the cattle that was my problem she was sharing a round bale) As I have learned from Kathryn the season and stage of growth at which a plant is at, at time of cutting has a major affect in the sugar content of the hay it turns into. In Australia we do not have the resources to economically test our hay. It is interesting to note the greeness or lushness of hay has little relation to the sugar content, as you will find that lucerne is one of the safest hays to feed and your dryer looking oaten/barley and wheaten hay to be the highest. This doens't mean you should remove this from his diet just don't let him over do it. I have since fed my mare on lucerne hay and she is now on natural pasture and very happy. (I also have that luxury I am out of town) I suppose if you are worried about a horse getting laminitis it is really just about being aware of these things and offering the most balanced diet you can. I have read and use frequently a book called "Feeding Horses in Australia, a guide for horse owners and managers" ISBN- 0 642 57883. It is easy to understand and has alot of great stuff specifically for Australia. I have also done some work with Jane Myers who wrote Managing Horses on Small Properties, it is also worth a read. I hope some of this has helped, you have a very lucky horse!!
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Yes, Ponyfire, I often carry a boot or two in my kit, especially when deep in the back country and not leading a pack animal (to carry shoeing tools etc.) I've found that they work in a pinch, but for the long haul come up short. What type have you used successfully in rough country?
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Live2ride,
I have a Mechanical Hackamore which I have discussed the dangers etc etc with Montana. I am currently doing all my work with a snaffle bit and so far things are fine. However I am still keen to change to the Hackamore, to be quite honest If I was a horse I think I would prefer a bitless bridle, rather than a piece of metal in my mouth.
I may look for a 'softer', 'nicer' one than I currently have before moving him across to it.
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Hi guys, thanks for your comments and I appreciate the things you say. My QH is currently in a paddock that is TOTALLY void of any grass, we are in a drought here and there is NOTHING in the paddock's. I feed him once a day which consists of a biscuit or two of grass hay. He also gets some hard feed. a Ratio of 3 to 2 of Oaten Chaff (3) and Lucerne Chaff (2 ). He also gets some cool feed, called Lmpia Pellets.
Now he is of good weight and not losing condition, unfortunately I am only able to ride/work him once a week, (Due to work commitments and distance of where he is ). His work is light in a paddock that is fairly hard, due to drought.
As I mentioned earlier after his feet was trimmed he 'didn't' trip as much and worked much better, however I am now ready to take him out on a trial. This will involve some road, some dirt tracks and some paddocks. I can keep him off the road most of the time, but he will be on dirt tracks.
Most of it will be at a walk and some trotting.
Nete, I have had a look at the lady you mentioned Kathryn Watts, and she talks about Sugar content etc etc in Hay and pasture. My question is I have no idea what is in the hay I am getting and I have not had any problems with the Oaten and Lucerne Chaff. However this is not to say that damage is not happening. I want to feed him the best I can for the conditions he is being kept in. Any advice of what extra I can feed him would be great.
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Hi guys I am new to this sight. I am have also researched the barefoot vs shoeing debate and I agree strongly with your comments Montana. My work horses are barefoot(trimmed regularly) and are fine, however if I were to take them into rocky country I would have to shoe them. I have also found some great research on founder by Kathryn Watts. She is an American lady who had led the way into feeding horses like horses and not like cattle! She has some great stuff on native pasture and sugar levels in hay. Look her up on the net she has a website I just cant remember what it is. Cheers
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Horses are born without shoes. Shoes were OUR idea from the time horses were used on roads and hard rocks. They were supposed to protect the horn of the hoof from being worn down. Unless you use your horses as sports equipment/competitons or on roads, they are better off without shoes. Horses pick their way on trails, avoiding rocks which would be uncomfortable. The Indians never had shoes on their horses, neither do did the Arabs. Iron on their feet will stop the frog from relaxing and contracting and cause many other problems. I have 3 horses - none have shoes, and none have hoof issues. Good luck!
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A Hackamore works like a nutcracker. Train your horses from the ground, english Hackamores are gentler because they have a wide leather band with fuzzy across the nose and short shanks. genltly direct his head from the fground so he learns to understand what you want of him. I have 3 horses and all are off bits. I use bitless bridles and english Hackamores. I love it evn on my green filly..
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BINGO!!!! The tripping is a very good clue. Whenever I have a horse tripping it's the feet/shoeing that I look at first. I guess it would be like having a stone in your shoe? I haven't been able to get hold of my friend yet, but nutrition is the key to her recovery of her horse's feet. She's got more to say on the subject than I might have patience to listen to, but the results speak for themselves.
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Well I have to honestly say, I have no idea. However, having said that I believe it more than likely did. Unfortunately I did not check his feet after my previous rides. I suspect that they could well of been hot and 'pulsee'
I really can't believe that he regained his fitness in such a short time with the amount of work I was doing.
So I will change my answer and say yes, I will probably be able to confirm that answer when I ride again this W/E.
I also noticed that he was not 'tripping' as much either, so this strengthens this idea. Funny how I did not give much thought to his feet originally..... You are right, there is a lesson to be learnt here. I know I will certainly pay more attention to the condition of his feet.
I will keep this blog updated to any new updates.
I'm also currently investigating feed vs Hoof care.... I find this all so fascinating......
Hope anyone who reads this also is inspired to pay more attention to their horses feet....
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Verrrry Interesting! Do you think balancing out his feet was the significant difference? You and Mac provide a story we can all learn from. I appreciate your updates.
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Hey Montana,
Had a great win today with Mack, I worked him, (just trotting for about an hour ) and then pushed him into a lope, he was great..... started a bit fast and just wanted to run off, but with a bit of working and requesting he pull his head in, he finally got the message..... don't need to bolt and go fast.

I just got him trimmed ( 3 days ago ), he was very long in the back hoof and uneven. I think this made all the difference. By the end of the day, 5 hours later, he was loping nicely.... not perfect but a far cry from dropping his head and wanting to throw me. He only tried once, early on and after I spun him around and disengaged his hind quarters, he was fine.

Met some good people today as well, they have a great looking Q horse and we plan to take them both out next week on a trial ride.
I also think it was good for Mack today to actually ride with other horses instead of having to put up with me making him train all the time ( hee hee )...

Anyway it was a great day, had a lot of wins with Mack.
Looking forward to next week when I take him out for decent ride out in the open along a trail.

I think he will be a happier horse now a days, getting his feet trimmed on a regular basis.
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Hi longrein, there are for and against arguments but I believe if you dont NEED to shoe then barefoot is fine as long as regularly trimmed. I bought a little 14 hands gelding out of the local dog yard and he had lovely shaped hard little hooves, he was worked every day for about 5 months to make him a good quality riding horse as he had lots of issues but we worked through it all and he continued on to win hack and rider classe, went teampenning, did pony club with a 13yr old rider and went out on trail rides all barefoot and never once went sore. On the other hand Iv'e an old ASH gelding with broader fletter feet who has always gone lame without shoes even when on a spell in a lovely soft well grassed paddock, I think it depends on your horses feet and just how and where you are planning to ride. cheers.
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A lot of love and patience and a very light hand. Has he been trained with a running martingale yet so he has learned not to toss his head up, etc., Also, I don't really know how to work this sight yet, but I'd ,like to say to MONTANA2007 that your photos look like you could be living in my dream. Beautiful area...beautiful horses!