Barefoot Horse Care

I like seeing the horseshoe as a decoration rather than on the horse.
I like seeing the horseshoe as a decoration rather than on the horse.

I have become interested in barefoot horse care. Is it better for my horse? Is there a time when shoes should be nailed on the hoof? What about riding? There is a lot to think about and learn.

Horses for century’s have gone without horseshoes and got along fine. Where, when, how, and why did horseshoes come to be? I will be exploring this subject in the space of this article.

A Brief History

It’s not known for sure when horseshoes came to be, but as far back as ancient days horses were fitted in boots made of the hide of other animals and plant products woven together. Horsemen back then were concerned about protecting their horse’s feet while out in battle or pulling wagons or what ever needed to be done.

Evidence of nailing the horseshoes onto the hooves was found happening in the 6th and 7th centuries. These were made of bronze. Later shoes were made of iron. In the late 1800’s a man could learn to become a farrier by being taught in a course. In the 1900’s the shoes were being made with aluminum. Now days they are made of steel.


The Trim

There are two types of trims when it comes to having the hooves trimmed. There is the “pasture trim”; the one that most farriers learn and use. Then there is the “barefoot trim”. The “barefoot trim” focuses on helping the horse to be balanced. My horse is a bit trippy at times. I’m not sure if it is from laziness, not paying attention where she places her feet, or her age ( she’s twenty something). Trimming with this balance in mind has seemed to help her and gives me more confidence.

My Experience

My decision to let my horse go barefoot is pretty simple and probably a bit lame. I can’t afford it. The trimming cost, in my area has been anywhere from $25. to $40. every eight to twelve weeks. I’m a widow and have only me to rely on for the finances. I cut costs where I can, but not to the health of my horse. I truly believe she does better without shoes. It is not compromising her health at all.

When I first bought my mare, seven years ago, she was shod. Shortly after, she was needing a trim and the shoes came off. I had researched and asked people in the know about shoes vs no shoes and since it was getting close to winter, I decided no shoes for now. Besides if I put shoes on her it was around $75. I believe at that time. It wasn’t in the budget.

The next time she needed a trim I’d done more research and had decided she didn’t need shoes, her hooves were fine, and I was going to let her go barefoot.

Now I know a bit more about it and I’m glad I’ve went with this decision. I have not had any problems with my mare going shoeless. Even if I could afford shoes I would definitely opt for shoeless. I appreciate the naturalness of my horse going barefoot.

I know there are some who do have hoof problems and horsemen say the shoes have helped the situation, but maybe there is another and better solution.

Poppy out in the pasture with no shoes.
Poppy out in the pasture with no shoes.

Pros and Cons

My pro and con section here seems to be all pro for going barefoot. You decide.

Horses in the wild wear their hooves naturally on the rocks and ground and their natural wandering around.

Domestic horses can suffer from long toes, high heels, and all around poor health as far as their hooves are concerned. A lot of it being because they are shod and don’t get the exercise they need as a horse.

A lot of horsemen think their horses are protected by shoes because of sports activity they are involved in or general work they put their horses through on a sometimes daily basis.

It is said that for a horse to have a healthy hoof they need to let the frog do its job which is being a shock absorber and let the hoof thrive and grow and get the blood pumping through the hooves.

Navicular syndrome is a malady that may be associated with a shod horse. Wild horses are known to not suffer with this injury.

The syndrome occurs when the shoe is nailed on forcing stress to the navicular bone. Nailing the shoe on, too, causes a numbness in the hoof and the horse doesn’t feel pain, but there is definite damaged nerves and is not a good situation.

Thrush is another unhealthy hoof problem that happens when a horse has been in shoes for a long time. My little mare has a tendency to thrush, but since she has been barefoot all the time I’ve owned her, her hooves are in much better shape.

There is a lot of pro for taking the shoes off and keep a horse’s hooves carefully trimmed that can almost completely take care of laminitis and the navicular syndrome. This is great news in the horse world because it’s said these are the two main reasons horses are put down. If it can be remedied and give a longer life to your beloved horse, I’m all for it.

It’s without a doubt a healthy older horse can still perform when taken care of properly.

What About Showing and Events

Horses in all horse sports are competing and winning in their chosen field and going shoeless. Events such as jumping, racing, dressage, western performance, in the show ring, out on the hunt, endurance trail riding, the work horse in harness, and of course the ones out pleasure riding, are all represented in the barefoot area.

There are hoof boots to consider too, especially if you do a lot of heavy riding such as trail riding or competition riding. These are times to consider bringing along hoof boots in case they are needed in a particular rough area. There are a lot of horsemen out there that are using the boots and doing all kinds of sports and endurance riding.

It may be something to talk over with your farrier and veterinarian for sure. They are the ones who know your horse’s hooves the best and can give professional advice.

Thank you for stopping by my hitching post. Please leave a comment or ask a question. I’ll do my best to answer.




Images courtesy of Pixabay.

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