Going barefoot... Pros and cons

Quickstarr

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i have seen quite a few horses now going barefoot, whether their chosen discipline be dressage, jumping etc. Is this just a new fashion statement, or is it actually beneficial to the horse?
 

burtie

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I plan to leave my young just backed horse barefoot if possible, not so much a fashion statement as more a ££££ statement as a set of shoes now costs around £60. I'm lucky in that he won't need to do any roadwork and has so far coped fine without shoes!
 

Quickstarr

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i have two horses and everytime it comes round to shoeing day i feel really guilty that my mum has to spend so much money! my pony could probably do without shoes as he has really though feet and he doesnt jump on grass anymore so would never need studs.
i quite like the idea of it TBH. More natural...
 

the watcher

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I think there are benefits on either side of the arguement, and of course it will hang on what suits your horse and your workload best. i don't have much patience with those who think shoes are evil, and there are some who are quite fanatical in this belief...but as a rule of thumb I would only put shoes on as and when I think they are required, in consultation with my farrier
 

Tia

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Totally depends on the horse. I have 25 horses living on my farm - 23 are barefoot and 2 wear front shoes.
 

kcgibson

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i'd love my horse to go barefoot and when i was a kid, my native pony was barefoot and he did roadwork (a fair bit too). If i didnt have to do so much roadwork i would want my horse to go barefoot (to save on £'s) and cos i hear reports that horses that have been lame when shoed, can be ridden again when barefoot, i think it can only be beneficial. However, i have to remember that as we have domesticated horses and now ask them to walk and trot on tarmac, we have to help prevent the excessive wear they would otherwise have, by shoeing them. just depends on the workload your horse has. i dont seem the harm in trying, maybe get advice from your farrier (altho they may prefer you to have shoes!)
 

brightmount

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My horse went barefoot in January 2006 as a last ditch resort to save her from being PTS for navicular. She is textbook case of coming good by going barefoot, which is a method that is being proved time and time again as a genuine treatment for navicular. However there are benefits too for horses that have no problems, but it's a case of foresight, because to ensure a stronger hoof for the future, there may be a period of conditioning that may curtail competing and high impact work in the short term.

I have another horse in shoes, because my daughter is bringing her on and works her every day. She has just turned 6 and it's a critical time in her training. However she has weak quarters, and the EP that looks after my barefoot horse says if I want her to be an eventer she needs eventing feet, which means loading the quarters to stimulate growth, which can't happen in shoes. So I'm a bit torn between the feet and the training
I know that to take the shoes off may mean short term lameness as we tried briefly and due to her white line disease she lost a lot of wall. Another advantage of barefoot is that you can keep on top of white line disease.

I wish my youngster who we are bringing on had the feet of my barefoot horse - they have been an investment that has paid off immeasurably.
 

loopylucifer

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that a topical subject!!! depends on horse/ situation/ workload/ whos doing the shoeing/trimming and were the horse is keept. some horses manage fine and often any horse could benifit from have no shoes on for a break if turned away or off work for some reason. some people seem to be going barefoot for the wrong reasons fashion being the biggest these are offten the people that think shoes are evil and would never want horses to wear shoes ever again as these people dont think logical about it. whilst horses dont wear shoes in the wild they dont do road work arent confined to a paddock or stable aren't expected to carry a rider and thier breeding has evloved for surviual (no foot no horse).were as the domesticated horse has been tampeded with by humans and thoroughbred horses are a manmade breed whilst yes they can go barefooted the main poupose for them is to run fast no thought is given to thier feet. sorry gone off on a rant!! basically done for the right reasons can be good but recently people keep doing it for the wrong reasons. and some people are also anti farrier these people spend years traning learning about the foot and it function and ways of treating lameness trimmers spend weeks yes some are gd and know wot they are talking about but how can they learn wot farriers learn in years in wks?
 

Quickstarr

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Wow!!! well my reasons are not for fashion; there's no point ruining a fabby pony just to look different and stand out. I was wondering if it would help his current situation, as he has damaged the ligaments around the coffin joint. He's already had about 16 weeks flatwork with no jumping :)() and steady roadwork. I think that he will probs heal with time, but as he's turning 13 in a month, it is time that we cannot afford to waste, as ideally he needs to be sold. Unfortunately, he would not do for a beginners pony or happy hacker as he is too sharp and clever and he is too talented to retire in a field. I think he'd just go crazy!! I agree with LL about the natural point about not having to carry a rider or do roadwork etc...
I just don't want to make the situation worse, but maybe it is a gamble that could pay off?
Ta very much!
 

chestnut cob

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Had mine "unshod" for a while last year (I make a distinction here because I took shoes off, had farrier out rather than a trimmer and would always have been happy to put shoes back on). Mine had 3 months off last spring so I took shoes off. After 2 months he was bored senseless so started working him again. The only surface he was happy on was sand, couldn't even walk properly on tarmac.

So, fronts went back on. Backs stayed off for about another 8 months, and have been back on for the last two shoeings now. Personally being unshod doesn't suit me or my horse - for me, I don't have time for boots and getting him used to being barefoot. Callous as it may sound, he has to do a job and without shoes on, he couldn't do it.
 

ISHmad

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Pros:

Less concussion on horses feet and legs
Horses generally more sure footed
Promotes better circulation
No more lost shoes

Cons:

To transition a horse to barefoot/unshod/no shoes properly requires a lot of time, care and attention by the owner. It could involve soaking the feet, walking the horse out in hand with pads on etc
If you use a trimmer rather than a farrier it is not a cheaper option. Typically costs £40 for a trimmer, plus travelling

There are some good websites about it, and worth a read if you are thinking of going down this route.
 

brightmount

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Quickstarr it wouldn't be a quick fix, as unless you have a native breed with amazing feet, you take a few steps backwards in order to go forwards. Barefoot can help with coffin joint ligaments because it is all about perfect hoof balance, and it also stimulates circulation which encourages healing, but if you want to sell the horse in a hurry you won't get an overnight result, and the new owner might not be committed to the barefoot programme. Difficult one because it would probably help your horse, and if it isn't doing much work at the moment it could be a good time.

Here is a useful link: http://www.equinepodiatry.net/
 

pottamus

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I would consider it if I did not have so much roadwork to do. I have no off-road riding and to keep him fit and prevent him getting overweight I need to ride him most days of the week (native). So he has to have shoes because we get through them so quick. I also accept that to go barefoot may mean a time of strengthening the hooves and that riding may not be possible, that too poses problems with a native who puts weight on without exercise...even on a paddock with minimal grass in it.
 

ISHmad

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Roadwork is actually good for their bare feet as it stimulates growth, but you may need boots initially.

At the end of the day whether to take shoes off or not depends entirely on the individual situation of each horse and owner. And I know just what you mean about needing to keep working your horse fully to keep his weight off. I think this is why a lot of people take the shoes off in winter when the horses aren't doing as much ridden work.
 

lucysnapshot

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I left my young horse barefoot but i had to put front shoes on him last time and im going to put a full set on next time as his feet are starting to look messy.
 

UKa

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There are benefits to the horse of course, some have been mentioned here. I am fortunate that my mare has been able to stay unshod as she has very good feet but if there was a reason for me to put shoes on I would. Generally I like to go with as little interference to horse as possible so think that if you can start off with no shoes but then find you need them they should get them on but you may also find that you don't need them at all.
I have been brought up with horses that were unshod so just feel more comfortable with the concept it is not necessarily cheaper than with shoes I currently feed expensive supplement as we had bad hoof growth for a while over winter so I could easily spend the same simply by putting on shoes but I prefer to keep her natural if poss.
It does require a bit of careful riding when out (e.g. stoney paths can be annoying and we need to seek the soft grounds at the side) but to me just a question of habit and considerate riding...
saying all that I am only a pleasure rider not doing much competing just the odd local show and sponsored ride ...
 

Moggy in Manolos

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I wanted to go barefoot with my girl but she is not up to it, we had fronts only on and i wanted them off but she became sore on the backs with some roadwork on our hacks, so she has to have all 4shod now. It does depend on the horse, if we did no roadwork she would be ok as she used to be barefoot and was fine but we didnt really have roads to go on. The whole fashion thing is bad, if someone (and i think it may well be possible) doesnt shoe their horse for reasons of fashion is not good imo, it should only ever be about the horses needs where shoeing, or not shoeing is involved.

There, thats my opinion
 

MagicMelon

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With my young horses I tend to leave them unshod for as long as possible. One of mine had been unshod for the past 3 years and only just been shod now. I have also just taken shoes off one of my old retired ponies and he will be trimmed by a proper barefoot trimmer (rather than just a normal farrier) from now on.

I like to leave mine unshod if possible because it is better for them, by far. Just speak to a barefoot trimmer and they will totally convert you (it all makes sense).

However although Ive done everything unshod, competing in SJ and a bit of cross country, showing etc. I do find being unshod it hell on wet grass! My horse really began slipping last year when jumping and it began to make him lose confidence. Because I want to begin eventing more with him this year, I need the grip.

This is why my main horse is shod - I need to be able to use studs!

In an ideal world, mine would all be barefoot and I would use "trainers" for the horses on days when I needed grip. I know people who do ride in these boot / trainer things but I dont believe you are allowed to use them for eventing / BSJA (or are proven to be safe for these sports). The day they make proper boots which can have studs put in them, and I am allowed to use them for every sport then I will re-consider!
 

clipclop

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Without going in to huge depths mine is an unshod horse following several years of shoeing problems. He had the kind of feet lots of people say "can not" go unshod.
3 Years later it is still going very well. (I did not do it to prove a point, I did it as I felt I had no other choice and it was an avenue I had to eliminate).

If you are doing it for the right reasons then go for it.

I am doing everything with my boy. Dressage, Jumping, Trec, Long distance rides.

It is not an easy route to take by any means. (Unless you have a horse with fab feet).

I use a regular farrier and I do maintenance trims myself.

You are more than welcome to pm me for any more info.
 

lizzieuk1

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no prob with my boy being barefoot, he's a 16.2 Ish just turned 5 and has been barefoot for almost a year, he was shod when i got him but since he has rather a long action behind kept ripping his front shoes off, after a bit of a chat with the farrier decided to try barefoot and he;s been fine eversince. he does have great feet though so thats really helped and yes very stoney ground is a problem but so long as you're careful its fine, i do lots of road work with no problem and the farrier does a trim with slightly rounded edges which suits fine, not to mention the money saved i think its a great option since mechanically there are huge advantages with concussion absorption and hoof health as well. the only disadvantage i could think of might be on very dry ground and cornering when eventing, where i might have used studs int he past obvioulsy not an option in barefoot but haven't yet done enough xc to say if its going to be aproblem
 
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It is better for the horse to go barefoot as it allows the foot to function as nature intended it to (I wont go into details as it would involve writing a book, several of which have already been written).

That said if you want your horse to be able to preform beyond the natural capability of the foot (because it is young or because you want to put too much stress and strain on the foot) you can get away with it by providing unatural 'support' by shoeing. but that comes at a cost, to the horse, in deformed feet and other associated problems because the foot is prevented from functioning correctly.

Your choice, no judgement here, I often reccomend shoeing the horse if owners cant put the time money or effort in.

Shoeless is not a cheap option, and it requires considerable and dedication on the part of the owner. Nutrition and environment are very important. if you don't get them right it wont work.
 
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