For many inexperienced horse riders or owners, the prospect of having a horse without shoes might seem like a very unusual prospect but once it is considered that wild horses are extremely unlikely to be shoed then the prospect of barefoot care suddenly doesn’t seem so unusual.

Step One to the Barefoot Transition

Step One to the Barefoot Transition

Barefoot is an extremely popular aspect of holistic animal care where the hoof itself is trimmed. The practice came about as a result of the perceived harm which can be caused to the horse and its legs as a result of shoeing and it is for this reason that it has remained popular.

The Effects

Studies have shown that the wearing of shoes can prevent the hooves from expanding properly as the horse presses down. This can, in turn prevent the feet from absorbing the shock of the movement and could injure the horse during running.

There is further consideration that further health complications can arise from the hoof forming around the shoe, rather than in its natural form.

Correcting this damage can be a difficult and lengthy process. Firstly, it is more than just a question of removing the shoe and leaving the animal to its own devices. In order to    adopt behaviour such as self-grooming, animals need to learn this from other animals in their tribe. The fact therefore that the majority of horses are exercised with shoes from an early age means that there are few ways of encouraging the horse to adapt and this can cause incorrect hoof form if not managed correctly.

Without proper care and attention, incorrect hoof form could cause cracks, brittleness, seedy toe, thrush and navicular. Therefore, it is essential that the owner or rider is able to manage the hoof treatment themselves, and this involves the owner being prepared for a transitional period.

The Transition to Barefoot

What may surprise some people is to find out that horses can be ridden as usual as soon as their shoes are removed and the hoof is returned to its natural form. However, depending on the amount of damage which has been done, the horse may need some special care in this period. The transition includes a programme of regular barefoot trimming and the potential use of hoof boots to prevent the horse from damaging their unused hoofs. A further part of the transition which may or may not become necessary is that some horses can require physical therapy. However, after this transitional period, which can take anything from months to years, the horse can ride over any terrain. It is important that if you are looking for a horse or pony for sale to be mindful that you know there footcare background.

The Loss of the Shoes

Most horse owners believe that metal shoes are a necessary evil and whilst they accept that the shoe may be damaging the foot, they are unaware that with consideration and the right preparation, the horse could manage quite ably to do of its required tasks without shoes.

However, as has already been stated, it is not simply a case of removing the shoes and letting the horse “get on with it”. Any muscle or part of the body which has not been used or relied on has to be built up before it can be safely used and the hoof is no exception. Thankfully, there are many on and offline sources of information for any horse owner looking to try this more holistic approach.

This is a guest post from Linda Carter who enjoys the World Wide Web, animals and blogs on horse trailers and equestrian life.