My barefoot horse Webster and I participated in the Ride for The Cure on October 16, 2011.   We were on the Bow Brickhill Stables Team. Bow Brickhill is located in Milford, NJ, and we trailered the one mile over to the Alexandria Equestrian Association Park  where the ride began.

Here are some views from the Ride, they will be up until November 11, 2011.

And here we are cantering in the ring at home:



I ran across this old article recently in the May 1999 issue of Anvil Magazine. It is a writeup from the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium from the same year. It summarizes the talks that were presented, one of which was by Dr. Christopher Johnston, DVM, PhD, on the study of the effect of shoes on hoof expansion:

Christopher Johnston, DVM, PhD, spoke about Impact in the Athletic Horse; about Heel Expansion; and also about Objective Biomechanical Testing of Horseshoes. Dr. Johnston finds that a softer surface may absorb as much as 90% of the impact forces. In his laboratory studies, as much as 80% of the impact force on the limb is absorbed in the hoof, before it reaches P2.

Dr. Johnston outlined three possible explanations for heel expansion of the hoof under load: the frog pressure theory, the depression theory, and the hemodynamic theory. Every one of these may play a part. Using a thin wire attached to the heels and a potentiometer, Dr. Johnston found about 1 mm (1/24 of an inch) expansion at the heels under load, followed by contraction of the heels as the hoof approached breakover during motion. Shoes decreased the amount of expansion and contraction.

I found this short blurb interesting in that it states matter of factly that shoes prevented expansion of the hoof. There’s no way to tell what if any discussion was generated at the symposium, but this study is over ten years old and it appears to have died a quiet death. I think this is a far more significant finding than there is credit being given, as most farriers and authors will dispute that shoes prevent hoof expansion.

I have not been able to find anything on the original study by Dr. Johnston. If anyone is familiar with where to locate it, please post.

Link to article:

Club Foot

Club Foot

Not Club Foot

Not Club Foot

These are X-Rays of the front feet of a yearling filly.  The first figure is the right foot, the bottom is the left. The top photo depicts a classic clubfoot, the bottom is a normal foot.  The external evidence indicating it is a clubfoot is the curved, dished wall of the foot. The coffin joint angle is the radiographic evidence showing it’s a clubfoot. The angle between the coffin bone (P3) and the short pastern (P2) is ‘broken’, whereas in the non-clubfoot, the angle is smoother, more of a straight line. The clubfoot even shows a ski tip already from high heels and rotation putting pressure on the coffin bone tip.

A 5 yo Hanoverian/TB X gelding

Shoes were removed in December ’08.  The images represent his progress over the course of the next 5 months.

Left Front Foot

  Dec082lf      Mar09lf   

         Fig. 1                                                              Fig. 2

  Apr09lf          May09lf

       Fig. 3                                                              Fig. 4

    The long toe is progressively coming back into better proportion.

A better hoof/ pastern alignment is visible in the subsequent views.

Transporting a horse might sound like an easy enough idea, however there’s more planning and action involved than one might think. There are many subjects to consider ranging from preparing the horse to actions that should be taken while in transit. One of the trickier areas is how to properly prepare your horse for trailer rides in regards to its legs, therefore the topic of bandaging and shipping boots will be covered in this post. Here are some tips to help create a hassle-free voyage for both you and your equine and will have him exclaiming ‘yay!’ instead of ‘neigh.’

Preparing Your Horse – Have your horse checked with a veterinarian within 4 weeks of the trip to make sure he is healthy enough to endure the journey and that he is up to date on all vaccinations. This is especially important if the expedition is long. Also, practice loading in and out of trailers with your horse, that way he can familiarize himself with the procedure.

Bandaging/Shipping Boots – Many people wonder if they need to bandage the legs of their horse, use shipping boots, or do nothing at all while they transport their horse. Here are some tidbits to help you make your own decision. If your horse has no shoes on, there is no reason to bandage him. However, if your horse does have shoes, proper bandaging is necessary to help protect the coronet. Make sure to wrap the bandages tightly or else hay or straw could get in the wrap and irritate the horse. In regards to shipping boots, if your horse tends to kick a lot, it could injure itself wearing boots. Boots may also add extra heat during transit, but overall they are a safe choice. With both bandages and shipping boots, allow a sufficient amount of time for your horse to become accustomed to wearing either before the journey.

Preparing the Trailer-Your trailer needs to be in great condition since it is the vehicle your horse will be traversing in. In general, all parts should be in good condition and make sure there is no rust or missing parts. Bringing a spare tired for the trailer is a good idea as well. Make sure there are enough vents to provide for comfortable ventilation since horses are susceptible to over heating.

Trailer Ride Dehydration is a common problem when horses are shipped, therefore providing enough water is essential. Offer water from a familiar bucket every four hours or at every stop to prevent dehydration from occurring. Horse grain and rich feed may cause problems in the large intestine; therefore hay is a suitable choice for feed as it helps prevent dehydration by aiding in retaining water in the gut. It is also a good idea to wash away manure and urine at every stop to help prevent respiratory infections.


Transporting your horse requires planning and should not be attempted the night before departure. Start thinking about it at least week ahead of time. Also, keep in mind that each horse is different and that one technique will not always work best for all horses. Keep these tips in mind for your first or next trip to assure a comfortable and safe ride for your equine and have peace of mind for yourself.


Written by Leslie Hsu of, an auction-style marketplace for Horse Transport

ABC affiliate KGO in San Francisco recently did a story on the rapid technological advances in hoof boot technology allowing horses to go barefoot part time if not full time.

View the story here (but ignore the beginning where they shoe using urethane pads):




What a Little Good Trimming Can Do


The horse in question, an 18 yo Appaloosa was retired from showing because of the non-specific diagnosis of caudal heel pain syndrome.  Xrays confirmed the presence of ‘changes’ that were attributed to his discomfort.  He was shod according to proper conventional veterinary standards for navicular, which did help to make him comfortable, but he still seemed stiff, definitely not agile, and, at the bottom of the pecking order would allow himself to be cornered and bullied rather than try and run away.

In examining his feet, there was nothing obvious or terrible about them that would be making him sore but the owner decided, with much trepidation, to give barefoot a try. As it turned out there was quite a bit of fine tuning to do on his feet and with each trim his gait and comfort level improved. In particular his toes were able to be shortened much more than they could be in wedge shoes even though short toes is the standard shoeing protocol for ‘easing breakover’.

Right Front Leg Lateral View

1may07b.jpg           2may07b.jpg         3my07b.jpg

a.  With shoes                          b.  Shoes Just Removed            c.  First Trim

In the shoes with wedge pads, the toe length looks acceptable, but without it, the excess length is more apparent.  While a wedge does improve breakover, it comes at the cost of shifting the weight of the foot and leg pathologically onto the toe.  With one trim, the toe length is improved and the bulge in the hairline is relaxed and straighter.

11jun07b.jpg    12ajuly07b.jpg   dec.jpg                        

d.  Growing out holes           e.  4 mos. later                     f.  7 mos. later 

As the trim progresses, the hairline bulge continues to improve, the toe continues to come back, the heel stands up a little, and the foot comes ‘under the leg’ in balance.  In the last photo, the hairline angle approaches the ideal as toe height improves, and the toe length is nice and short. The horse is standing comfortably with the cannon bone nicely vertical, with all his weight visibly placed onto that leg and into the heels.   

Note the difference between figs. c and f.  In the later photo, the heel has been brought back more underneath the boney column, providing a better base of support which is helpful in a navicular diagnosis (as in all cases since the balance is better).  The toe is shorter in lenght but has more depth from coronary band to ground, which improves comfort.  In general the whole shape of the foot is much improved, without having made any drastic changes.