Is Barefoot Better?

Posted by Paige Godwin on

Is Barefoot Better?

A growing contingent of hoof-care experts says yes. Here's what the natural-foot movement could mean for your horse.
Within the natural hoof care philosophy, the term barefoot horses refer to horses which are kept barefoot full-time, as opposed to horses who are fitted with horseshoes. The hooves of barefoot horses are trimmed with special consideration to a barefoot lifestyle. The barefoot horse movement advocates a generalized use of barefoot horses, both in non-competitive and competitive riding, often coupled with a more natural approach to horse care. 

The barefoot option. I'm sure you've heard of it, but you know it's not for your horse, because (pick one or more):

  • it's a fad.
  • he has bad feet.
  • you ride on rugged ground.
  • you show.

But here are some of the benefits of Barefoot horses

These range from improving the health, shape and quality of your horse's feet, to less obvious benefits, such as endurance riders noting improved heart rates and recovery times in their barefoot horses, as well as fewer concussion injuries. 

Having a horse that slips less on a wet road because he's got more traction, or no longer pulls his shoes off in the mud can be a major selling point too.

Many owners whose horses have struggled with poor hoof health for years often see their horse's feet change beyond belief when they venture down the barefoot route. 

As an owner, you'll probably also find you get much more involved in your horse's hoof care routine, noticing things about his hooves that you've never considered before, so it can be a great learning curve.

While horses have been used without shoes throughout history, the benefits of keeping horses barefoot have recently enjoyed increased popularity. Not only does the horse benefit with a healthier hoof in some cases, but it can also be less expensive to keep a horse barefoot, and many owners have learned to trim their horses' hooves themselves. As the health and movement benefits of barefooting have become more apparent in horses that have completed transition, horses are being competed barefoot in various sports (including dressageshow jumpingtrail riding and endurance riding).

So you might agree that going barefoot is healthy for a hoof but eventually, those shoes must go back on, right? But is permanent barefootedness is appropriate only for certain horses who already have tough, resilient hooves?

 

So what do I need to consider before my horse goes barefoot? 

First, it's important to consider that barefoot isn't a quick fix and requires a certain amount of commitment from you as the horse's owner. 

While some horses will breeze through the transition from shod to barefoot, others who may have been shod for long periods, or whose feet have become more compromised, may need more support. It's also very important to make sure your horse's diet is suitable for they're new barefoot way of life. Things like sugar intake are very important when it comes to this. Any discussion about hooves and lifelong soundness must consider diet. Hooves are a product of nutrition, so if a horse’s diet is not right, the hooves will not attain optimal health nor become the strongest link in the equine chain. 

A low sugar, mineral balanced diet and lots of exercises are key to stronger, healthier feet. 

The more you work your horse the more you will stimulate growth and help develop a robust, well-connected hoof capsule with a thick sole.

It might also be necessary to invest in a set of hoof boots. 

These can provide excellent protection while allowing your horse to grow a healthier, stronger foot. 

The quality and design of hoof boots have improved dramatically in recent years and there are many cutting edge designs on the market to choose from. (I'll include some links at the end of the article.)

In closing as in so many cases it comes down to the horse, some horse will thrive with change making the upkeep cheaper for you but while others will struggle to adapt to this lifestyle, which could make the transition period much longer for the both of you. There definitely is a lot of pros to this but it does need to become a way of life and you will need to monitor to the hoof a lot close than you did when using shoes as there is no longer that support from the shoe.

 

Feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts on this topic and wheather you have tried going barefoot or not.

 

Useful links.

Hoof boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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