My horse has good feet and the footing is great at the barn where I ride, so I would like to transition him to going barefoot. There are a few other rescued OTTB's there, and while he came with his racing plates still on, the other horses came from rescue facilities where they of necessity kept the horses barefoot with no issues.
We have rather rocky trails here, but I don't do a ton of trail riding, maybe two or three times a month.
His regular workload is dressage/flatwork four days a week, little crossrails once a week, and lungeing once a week after his day off.
I pulled my OTTB shoes mid June, the former farrier had used shoes that were too large and they started to turn, he screwed his feet up two resets in a row. He is a good farrier, but if you don't watch him with an eagle eye he can be a slacker. So I pulled the shoes and some hoof with them, and he was sore alright, but I got some boots and he wore those for a week and then was ok in the grass. After a couple of weeks I walked him up and down the paved (dead end -very quiet) street to strengthen the hoof wall. I also found a fabulous bare foot farrier, CHarles Hall from TN. I put him on Flax seed as well, which I do believe helped.
I didn't do anything be lead him up and down the road a few times a week until the first trim, which wasn't much of a trim, more of an "evening out". But you could clearly see how his hoof was starting to grow at a different angle. I started walking and trotting in the grass and he was mostly ok and continued to lead him up and down the street. After the second trim, his new growth was VERY apparent and he was almost completely comfortable.
Now after 4.5 months I can ride him anywhere, he flinches a bit on stones, but we go slowly over those areas, and I stay clear of them unless it's just a short path or area. He is totally sound and at the last trim (#3 I think) he just needed rasping- MAJOR savings in $$. I went from $65 for fronts only to $45 for trims and now $25 for a 5 minute rasp!
If I was going on a long trail ride (we do low level eventing, or at least are training for that- I usually just hack for an hour or so) I would put boots on him, but we mostly go through fields and woods with very few rocky areas. I know he has good feet naturally, and that going barefoot doesn't work for all horses - another boarder at the barn tried it for an entire year, but her guy was just never totally comfortable, so she had the barefoot farrier put shoes on, he uses aluminum so that have more give and allow the hoof to move and grow more naturally.
Well that was a long story to tell you, to TRY IT! You should know within a few months, which will go by quickly. It's a good time of year as the ground won't be so hard. Mid June in the South was a crazy time for me to do it, but I was so disgusted with what the shoes were doing to his feet I just got frustrated and yanked the shoes!
Good luck, keep us posted, and do study up on it. I"m sure you'll find a great farrier!
I do agree the article is well thought out and I actually agree with quite a bit of it.
My added thoughts on why barefoot is better than shoes is because you can adjust the hoof more often as it grows. You cannot do this with a shod hoof because you don't want to compromise the hoof wall with various nail holes.
Saying that; some horses have a hard time barefoot because of the issues mentioned in the article.
What I have found helps a horse walk of sound after shoe removal is - Don't trim the toe callous!!!! Back the toe, round the hoof wall to prevent chipping, bring the heels back... and have the horse trimmed more often.
Live in the sunshine.
Swim in the sea.
Drink the wild air.
Ive evented, done jumpers, hunters, dressage, trail over rocks - kept horses in the desert, prairies, in wet areas, dry areas etc etc etc and had great luck with barefooting the whole time.
BEATS shoeing where a horse's angles change from week 1 to week 6-7-8 whenever the farrier comes out.
THAT SAID - it takes owner responsibility. Barefeet need attention and care too. Educate yourself. I took some classes on how to trim, to balance and I read a lot. I FIND that horses that never had shoes ever are SO much better dealing with wet environments anddry environments.
So for your horse - pay attention to the quality of the hoof and balance. Watch how he stands on his feet - make sure he is on top of his feet (balanced). I suggest learning how to do a basic trim just to help between the trimmer being there. If the weather is very wet and he is outside a lot - pay attention that he gets to dry out those feet. You might even paint something to help seal the foot to keep it from getting too wet. BUT when its dry out - make sure the feet get hydrated.
I actually LET my troughs run over for the reason of keeping it muddy around the trough so the horses stand in wet mud when drinking inthe summer. In rainy times, I bring my OTTBs in to eat and keep them in even if its not cold out just for the feet-drying period.
My older barefoot OTTB gets shelly feet when the weather goes wet - dry - wet - dry so I give him a biotin supplement and paint turpentine on his feet to keep them tough and hard and his feet usually make it through those times.
Last edited by LaraNSpeedy; Oct. 30, 2011 at 11:23 PM.
I had shoes pulled on my boys last week. I used keratex on them for a couple weeks prior to toughen up their soles a bit. They are fine, not touchy at all. I gave them a few days off and will only ride them on soft arena footing for a couple weeks. This year our ground is still soft. Last year at this time we had already had a nice dose of early winter and the ground was hard as a rock and frozen solid and they were touchy for a couple weeks, which is why I went with the Keratex this year, just in case. I pull shoes for the winter every year once I'm done showing and taking them out to the mountains. It's just a lot easier for them, and me, and they have good feet, so it's not really an issue going back and forth.
I bought an OTTB a couple years back and just had the shoes pulled and let him go. He was sore for a few days, I won't lie, but I didn't ride him or anything. He also just needed to be rasped every 2 weeks for several months (instead of being trimmed). It really was no big deal. Now he goes barefoot every winter and only has shoes on the front feet in the summer.