First -- for Rick, Tom, and the other pros out there, this is not something that's been suggested to me by anyone, just the result of me thinking (I know, that's dangerous!) about some things my vet told me about my mare (referenced in this thread).
Does anyone ever leave a horse barefoot in front and shod behind?
The mare has rear shoes for support (she has an old suspensory injury) and she goes MUCH better when she has rear shoes on. But, the vet said that for her *front* hooves -- the ones with issues (old laminitis in RF, poor foreleg conformation, arthritic changes, uneven, quick hoof growth, and the still-mysterious RF lameness) -- the ideal thing would be to keep her barefoot and on a frequent trimming schedule (every 3-4 weeks) because of the funky growth issues, and use some sort of boot for trail riding since it's so rocky here.
I'm not a professional farrier by any stretch of the imagination, although I do trim all our own horses myself.
I remember reading an article years ago (like ancient times--early 90s maybe), probably in Practical Horseman since that was my main magazine that I read back then, about a college program that had mainly western performance type horses including quite a few reiners. IIRC they had a new equine director come in and one of the changes he made was to take as many of the horses barefoot as possible. But the reiners still needed slide plates on the rear to be really competitive, so he had them barefoot up front and shod behind. I don't remember any more than that, buy you might be able to come up with something thru google.
Chestnut Run Stable www.Zeltt.com
Standing "Tiz Brian" at Stud, 16.1 h bay TB by Tiznow
Yes! bought a horse with sheared contracted heels. Balanced the foot, trimmed the frog which was entrapping sand and dirt, and causing lameness (sort of like sand between your sweaty toes in tight shoes), and left them bare. But the backs wouldn't stay balanced and wore unevenly. So we used hind shoes.
Horse went and stayed very sound. After that, since it wasn't broke we never fixed it, til it was time to go bare all around.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
I have one I shoe right now that only has hinds, I had two others only in hind shoes during the snowy part of winter till the footing got rough and the front hooves were wearing to quick.
In these cases the horses need the hind shoes while in work but the front shoes are more dependent on the footing at the time.
In any case there is no reason to shoe what doesn't need shoes. If the horse only needs protection/traction/support behind there is no need to apply shoes up front unless like one client you like the clickety clack sound of 4 shoes.
east central Illinois and working north to the 'burbs
Of course horses can be barefoot in front and shod behind and there are acceptable circumstances/reasons for so doing.
Since I have never seen the horse in question, my answer is based on the information provided. If your farrier is in agreement with your vet, then I think it would be OK/reasonable to give it a try. However, if the horse comes up sore/lame, I wouldn't waste much time getting shoes back on her. Another problem you will [potentially]face is getting the farrier out to trim two feet and then return a couple/few weeks later to shoe two feet. One Possibility is to get/keep the horse on a 6 week rotation and do the front hoof trimming at the three week mark and then again at the six week mark. If that works out, expect to pay more for a two hoof trim than it would cost if everything was done at the same time on the same schedule.
Thanks for your input, everyone. Of course I should have remembered that some reiners go barefoot in front and shod behind, but it's not like reiners are really common around here
I'm not necessarily looking to actually try this with my horse, and given how footsore she got from having her front shoes off for a few days, I suspect the transition to barefoot would not be a piece of cake. My farrier does shoeing and barefoot trimming according to the needs/circumstances of the horse. He does several horses in the barn but they are all on different schedules, so an approximately every 3 weeks trimming schedule would be possible.