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Shoe to Barefoot Transition timeline?

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    Shoe to Barefoot Transition timeline?

    I have a OTTB that I pulled shoes on in October 2019 with the goal of getting him barefoot.

    Pulled shoes because horse was having a hard time holding shoes, would pull a shoe + some hoofwall. I tried reaching out to local farriers but was having a hard time getting someone with experience in glue ons to call back. Most horses at current barn are barefoot and everyone recommended I try barefoot trimmer. I talked to him had him look at horse, he thought he could transition him. I felt like I had been banging my head against the wall for years trying to keep this horse in shoes so I decided to try. The timing was right going into wet fall and winter and even my farrier friend said it would likely help him regrow wall which put me in a better spot if i decide to go back to shoes.

    Before pulling shoes I did xray fronts and xrays looked good, no angle issues and he had surprisingly more sole than everyone expected. This horse is historically dramatic (opposite of stoic) regarding pain.

    First six months were good, horse was sound in boots from day one. He'd have an off day maybe every other month and I'd pack with magic cushion. I started riding lightly and he felt good.

    Since pulling shoes this horse has been in boots w/pads 24/7. Idea being that we didnt want to see him sore at all, wanted to give him time to grow out and be comfortable. I never expected him to be in boots this long but since he is uncomfortable I dont want to pull them.

    Last 5/6 weeks horse has been off only at the trot. Some days he looks okay others he's off. I played the lets wait and see game, talked to farrier who thought it was related to a cut on his knee, got vet out who said hes off in the foot and she recommends shoes.

    For those that may go check; yes, I recently did post that transitioning was going great and I was pumped to see my horses feet so healthy, this is still true. Feet look much better BUT we're 8 months in and hes foot sore IN BOOTS.

    Is this a lost cause? I know many will say put shoes on the horse, others will say patience is what is needed to transition. What I'm really looking for is if anyone has any experience with a horse being successfully transitioning to barefoot in a similar situation (horse unsound in boots at 8 months or something similar).

    I desperately want him to be comfortable barefoot but I know I can't will this to happen, im open to boots, shoes or whatever he needs but I also don't want to make a rash call and put him back in shoes if maybe there is still hope (of course barefoot trimmers is undeterred and thinks horse will go barefoot still). Also worried the progress we made in his hoof health will go out the window if back in shoes.

    My best guess ATM is maybe a stone bruise; he does occasionally lose a boot while galloping in the field and could easily have hurt himself during one of those times.

    I would give him a good year to at least be sound in turnout without boots. He may always need some sort of protection while undersaddle.

    What have you done as far as diet and mineral balancing to help him grow a healthier foot? Are you treating any thrush that may be present around the frog and in the central sulcus? You can't trim your way to a healthy foot, that all comes from diet.

    So let's start with the current diet and do you have any pictures?
    Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
    Quiet Miracle 2010 16.1h OTTB Bay Gelding
    "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


      Pictures? Also vet said he's off in the foot? Did they block, use hoof testers, how did they diagnose? If he was sound when shoes were pulled seems he should be better not worse at this point. I would worry something else is going on if he has been had days where he's off. And living in hoof boots is a really hard thing to do for any horse in my experience.


        I wouldn’t call him barefoot if you have had him in boots and pads 24/7. At some point, to be truly barefoot they have to accommodate and deal with the ground you have. Most boots are not intended for constant use. How are you alleviating the moisture that boots trap. Could he simply have soft soles from constant boot use? Have you tried some Durasole?

        Also, depending on the boots, they can move the breakover too far forward. Eventually they usually wear their own breakover but maybe it has been too forward over time making the soft tissues in the foot irritated.

        If he is sore with boots, I would say he just isn’t sound and hope you can find the cause. Do you have someone who could cast him and try that to wean him off the boots?

        So frustrating these critters can be.



          I'd put a horse back in shoes if he is unsound without boots 24/7. They are simply not designed for that type of wear, and may actually be doing more harm than good, since your farrier can't shape them to exactly match the foot and movement that works best for the horse's conformation. Shoes give the farrier far more flexibility to correct any gait abnormalities, in addition to providing support and protection..

          Not every horse can be sound without shoes. I mean, maybe if you didn't ride him. But if that's not possible, I'd go back to at least front shoes and get him sound again.


            Is he out 24/7 or is he in a stall part time? If in, can you bed pretty deeply and leave the boots off for that time so his feet can dry out? Have you tried a round of Hoof Armor? Seems to really help the barefoot guys at our place.

            ETA: I'd probably just put shoes back on, if it were my horse. I might try a different farrier to see if the shoe pulling could be resolved. Some horses can be barefoot quite easily, some not without extremely careful management.


              Original Poster

              Agree he’s not truly barefoot. Agree he needs a year and agree he may always need boots while being ridden which I’m happy to accommodate. Just feeling like he should be sound in boots and ideally sound without boots in the pasture at this point.

              its clear how he carries himself he isn’t comfortable without boots which seems like the obvious answer is he’s hoof sore but I could consider another issue to the lameness.

              Ive thought of most of pulling boots to see what happens. Obviously makes me nervous, how long do you go? I have let him go a few days and usually by day 3 he’s sore (this was when he was sound).

              Im treating possible thrush with thrush buster and I’m applying Kevlar tough and or durasole every time I’m out. I pull his boots, apply powder and the hoof hardeners before putting back on. His hoofs feel dry unless it’s been raining but agree it’s less than ideal.

              i can see if farrier will cast, I know he has in the past. He knows he’s in boots 24/7 and seems unphased. He told me to wean him off boots one hour at a time but that’s easier said then done with a full time job.

              vet didn’t block, just used hoof tester. I could have them out again to block and possibly X-ray. Vet ruled out laminitis due to no pulse and only lame at trot not walk but I get that symptoms vary. Now farrier came out today and says he doesn’t test with hoof tester but has a pulse in all four...

              horse is on grass all day, Timothy mix hay at night, had gotten alfalfa on and off for ulcers, currently getting hoof supplement with biotin, copper, zinc, etc. for grain he gets 3/4 lbs x 2 daily of buckeye safe and easy. The barn also gives a supplement that they created based off hay samples so ratio wise with copper, zinc, iron he should be good (we do have high iron).

              this horse also has ulcer issues, And I know this doesn’t help growing a quality hoof. I’m moving him soon to be out 24/7, we’ve been through the ringer with treatments, meds, supplements and hoping lifestyle change may help. Ulcer issues are stomach and hind gut (to our knowledge - can’t scope hind).

              have also considered white line disease... farrier hasn’t suggested this but I’m trying to do my homework and consider all angles. This horse awful to soak but I could try soaking with meds too.

              someone also mentioned possible cushings which may not directly impact his feet but could be an underlying issue leading to everything else. Every vet has said he’s too young (13) but thinking of having him tested anyways.


                Original Poster

                I would love to put shoes back on. Just wanted to see if there was any hope. Of course if you ask a barefoot trainer they’ll always say there is hope and that it’s a nutrition issue, which is could be as I’ve mentioned above

                im going to reach out to some farriers i haven’t tried to see if I can get one to call me back that has experience with glue ons, I think that may be our best bet. I’d also be willing to pull shoes in the winter, which I haven’t done in the past, to try and maintain better hoof health.

                good farriers seem hard to come by, the good ones are swamped around here and often just don’t call back for one problem horse :/


                  If he is currently not out 24/7 could he have boots taken off when he is not on pasture? I’ve had some horses who could never be barefoot even if retired. And I used to live in the coastal south.

                  By now he should have grown new horn. Does the farrier think it would be brittle? If so maybe he needs something more as far as nutrition than he is getting. More amino acids or even MSM.

                  I think if it were me I’d try shoes and maybe with a different shoer than you had before. Maybe his breakover wasn’t right or something making him easier to catch a shoe and pull it. Or maybe you can try one of the glue on types.

                  Since he was positive to hoof testers I might be cautious about casting in case an abscess needs to blow. And it seems like shoes of some sort would be worth a try first.


                    Hi, it took more than one year for my horse to be comfortable barefoot. You need to wait a period that his whole hoof grows out. Try a period of time without boots just in the pasture . When you are working you can still put his boots on. Be patient I am sure it will pay off at the end.


                      24/7 in boots sounds like the hoof is getting no stimulation so doesn't need to develop a stronger hoof?

                      IOW, is it possible that you're overprotecting the hoof?

                      I used to do that with shoes (before boots). The first time my horse ouched on a stone I'd get him right into shoes because my thinking was that if he was too short now he was only going to get shorter. Course the problem with that thinking was that the hoof needs stimulation before it's going to add more hoof to protect itself, so when I went right to protection at the first indication that it was getting more stimulation I was just interfering with the hoof's natural mechanisms for protecting itself.

                      Taking a horse barefoot can be somewhat dependent upon the environment the horse is in, although plenty of weak hooved TB's have ended up with wild herds and managed to not only survive, but to develop good strong bare hooves, so we know it can be done.

                      The first thing I'd do is get the horse out of boots and onto footing that isn't too challenging for the hooves he has. Obviously, he should not be in a situation where he'll be chased, or otherwise forced to move on footing that is way too much for what he has. Then it's just a matter of increasing the movement on more and more challenging footing as he develops stronger hooves.


                        Have you tried Hoof Armor?? It helps with sole wear. I've even seen some use SuperFast as well. If you have some pictures we can see if the trim is helping him. You can treat for whiteline with Oxine activated with citric acid very cheap and if the horse is hard to soak a set of dry bags from walmart make it easy to soak all feet at the same time and just use vet wrap to keep them on. I've even seen people use a pair of SMB boots to keep them on for soaking. You don't have to make him stand with his foot in a bucket.
                        Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                        Quiet Miracle 2010 16.1h OTTB Bay Gelding
                        "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


                          Originally posted by reithme2 View Post

                          have also considered white line disease... farrier hasn’t suggested this but I’m trying to do my homework and consider all angles. This horse awful to soak but I could try soaking with meds too.

                          When you say he is awful with soaking do you mean he won't stand in the pan/bucket?

                          Have you tried bags? Large empty IV bags work. My husband is on peritoneal dialysis (PD). He has bags that are 5 liters. The contained dextrose solution. We cut the end off, put the bag on hoof, fill with epsom salt water or ice and water, put a wrap of duct tape around fetlock. We normally do this in the stall. For horses with borium we can normally get a few soakings out of them before they spring a leak. I gave a bunch of bags to a friend for a mini with laminitis and she used the same set for months.

                          My trainer got fancy on one pair of bags. She lined the open end with duct tape, poked a few holes through the bag and duct tape, threaded a flat white shoelace through the holes to make it a drawstring bag.
                          In other threads I have seen people recommend other types of bags that can stand up to being on their hooves. I think they are waterproof bags used for kayaking/canoeing.

                          The most common treatment for white line disease is done in a bag. White Lightening.

                          If you want some of the PD bags I am more than happy to mail you some. DH uses one per night so we always have lots available.

                          Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                            Original Poster

                            Yes, by horrible to soak I mean he rears up when I try to put his hoof in a bucket (IDK why hes usually very agreeable and excellent patient). I have used a dry bag to soak but he sprung a few leaks in it, that was when he had a shoe on, i suppose less likely he'll rip a bag now....

                            I think my plan ATM is to have a different vet out to test for cushings and consider laminitis, xray to confirm no bone changes. I think lamnitis due to the timing of his lameness correlating to when he went out on grass. The farrier also finds a pulse in all four feet (as of yesterday) and he has had rings on one foot. I assumed that he was sore meant the boots were failing and that he was foot sore but laminitis would make sense that hes sore despite having been sound in the boots previously.

                            I've also suspected cushings in the past because he drinks and urinates A TON, and if it is cushings it seems they are more likely to get laminitis (from what I've read). If this theory is correct then putting shoes on now wouldn't really fix the problem to my knowledge. It seems most recommend pulling shoes from a laminitic horse in favor of boots/pads.

                            This horse has also become a harder keeper in the last few years which I've blamed on ulcers but maybe it is cushings?

                            If vet comes out and he doesnt have cushings and they dont suspect laminitis then I'll likely put shoes on him and see how he does, if hes instantly better in shoes that would be telling, i.e. hes more sole sore and not a lamniitic issue (at least I think).

                            Of course he looked sound on the lunge this morning but still didnt seem excited to move out which isn't completely unheard of but usually I can easily lunge him without a lunge whip and I had to chase him around this morning which again makes me think this laminitis theory isn't totally crazy...

                            I haven't tried hoof armor or super fast. I do have sole freeze and kevlar tough is what I've mostly been using.

                            Thanks guys! It's kind of tough now that I'm not with a trainer consistently and have a non horsey husband, I have no one to bounce ideas off of!


                              Have him tested for Cushings(PPID), IR and EMS... and are you familiar with Katy Watts and her website and group? She's on facebook SaferGrass and her website is you can also join Dr Kellon's ECIR Group. The diet is good for all equines, not just metabolic cases.

                              If you suspect a metabolic issue something that may also help is to keep him off the grass in late evening and at night. Very early to late morning is the safest time to graze on healthy grass. Pastures that are over grazed or stressed from drought are actually much higher in sugars. My pony that I suspect is IR does fine on the grass during the day and muzzled at night.

                              Hoof Armor or Superfast gives them a layer of protection between the sole and the ground. It helps to reduce sole wear so they can build sole. Dave Jones (Hoof Armor) has a group on facebook called Successful Hoof Care and I've seen mentions of using Superfast and Hoof Armor together.

                              You can treat for ulcers with OTC Nexium as well... cheap and works. Good Luck!
                              Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                              Quiet Miracle 2010 16.1h OTTB Bay Gelding
                              "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


                                Original Poster

                                the pasture he is on now is over grazed so that is interesting. The pasture he’ll be on is in great shape, because of his ulcers I’d like to avoid dry lots but would be open to muzzling him.
                                i have tried nexium and didn’t see results but I do think the hind gut is the bigger issue which of course is hardest to treat/improve.
                                i did get the abler hind gut green pop rocks, I’ve never tried so curious if that makes any improvements.


                                  It can really be a long process.

                                  I have a guy right now who finally after 6 months of dietary and topical thrush treatment has regrown enough tissue of the frog stay that his central sulcus is no longer a gigantic crevice that can swallow hoofpicks. His hind frogs took about 4 months to totally clear up and bounce back and now fronts are really making headway. In addition to gnarly, necrotic frogs, we also started with long toes, underrun heels, pretty paper-thin soles, classic lamellar wedge from poorly connected walls, etc. Also a presumed neutral to negative PA in pretty much every foot and the expected accompanying body soreness. Bad feet really wreak havoc! (as you know )

                                  I've done his rehab 100% with boots, pads, and hoof armor. He's totally bare when he's on pasture, wears scoots in front for gravel paddocks, and wears pads in those scoots + equine fusions behind when worked. I regularly incorporate brief periods of exposure to more abrasive surfaces without boots: handwalks on the trail, road, outdoor arena, etc. Groundwork in the arena without boots. But I am very very careful, and as soon as I see toe-first landings I boot back up. The comments that boots are not intended for long term use are not informed. Some boots will not work well for this - but many do and are designed for it. They are also far more modifiable than many people might know - breakover can be adjusted, they can be heat fitted, padding can be added to customize support, etc. Absolutely one has to stay on top of them - regularly inspect, remove, ensure you have an antimicrobial protocol - but they absolutely can be used successfully long term. And again, depending on boot brand and padding, appropriate sole stimulation is easily provided in boots, allowing a horse to build sole depth.

                                  My perspective on my horse is this: his feet have come LEAPS and bounds - much much healthier than they were, and I could stick shoes on him right now and have a much less labour intensive regimen without change in comfort level to the horse. But my goal is to help him continue building his hoof health - thicker soles, totally decontract the caudal foot (almost there!!), grow strong laminar connection, etc. Booting provides a positive feedback loop: discomfort from thin soles, thrush, etc. is mitigated or eliminated which encourages sound, heel first landing, which puts the hoof's mechanism of flexion and circulation to use, which improves hoof structures internally and externally - thus being a huge part of the solution to problems like thin soles, etc (thrush, of course, requires both topical and dietary treatment - but to truly grow a new healthy frog the tissue needs appropriate stimulation). My turnout situation means that he may never become a total "rock eater" who can be worked on rough gravel without protection - but that's what hoof boots are for. Meantime, his hoof health continues to improve, he is comfortable, and we will absolutely be able to get to a place where he is comfy in all his turnout areas sans boots, as well as for ridden work in the arena, which is 99% of what we do anyway.

                                  None of the above is meant to sound prescriptive - just sharing my own experience and thoughts! I'm pretty committed to the barefoot & booted route - but there are many roads to Rome, and when it comes down to it horse comfort is the top priority. If you are feeling your current route isn't working well and you want to explore different options, I can refer you to a tip top farrier who does distance consults and is very very well acquainted with barefoot, booting, pads, casting, composite shoeing.. the works. Let me know if that would be helpful!

                                  Editing to add: I have had huge success using Mad Barn's Visceral + for gut issues. They are a really cool company, and are extremely responsive and helpful if you contact them with dietary concerns. There is a small scale study showing its efficacy in healing ulcers, and my anecdotal experience with very small sample sizes has been very very positive.


                                    Original Poster

                                    Thought I'd come back and update now that the vet has been out.
                                    Vet didn't think laminitis but we xrayed both front feet to see what we could see that may help us diagnosis the lameness. Of course hes recently been pretty sound in his boots but still xrayed. Found that the right front (where he's been off) actually sustained a chip fracture in the coffin bone. Vet got additional opinions and consensus is that the chip fracture is a result of inflammation of the coffin bone from lack of sole depth and increased pressure on the coffin bone from going barefoot.

                                    Compared films from June 2019 to these and the sole depth has actually decreased. Consensus is barefoot isnt working for this horse! Getting him back in front shoes ASAP.

                                    I feel bad telling my barefoot farrier I'm giving up and bad that I tried to get this horse barefoot when maybe I should have known it wouldnt work out. Hoping to have a sound and happy horse soon.


                                      I am so sorry to hear this

                                      This is JMO, BUT I would consider re-shoeing him as if he has foundered so as to give hi. Both sole and frog support.

                                      There are various methods and shoe styles to accomplish that, as what works for one horse may not work for another.

                                      What is currently working for my foundered horse (old & serious founder left him with lifelong issues), is a Natural Balance PLR shoe, wedges with frog support and a pliable filler under the frog part. It has taken more than a year but this horse has gained some unbelievable sole depth on both front hooves.

                                      Also try to find a therapeutic farrier. Good and great every day farriers are only good and great when working on healthy hooves. They do not have the hire learning a therapeutic farrier has, to deal with the internal issues you describe

                                      Therapeutic farriers are also schooled in good barefoot trims. If the backend can be left shoe-less they know how to trim those too

                                      My foundered horse is sickle hocked with a twice fractured sacrum - he puts a whole new meaning into “putting Humpty Dumpty together again”. Along with a therapeutic farrier, he also has a genius of a vet/chiro who sees him monthly.

                                      Best wishes for a good outcome