Barefoot Hoof Care

IMG_3288_2Think about it—why do people put shoes on horses? Because their friends, family, and peers do it. I mean—everyone shoes their horses, right? If everyone is doing it, surely it must be the right thing to do! The problem with this logic is that it is just plain wrong. Just because ‘everyone’ is doing it doesn’t make it the right thing to do. The horse evolved over millions of years without wearing shoes. Nailing shoes onto a horse’s feet developed during Medieval times to keep the horses from slipping on the wet, slick grounds of Noblemen’s castles. People believed that if the Noblemen nailed iron to the bottom of their horses’ feet, then that must be what everyone should do! Sadly, that tradition has morphed into the routine practice of shoeing the horse’s hoof, thus creating a legacy of unhealthy, lame horses.

Another reason why people continue to shoe their horses is because when they do remove the shoes for a short time the horse is often tender. What these horse owners don’t understand is that it can take time to reestablish good circulation and get the hoof healthy and sound. They give up too easily and insist that their horse must wear shoes because he has tender feet. Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Unfortunately, people attempt to solve the problems created by shoeing by more shoeing. It won’t work! Adding lifts, pads, and different-shaped shoes, ad nauseam, only serves to perpetuate the problem. It is masking the symptoms. The end result is still a lame horse.

Sophie's front feet

Sophie’s front feet

While going barefoot is a relatively simple solution to keeping a horse’s feet healthy, there is a very important thing to consider, and that is diet. Diet is critical in supporting proper hoof health. Hoof health, like all aspects of health, is holistic. The hooves do not exist in a vacuum. They are attached to the horse, and if the horse is not healthy there is only a certain amount of benefit that can be achieved by proper barefoot trimming. An unhealthy horse is not going to have great feet.

The biggest dietary cause of unhealthy feet is a high sugar/carbohydrate diet, and the worst and most obvious manifestations of this kind of diet are Laminitis and Founder. Put the horse on a proper low sugar/low carb diet, and that will go a long way towards fixing the Laminitis/Founder problem. No amount of proper hoof trimming and maintenance will cure Laminitis or Founder, although proper trimming will help to make the horse more comfortable while dealing with these painful and debilitating diseases.

Healthy hooves make life fun!

Healthy hooves make life fun!

Even if a high sugar/carb diet does not founder the horse, it is guaranteed to weaken the attachment of the hoof wall to the coffin bone. A proper diet and a proper barefoot trim will allow the horse to grow a well-connected hoof wall, and give him the healthy, rock-crushing feet that he was born to have.

Give your horse a chance to grow healthy feet. Allow his feet to flex and regain proper circulation. Give him the time that he needs, and if necessary, fit him with a good pair of boots for the best of both worlds during the transition phase of growing a healthy hoof. You and your horse will be the better for it.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at