Reply To: Barefoot Thoroughbreds?

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A few things to consider: While you’re going to get answers either way (“Yes I have a TB I have kept barefoot” or “No I have a TB that could never be barefoot”) you’re going to have to make that judgement call on your own. Just because someone else has successfully transitioned their thoroughbred does not mean that you’ll have the same success. On that same note, just because someone encountered challenges that they couldn’t overcome in the attempt (and subsequently elected to keep their horse shod) doesn’t mean you will. Every horse’s feet are unique to them and you’re going to have to make that judgement call based on your horse. I will say that while some soreness is natural, if you can’t do it while keeping them marginally comfortable, I wouldn’t attempt it. As horse owners, we shouldn’t be engaging in trends that make our horses excessively uncomfortable for a prolonged period of time when we have the means within our power to avoid it.

My horse (14 y/o TB, Mr Prospector/Alydar as the big sires close up in his pedigree) is barefoot behind. He’s a little uncomfortable on gravel/hard rock footing (so walking down the driveway is still, after 3 years of being barefoot behind, not something he’s comfortable with). We also struggle with keeping his feet tidy in summer. They flake, flare and chip. Unfortunately, he goes better with no shoes behind so I have him trimmed every 6 weeks and 3 weeks after each trim my farrier is generous enough to clean up the edges as necessary. Keeping him barefoot has not made my farrier bill go down at all (if that’s one of the reasons you’re considering going barefoot).

Another barefoot success story is a friend’s 15 y/o TB gelding. He, however, has won the genetic lottery. The composition of his hoof material is really strong, the concavity of his foot is correct and his frogs are really nicely structured in a way that he’s always been barefoot and been very comfortable on all surfaces with it.

Unfortunately, I have two other horses that I’ve worked with – a 15 y/o TB and a 16 y/o TB, respectively – that tried for several years to transition to barefoot (one, bare on all four and the other, barefoot behind) that were never sound or comfortable when they were barefoot. The integrity of their hoof structure was never solid enough to really comfortably go without shoes. One woman tried shoes for a period of time but found that the fit never was quite right and couldn’t give the support that was necessary for her horse to be pleased to work under saddle.

The “TL;DR” –
Can it be done? Yes, for some horses. Some horses take to it easily (with some luck in terms of the nature of their feet). Some horses take to it gradually (with some help – hoof boots can help, a good shoe supplement, turpentine can help some horses toughen up on the sole). Other horses? It’s just not possible, and no amount of supplementation with outside aid (supplements, boots, topical applications) will make it work. While there might be some ability of a hoof to improve (structure, strength, integrity) there are some horses’ hooves that are truly so weak (for whatever reason) that no amount of proper nutrition, supplementation, and attention will make for a viable barefoot candidate.

A final note: be leery of farriers that bill themselves as “barefoot farriers” – there are a few in our area that are fantastic. However, others have noticed the trend of people’s interest in barefooted horses and have very little interest in ensuring the long-term comfort of the horses they work on. Regardless of the fact that each hoof is unique in its own way, they might insist “Oh! It’s definitely possible!” even if it’s not a good fit for you or your horse. Buyer beware. There are definitely some good ones out there (same with normal farriers) but definitely shop around before you switch, if that’s a path you’re willing to go down.

  • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  elle01.