Barefoot Thoroughbreds?

This topic contains 33 replies, has 27 voices, and was last updated by  Danammoore 2 years, 9 months ago.

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  • Vtgirl
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I have two OTTBs, both now in their late teens. One has great feet and goes barefoot always. But my other TB…is another’s story. I’ve had him on great farrier care and the best hoof supplement and we have to do shoes year round no matter what. Last summer he abscessed and had three weeks stall rest. His feet still weren’t good enough to wear a shoe so we tried leaving him barefoot. That was a mistake. He hobbled around everywhere, trying to carry as much weight on his hind feet as he could. He actually developed a roach in his back over his loin area from trying to compensate. After five weeks the shoes went back on and he visibly breathed a sigh of relief.
    You also mentioned your TB loses shoes. Mine is also very good at ripping them off as he gallops across the pasture! Consequently, he wears rubber bell boots on all four feet year round.
    As far as your TB goes, if he isn’t feeling better on his bare feet in a couple weeks than don’t make him suffer. Just put the shoes back on.
    I wish you the best.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    My horses have always been barefoot. Their pastures are rocky, but because their hooves are strong, they withstand it. Your TB’s hooves may be sore and weak, but they will strengthen over time. The best thing is to find a natural barefoot farrier in your area. They are awesome! not only is barefoot better for the overall health of your horse, but is cheaper then getting your horse shod all the time.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    My 21 year old thoroughbred, Gracie, has been barefoot for the last 10+ years! She was out in a pasture, and now, due to age, she is in a run. Her feet are super tough, and we go on trail rides alot. A farrier that is a Barefoot Expert is the only way to go!

    She has been completely sound this whole time.

    She is the love of my life, my therapist, and my BFF forever!


    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    My Ottb has been barefoot for 14 years. I use Renegade hoof boots when we trail ride. I also like the Easyboot Epics That Smartpack offers. A lot of people are having great success with glue on shoes. Both Renegade and Easyboot offer them. Check out and see if there’s a barefoot trimmer close to you.

    The rehab/transition process can be frustrating. I’ve been there! Back 14 years ago there weren’t as many knowledgable trimmers and there weren’t so many cool boots available. But it can be done!

    I see so many people say they tried barefoot and their horses can’t do it. But to be honest what I see is a lot of bad trims or owners who aren’t fully committed to the process. Also diet plays a huge part as well, insulin resistance will make them ouchie (no sweet feed!)

    Hope that helps! Best of luck, I hope you are able to find something that works for your Tb.

    goodgoat! goodgoat!
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Hi “VT”
    We have embraced the barefoot direction for years, with a great barefoot farrier-but also have an old Morgan gelding that always seemed to be tender footed on anything but sand-despite the outer appearance of a healthy, solid, barefoot hoof. His gallant efforts at protecting his feet often resulted in back soreness as well. While we were figuring all this out-I seemed to do a lot of walking to get him through the tougher spots.

    He is a drafty tank sort and stoic, and I tried all manner of boots-which helped, but also had fit issues that caused other problems. He developed a sole callous and never chips or cracks-but I finally gave up and actually put padded shoes on him during the heavy riding months-as it was his relative sole thinness (or perhaps how his coffin bone rested in his hoof-who knows?) that caused him apparent grief, and just a regular pair of shoes didn’t ease his apparent tenderness over rocky terrain.

    Like a lot of Morgan’s he has gorgeous hooves…we were stumped-but we go with his symptoms rather than continuing to push the issue. This summer-we got turned on to the Easy boot gloves. TADA! They stay on-don’t rub his heels, are a snug and durable fit-we all LOVE them.
    At the cost of a setting of regular shoes-they might be worth a try…although I’d always be wary of doing jumping or fast torque type sports in boots, there are evidently people who do this successfully with these as well.

    If your guy is developing absesses etc-I would hazard a guess that he just doesn’t develop enough sole callous or the interior conformation of his hoof is such that going barefoot is just always going to be a problem for him. I am a huge supporter of the barefoot concept-but have learned a lot from my ‘problem child’ and just try to read their behaviors and adjust accordingly.

    As an opposite-my little arab/foxtrotter cross (don’t ask)…a rescue-has all white feet that are generally tough as nails. I wasn’t noticing any “problems” with her going barefoot, and she has been barefoot all her life-but when I got her a pair of the Easy boot gloves-she quit trying to scramble over rougher ground with the speed of a bullet and became a much more judicious path chooser…so her way of getting out of discomfort was to get it over with as fast as possible! ๐Ÿ™‚ Here I was chocking that behavior up to in-experience and her year of being ponied where she just let the lead horse do all the “thinking”.

    I learn something new every minute! ๐Ÿ™‚ good luck!

    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 7

    My 3 year old OTTB filly is barefoot. Her shoes were pulled as soon as she came off the track, and I picked her up about two weeks later and just kept the shoes off as she wasn’t terribly sore. I used Keratex on the soles of the feet and over the hoof wall to harden them up over the course of about a month and then switched to Hooflex dressing when her feet hardened up but got too dry. She isn’t on a hoof supplement and does just fine now, but bear in mind that she had pretty decent feet to begin with (not crumbly or soft). The only supplement she’s currently on is SmartOmega3.


    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Part of a successful transition to barefoot is using a farrier who has been trained to trim horses to go barefoot. The correct trim is different for a barefoot horse and one that will have shoes put on. Many farriers don’t know how to correctly trim a horse to go barefoot and rather than admit that they don’t know how to do it correctly, they insist that the horse needs shoes, which, by the way, puts more money in the farrier’s pockets. A good barefoot trim can be more expensive than a trim by a farrier who has not had the additional training to do correct barefoot trims. But the result can be much much better, and still less expensive than shoes, along with the problem of getting a loose or detached shoe put back on a horse that can’t be ridden until the farrier has time to get back to your horse to put the shoe or shoes back on.

    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 7

    I have a 3 year old OTTB who used to wear 4 shoes to race. When she came off the track in June 2015, her shoes were pulled- she was barefoot when I bought her a month later. Now, 3-4 months later, I’ve kept her barefoot and she’s sound. I was told she was a bit tender for a week after her shoes were initially pulled. She has pretty good feet, but once I bought her in July, I used Keratex on the walls 3 times a week. However, I did end up drying her hooves out too much with that, and she got a little horizontal crack (that’s now almost all grown out). I switched to Hooflex dressing 3 times a week once her feet were noticeably harder- after about a month and a half of Keratex. I’m still applying Hooflex 3 times a week and she’s doing very well. She is in a 5 day per week work week on varied footing (arena, gravel road, and grass). She is not on a hoof supplement, but she is on SmartOmega3.


    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 4

    I wouldn’t risk it – I had a wonderful Appendix gelding with great hooves, and tried taking off the back shoes for a winter, and he developed a sole abscess in a hind foot, and eventually foundered in front. After eight months of treatment, he had to be put down, which completely broke my heart – all because of not having hind shoes. We have stoney pastures too, and I’m sure that’s what caused the abscess. A friend who has Morgans, has her horses barefoot unless they are in heavy work but she still has to maintain them, and Morgans have wonderful, tough feet.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I have had my TB since she was 4. She had shoes until she was 7 I think and then after taking a barefoot seminar I had them pulled. I had more problems with her feet when she had shoes then since she had been barefoot. My friend and trainer has 5 horses in her lesson program, all diff breeds, and they are also all barefoot and each have at least 10 rides per week. The trick I think is being patient, having a really good barefoot ferrier (can’t trim too short-esp in beginning), using a very good hoof supplement, not topical (we used Double Strength Ferriers Choice) for at least the first year of growth, and the easy boots if needed. My TB did not need any boot, but I did not have rocks in her pasture. My horse is now 15 and I have not had ANY hoof problems, thrush, cracking, abcesses, etc. since she has been barefoot like I did before.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    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 3 years, 4 months ago by  elle01.
    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Elle – I would like to just add to your excellent post that this is not something limited to Thoroughbreds. Any horse, regardless of breed, might have issues one way or another.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Most of the good barefoot trimmers I have encountered do not even have the equipment to put shoes on, as they only do barefoot trims. And the good barefoot trimmers also would want to look at the feet before they said it would be possible to transition from shoes to bare feet. Sadly, there will always be people who will claim to have skills they don’t actually have just to get more business. Ask other horse owners in your area who have successfully transitioned to barefoot or whose horses have always gone barefoot, which farrier they use. The trimming is different for barefoot and shoes, so while the farrier you try may also do shoes, ask where they got certified for barefoot trims, and if you have any questions, contact that organization and make sure the farrier has been trained in barefoot trims.

    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 26

    I started a year ago transitioning to barefoot. One horse is doing great, the other is still tender. Definitely use boots when you ride or if your horse can wear them in a stall or paddock when he seems tender footed.

    My Natural Hoof farrier said it could take two years to transition for some horses. Some never can transition. My understanding is Thoroughbreds do not have exceptionally strong hooves, so you may not be able to go Barefoot.

    If you continue to try barefoot, supplement with Biotin to build a better hoof. It will take a year for the hoof to grow out to see if the Biotin is helping.

    Recommended reading by my natural hoof care specialist: Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You.

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    “Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You” sounds like an interesting book, Jan-Kast. Where can one order a copy?

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