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Transitioning to Barefoot

This topic contains 61 replies, has 24 voices, and was last updated by  jan_kast 1 year, 4 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 62 total)
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  • ottbrider Original Poster ottbrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 33

    I’ve decided to make the switch to barefoot! My horse has had shoes all her life. She was a racehorse for the first 4 years of her life so she hasn’t really gone to long without iron or aluminum shoes. She’s 5 years old now and I have her with just front shoes now as she’s an eventer/dressage/mountain trail horse. BUT I’m not all that fond of what shoes do to horses’ hooves and I would like to make the switch for the good of my horse! She has very weak and brittle hooves, maybe from the shoes for so long but I’d like to take them off to make her hoof stronger. Can I still compete in eventing barefoot? Is it safe to jump at higher levels without shoes on my horse? I’d like some advice and anything I need to be prepared for, for the transition so I don’t get scared or surprised! Thanks! *Here’s a picture of my horse for your viewing pleasure!*

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    No horse is incapable of learning- riders are just incapable of teaching

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Pretty Ponee!!

    Most horses do not NEED shoes but some fare better with them due to genetics, less than optimum conformation or lesser diets. If a shoe IS needed, it should be properly, professionally and thoughtfully done. When transitioning to barefoot, there will be a chipping and tender phase as the hoof adapts to the way the horse carries/uses herself without shoes for the first time in a long time. She likely will change her way of going, temporarily, to compensate for sore feet, but don’t panic yet, just maintain her thru the transition best you can.

    Chips (mobility) are not generally fret-worthy, but splits (weight- bearing) are to be addressed and watched as they can be signs of structural compromise somewhere ELSE. For toughening up a sole, Venice turpentine, Tuff Stuff, any Keratin product along with maybe a good hoof supplement can make the transition a little more efficient, a little less time consuming.

    If eventing of any higher level is your goal, and for the good of your horse : ), you will appreciate the hoof protection and the option for greater traction of studs which require shoes so far. Most events are held rain or shine, and cross country in the mud, over radically changing terrain, wet grass, churned up approaches and scrambled landings will demand extra traction for confidence and safety. So far, studs are it. A good shoe is key. A bad farrier is NOT. Try not to blame the shoe if the farrier is incompetent. Even if barefoot, the horse will still require regular trimming/adjustment. Choose wisely as there is too much truth in this: no hoof, no horse.

    Best advice is to watch your horse’s feet, treat/feed as needed, supplement for thorough and optimum maintenance. Get into training before deciding to re-shoe but know that it might take as much as 6 months to a year for a horse to achieve barefoot COMFORT, and know that some never do. Your horse is young, if barefoot is what you want, give it the time it takes. Best option tho not often feasible, is to lay out a small paddock with nothing but pea-stone and turn Ponee out there barefoot.

    Have a grand time with your baby, I love the young ones!! I am envious : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    ottbrider Original Poster ottbrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 33

    Thank you! You have been very helpful! Much appreciated! We may not event to higher lives as she isn’t conformationally (a word?) perfect. I’m saving that goal do her baby! (Haven’t bred her yet but next spring for sure!) I know I can do dressage barefoot, what about stadium jumping? I will only be doing hunter paces as far as cross country goes so there won’t be any high jumps there. But I like jumping big stadium jumps! I know how she goes barefoot for the most part as when I first got her she was barefoot for the first few trimmings and she wasn’t that great but she didn’t have time to build up her feet and make them strong. There’s a lot of rocks here but they can be easily avoided if need be. Thanks for the advice! It’s much appreciated as we start our journey today!

    No horse is incapable of learning- riders are just incapable of teaching

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Always happy to know I have been helpful : ) Show jumping is most often held in a level sand ring, some can be hard, some softer but often enough one comes upon a grass ring (more often for eventing stadium jumping and with terrain involved, again a place where shoes are a valid consideration) and weather definitely becomes a consideration for foot wear. As for hunter pacing, a good pair or proper fitting hoof boots can get you out and about comfortably and safely.

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    ottbrider Original Poster ottbrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 33

    Great! Thank you so much! I have a good understanding now of how to safely and comfortably make the switch to barefoot for my horse! My farrier will definitely have a say in whether her hooves are currently strong enough to hold up to this transition as it can be pretty rocky here sometimes! Thanks so much!

    No horse is incapable of learning- riders are just incapable of teaching

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    When I first got my mare, we tried to go shoeless. We avoided rocky terrain entirely and rode on pavement only when crossing the road from one trail to the other. We generally rode 25+ miles weekly. While she has nice hard feet, they were not growing fast enough to go shoeless and that is with supplement and a very good grain feed. There was nearly nothing to trim every six weeks. I had to give in and shoe her. I’m grateful that she is shod when I encounter a rocky surprise in the trail or extended good weather that keeps us on the trails for miles and miles. The true believers will insist that given time all horses can make the transition, I just was unwilling to let my mare suffer to prove that theory.

    There is no way my gelding could go without shoes. He gets a great supplement and is the picture of health, but he did not hit the ‘hoof’ lottery. It takes very careful management to keep his feet and I have a master farrier. We do five week trims. He is perfect in every other way, though. 😉

    Shoes are not unmerciful, they are quite the reverse. A good farrier is expensive, but he is still cheaper than a good vet.

    Each horse’s needs are so different; I hope this works for your horse. If you stay on top of it knowing the risk, you should be able to identify problems before they put your horse in pain. I would just caution you to be open minded in case there are problems. Boots themselves can irritate the coronary band, so be careful if you go that route.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Mapale is absolutely right to mention boots and their fit. This is why I specifically said “..proper fitting..”. Such a wide variety out there now, not all hoof boots come above the coronet band, many that do often come with an optional pastern wrap (of which some can cause their own problems). Some fit an oval hoof, others are better designed for the rounder hoof. Some can be shimmed, others padded. There are jointed heels such as Renegade (popular among some of the endurance folks and me, on the right hoof), the Easy Boot that has several styles to choose from and there are numerous other brands. Hoof boots require thoughtful research and careful, accurate measuring (bother to KNOW the numbers of due-to-be-trimmed hoof and just-trimmed hoof, it matters) but can be a useful addition to someone’s riding regimen when shoes are too much and barefoot is not enough. Talk to someone in Endurance about hoof boots, THEY will know! If you DO find, down the road (tho they CAN help with shod-to-barefoot transitions as well), that a boot might be an good option, the best boot will be the one that FITS best and suits the needs, regardless of brand…. just like helmets : )

    Good point, Mapale, thank you for bringing it up : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    naturalpasture
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 61

    I’m also not fond of what shoes do to hooves. Having shoes on as much as she has had them on, most certainly contributed to her weak, brittle hooves. That said, taking the shoes off will not immediately fix this problem. It takes 9 to 12 months for the new hoof wall to grow from the coronet band to the ground. A good trim and movement following removing her shoes is a must.

    When you first take the shoes off, she will probably be tender and possibly sore for the first few days. This is due to the circulation and therefore the feeling returning to her hooves. Her soles will respond naturally by growing thicker and tougher. Getting her moving on easy footing as soon as she can handle it helps speed up her transition. Don’t expect to ride her right away. Hoof boots are great too for extra protection if she needs it. After a few days, her feet will probably have toughened up enough that you can grab some hoof boots and go for a ride in easy footing.

    You mentioned that in addition to being an eventing and dressage horse she is also a mountain trail horse. Barefoot trail horses do have somewhat of an advantage over shod horses. Barefoot horses can “feel” where their feet are. Their feet become very calloused and tough, but they can still “feel” what they’re stepping on and consequently are much more sure footed. They also have better traction and slip less often. The frog is sort of like a rubber tread that naturally provides great traction. For barefoot horse the frog touches the ground yet bares weight passively. For a shod horse, on the other hand, the frog is suspended off the ground by the shoes.

    Pete Ramey is a natural hoof care professional and has transitioned countless shod horses to barefoot. I would highly recommend Pete Ramey’s book “Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You”. It will give you a really good idea what to expect during the switch and after she has been barefoot for a while. It also shows you what a good barefoot trim looks like.

    I’m sure you know most of what I’m saying here, but I’m just throwing my thoughts out there for you. Don’t worry if she is a little “ouchy” for the first few days. That’s all part of it. Give her some easy footing at first. Being barefoot will do her hooves much good in the long run!

    ottbrider Original Poster ottbrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 33

    Thank you! Lucky for her, the whole property has nice easy footing and since she’s out with an injury- due to the shoes -she will have plenty of time to rest on them and not worry about me riding her! Just some simple hand walking and light turnout until she’s healed up. Then we start lunging and ground worke because she’s really out of shape! I’m also going bitless too, we’re making the switch to natural horsemanship and I know she likes it. Thank you for the advice and what to expects! It helps a lot and I’ll be sure to update here once we’ve gotten comfortable on the new feet! I was also told to give her a hoof supplement or a grain with biotin in it? Any thoughts on that?

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 12 months ago by ottbrider ottbrider.

    No horse is incapable of learning- riders are just incapable of teaching

    naturalpasture
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 61

    That’s funny you’re going bitless too. I like the natural horsemanship way of doing things and am training my horses bitless using Missy Wryn’s method! I know some people feel it isn’t safe, but I think if you do it right it can be safe.

    My horses have never needed supplements, so I really can’t say one way or the other. The one thing that is probably the most important factor in growing out a healthy, strong hoof is frequent trimming. Naturally the hoof wall adapts to the amount of wear it receives. For domestic horses the “amount of wear” translates to “trims”. The more frequent the trimmings (every 4 weeks is about right) the faster the hoof wall will grow. This may not happen in the first 4 weeks between trimmings, but the hoof will catch up. So if you want a hoof to grow out quickly, just make sure that any extra hoof wall that is below the sole gets taken off at each trim. This also helps the sole to continue toughening up as it comes in contact with the ground.

    If the hoof does not get enough wear (trimming) and grows too long, it starts to produce a lesser quality of hoof wall. This poor quality hoof wall is thin and usually brittle making it much easier for it to wear and chip away thus aiding itself to achieving the desired length. This poor quality hoof wall is not good news for any hoof, but can quickly be corrected by keeping the hoof wall short during the 9 to 12 months while it is growing out.

    Anyway, keep us updated! :)
    And if you have any more questions, I’m happy to try to answer.

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Something we don’t know about your mare is her breed, since several different breeds race. If she’s a TB, they are famous for having weak, shelly feet, because owners breed for one thing and one thing only: speed. They do not breed for good feet–just enough wall to tack a racing plate to. Just please don’t be disappointed in your mare or yourself if she’s unable to go barefoot. She’s a beauty, BTW. In case nobody’s told you so. 😉 Good luck to you both!

    ottbrider Original Poster ottbrider
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 33

    She’s Thoroughbred:) and she has those typical TB feet! I did forget to mention she was barefoot for 13 months before I put them back on and she was fine. She had them pulled May of 2014 and I got them back on around February this year. I totally forgot about that detail! She seems to be doing great with them barefoot so far btw! And thank you! I think she’s the most beautiful horse I’ve ever owned! And I would never be disappointed in her if she couldn’t go barefoot. Whatever she needs she gets it! Whatever is best for her is what she gets! Some call it spoiled but I call it giving back to her for doing so much for me:)

    No horse is incapable of learning- riders are just incapable of teaching

    ShilohsGirl ShilohsGirl
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 49

    I let my TB mare go barefoot, and I just use a hoof dressing. I jump (3′) and do dressage, trail ride and have never had a problem!

    "Think of riding as a science, but love it as an art" ~George Morris

    Dallas
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 4

    It really depends on your horse- while I did not read the other comments fully, if your horse has thin souls and is easily bruised, and you intend to do trails on rocky terrain, then its only fair she has protection with the shoes.. if boots work, thats great.. but your farrier should be able to tell you if your horse can handle being barefoot.. while its “natural” for some horses, TBs are not mustangs.. they were bred for speed, not survival.. some do fine , others do not.. ask your farrier or vet if shes got thin souls and if she gets bruised up badly, its only fair that you put shoes on for protection.. turned out and unridden, she would probably be fine. But if you are going to work her on areas where she just can’t handle rocks and ends up bruising and chipping her feet badly.. then you have to give her some protection.

    SecondStorm
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 5

    All horses can go barefoot. You may have to boot in rough terrain but there is no reason to use metal on any horse for any reason. Good on you for putting your horse first and getting rid of bits and shoes!

    Check out http://tribeequus.com/, http://www.equinesciencesacademy.com/, and http://hauteecole.ru/en/news/ for lots of great info!

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