Many horse owners take shoeing their horse for granted, but in reality many horses can go barefoot with little difficulty. Here are some questions to consider if you are looking at making the jump from shoes to barefoot:
What type of feet does your horse have? Some breeds, such as Arabs, have exceptionally strong feet and do very well without shoes. However, you will need to discuss with your farrier or vet as to whether your horse is sound enough to go barefoot. Some conditions, such as founder, require corrective and therapeutic shoeing to keep the horse comfortable.
What type of riding do you do? If your horse is primarily worked on soft ground and you don’t show, going barefoot is probably just fine. However, if you are doing extensive trail riding on hard packed or rocky ground, your horse will need the additional protection of shoes.
Does your farrier have experience with barefoot trims? A barefoot trim needs to be handled just as carefully as putting shoes on a horse – it is not simply pulling the shoes and trimming the horse’s hoof. Ensure that your farrier is comfortable working with barefoot horses, and make sure to keep to a very regular trimming schedule.
Are you willing to listen to your horse? Above all, it will be your horse who dictates whether barefoot is a viable option. You will need to be tuned into your horse’s behaviour, watching for touchy walking, lameness, and hooves that are chipped or cracked. Some horses are more prone to abscesses when they go without shoes.
Are you considering barefoot to save money? This cannot be a financial decision. Often a barefoot trim is just as expensive as having your horse shod, and of course having a lame, sore horse will not bring savings to your pocketbook.