Friday, May 10, 2013

Barefoot, Barefoot with Boots, or Shoes

Hoof care is something that most horse people try to keep on a regular schedule of every 6-8 weeks.  Scheduling depends greatly on several factors; how fast the individual horse grows hoof, if barefoot how the individual horse wears its feet down, how a horse is kept, what type of terrain is in the horse's enclosure, whether the horse is conformationally correct, and the list can go on for what seems like eternity.  And the answers to these questions will affect how you manage your horse's hoof care schedule and how its feet are kept, whether it's barefoot or with shoes.

Before you decide to try barefoot with your horse, have a detailed conversation with your farrier, and your vet, in regards to how you use the horse, how it is kept, whether there is currently any corrective shoeing being utilized, your vet can point out the pros and cons of going barefoot for your horse.  You will also decide if you want the feet trimmed like they normally are, just minus the shoes; or if you want to start to set up the Mustang Roll, which closely mimics how Mustangs wear their feet naturally.  Not every farrier know how to develop the roll, so you may have to change farriers to find one that can; A.) properly set-up and maintain the Mustang Roll, and B.) get along with and handle your horses to your liking.  To me, B is just as, if not more important than A.  If Lady isn't happy with a farrier, than neither am I, and she makes no attempt to hide her thinking that someone is over-stepping the boundaries of their position at the barn.  She's never offered to bite or kick, but she gets agitated, and shows it, depending on how the new farrier acts, she either settles down or gets worse.  I've only ever found one farrier that bothered her, and that was because he was actually intimidated by her and she picked up on it.

Back to the proper subject, not every horse is a candidate for going barefoot, because of hoof conformation defects, living environment, and breeding (not Breed).  An extremely flat footed horse will usually no do well barefooted, but you'll never know until you try, just be aware that you may to be able to ride until your horse adjusts to being barefoot again.  Horses that live in a stall 24/7, or are only turned out for short periods in grass fields, usually aren't candidates for going completely barefoot when being ridden in anything other than an arena that is prepared and soft.  These horses, however can be barefooted the majority of the time and wear some type of hoof boot when necessary for their comfort.  They get the benefits of being barefoot, without being uncomfortable from being on footing that they are not accustomed to.

Some horses just can not be without shoes of some sort or another year round, even when they are not being heavily used.  If your horse requires corrective shoeing, you know it because you are paying for it, and usually a lot.

I personally think that every horse owner should look into the feasibility of their horses going barefoot, on a case by case situation.  Because whether it is completely barefoot all of the time; or barefoot the majority of the time with the use of hoof boots for riding on unusual or hard terrain; the horse gets the benefits of running around like nature intended it to.  I personally keep my horses barefoot, and also completely understand that this option is not necessarily  feasible for every horse.  So, I am not going to say that every horse should be kept barefoot.  I will however say that every owner should figure out what works best for their horses and them.

Good luck, happy trails, stay safe, and God bless you and yours.

Until next time,