With today's equine scientists proving that shoes actually damage horses' feet, we are no longer entitled to have opinions. We owe it to horses to give them back their own hooves! Soon it will be illegal to shoe horses so I hope we're all learning to trim!

100% are barefoot. About 150 equines. I consider if horse is boarded at a facility that will support my customer's decision to go barefoot, how knowledgeable customer is about process of shoeless transition, if customer seems willing to put in the time and effort required to take most horses from a shod to natural hooves. The time involved and bootings support owner can offer depending on the horse's hoof condition at the time of removing shoes.
—Pat Wagner

In my area most trails are fairly sandy and many horses do well barefoot. The biggest question I ask is how far do you need to ride on the road before the trail and how much you ride. I also examine the hoof capsule and make sure there are no issues that may prevent a healthy hoof. I also caution the owner that barefoot means more care and often trims to keep the capsule healthy.

For me, deciding on barefoot or shoeing is a question of protection, wear and correction. If the horses has no issues that shoeing would help and if the foot is healthy and can comfortably handle the riding intensity and environment without shoes. Then we go barefoot.
—Wesley Stewart

Susanella, REALLY??? Can you produce study results by these "equine scientists" that shows indisputable proof that every hoof I nail(or glue) a shoe onto is being damaged? Who is going to make it illegal to shoe a horse, and how soon? I have over 400 horses on my book, and close  to 300 stay unshod year round. Economics play a big part in that, as there are more that probably need to have shoes from time to time. I learned how to read a hoof and properly trim it 25 years ago. Most of the horses I work on live outside 24/7 all year, where we have all 4 seasons to the extreme. Have tried leaving flat footed, thin walled QH's and TB's unshod during summer droughts or hard frozen rutted out paddocks in winter, and they are MUCH happier with a shoe for protection and support.
—Mike Wells

Most of my horses are bare, but there are some who are happier in a set of shoes or human doesn't want to mess with boots. I have seen too often horses who are bare, but would go so much better if helped. Competent trimming and shoeing makes a better foot so it pretty much depends on how dedicated the farrier is and how involved the human part of it wants to be educated about their horses feet and general health.

What "proof" is that? It seems that those of us who have studied something besides Ramey or the BUA garbage would be aware of such a discovery. What we have "proof" is of is that nothing we do with horses is "natural", and the things we ask them to do can increase the wear on the foot enough that the growth can't keep up with it. I've heard all about how farriers "just want to sell shoes". That would be the longest con in history! (Except for marriage) I'm pretty sure the phonecians didn't develop the hipposandal so I could make an extra $40 per horse a few hundred generations later...

Susanella, your comment is the type of attitude why farriers and trimmers butt heads. Proper shoeing does not damage hooves and can hlp keep horses sound and working much longer then ever before.

I had one lady ask me: "If you don't put shoes on my horse, how will you make money?" I told her that I won't do unnecessary work just to make more money. A lot of horse owners have them shod because they believe you're supposed to. I will shoe if the workload, terrain or lack of a good digital cushion require them. Most pleasure horses don't need shoes. However, shod or barefoot, you need to learn how to trim properly.

How many of the horses on your books are barefoot vs shod? In my practice about 20% are bare and obviously 80% not bare. If an owner is interested in going barefoot or shod, what factors will you consider before making the transformation? There is no one modality that is correct for all horses at all times. So no matter which way the owner wants it, I explain the transition pros and cons so they are fully aware that there is a transition and what is envolved. To make those decisions I also discusss conformational issues, pathology issues, environment and use situations. An educated consumer is far better. All that being said, if I believe that their transition choice will not be in the best interest of the horse, I will not perform the work and have them choose someone else.
—Esco Buff, PhD, APF, CF

Susanella, just for verification, would you give me references to four or five peer reviewed studies by four or five true equine scientists that prove demonstrable damage beyond nail holes that will grow out.

I see a lot of comments from what appear to be "barefoot trimmers". I have a more common sense approach. It depends. On the horse, the rider, the quality of the horses foot, the footing the horse is ridden on, the discipline the horse is doing, etc. While I have nothing against barefoot horses (at least half of mine are barefoot), not every horse in every situation can go barefoot. There are times when the needs of the horse exceed what the barefoot can deliver. "Natural" horses do not run around barrels or poles with a rider on their back. There are times when something is needed to assist a horse in recovering from something (i.e. founder) that being barefoot just can't resolve (see Esco Buffs record for turning around the most serious cases using positive pressure heartbars...can't do that barefoot). There are too many variables to say that every horse can go barefoot or needs shoes. Again...it depends.

If only it were that easy to choose one over the other. I have been back and forth, throughout my career, and truly feel you have to have experience in both realms, working for horses with varying degrees of pathology, to start to appreciate the pros and cons of shod and unshod applications. We can get stuck in what came first, the chicken or the egg. In the end, we generally see more hoof pathology than hoof health. The latest Brumby research presented at the IHCS this past Feb. clearly pointed that out, much to our surprise. After 3 years of documenting hoof pathology in feral horses, we see that they too are trying to cope with the various enviroments and living conditions on hand. Our domesticated horses are no different; they are reacting to various stimuli, but in addition they are asked very different questions because of the expectations and circumstances we place on them. I like to tackle it from a bit different perspective for our domesticated horses. The "trim" is KEY above all else. If you come up short on the trim for the hoof, on that day, you add back the support through an external assist. The external assist you choose, is the best solution offering the best support and bio-mechanics for the individual hoof. While boots will protect the sole, they won't assist with bony column alignment or break over in the unbalanced foot, so caudal inflammation continues. A badly trimmed unshod horse will try to recover in spite of us, if the hoof capsule offers enough protection. If not, they too spiral downhill towards inflammation and pathology. Shoe packages can provide a myriad of assists when applied properly, on a well prepared trimmed foot that needs additional assist. However, poorly trimmed hooves and poorly placed shoes, exacerbate the rate of hoof distortion. It becomes a matter of well thought out choices as your hoof case progresses - which solutions offer the best long term outcome dependent on how the hoof is reacting. I think most all of the factors to consider when deciding to go shod or unshod have been well explained in other responses posted, with the exception of one - you have to also consider traction, specifically in extreme sports, to ensure you can increase or decrease traction for the task on hand. I have found that BOTH shod and unshod hoof treatments, in combination together, often complement each other for soundness recovery and long term maintenance. I appreciate the barefoot movement, for bringing trimming techniques and bio-mechanics and nutrition, to the forefront. Not all trimmers or trimming protocols are equal, but as it too is an evolving process, I appreciate that it has shifted focus back to the importance of the "trim". I appreciate farriers for their vast knowledge and skills of manipulating external support systems. Not all shoers are created equal; you need an optimal trim, proper shoe selection, and proper shoe and nail placement - if you miss the mark, the hoof distortions and pathology progress EXPONENTIALLY - and may likely have been the catalyst that started barefoot trimmers (an horse owner outcries) looking to find alternate solutions. If we can remove our egos out of the equation, and plan a long term strategy for each horse's needs, be willing to learn, no matter how many years we have under our belts, communicate respectfully with each other, and keep the client and vet informed, I think we could all be very powerful together, for the sake of the horse. Best regards.
—Sylvia Kornherr, EPT

True... different strokes for different folks... oh, and horses too... lol It depends on the situation. I put shoes on my rope and ranch horses. I put rim shoes on barrel racing horses... race plates on race horse... eventers on trail horses so they will have traction and protection on varying terrain... my mustang has "good feet" so he is barefoot and maintained with the "mustang roll". LONG LIVE FARRIERS!

Susanella, I would think any good farrier already knows how to trim don't you? What is it that you think they do before applying that shoe. Give it a rest. If you want to prove your point why don't you show us this scientific data. Like someone else already said, it's people like you who make trimmers and farriers butt heads.

To Sylvia, Jim, Esco, and J.J.; You folks have eloquently said what I believe in, so I won't repeat your efforts, but I would like to add to it. I learned how to shoe 16 years ago, then learned about going barefoot ten years ago. I admit I was caught in a crossfire of philosophy of shoes vs. barefoot. I quit shoeing my own horses and maintain them on a consistent 20 day rasping interval. (I figure if I have time to run a curry comb and brush, then I have time to run a rasp. It's what works for the horses, and it's what works for me.) Ultimately, I developed a larger clientele of barefoot, yet I never got rid of my anvil. I often felt that by shoeing horses I was being hypocritical in believing one thing yet doing another. This feeling was due heavily inpart to the "your going to hell for hanging steel" mentality projected to me by some of the clinicians that I learned from! Likewise, If I mentioned barefooting to some of the ardent people who believe that no horse can go without shoes no way-No how! They looked at me as if I had a third eye in the middle of my forehead! Over the years I have taught some horseowners how to trim, or maintain compactness of their horses feet and have lost business for it. The "lost business" is due to their proficiency to help themselves help their horse. That is a payment of satisfaction for me! Unfortunately, the thing I find most discouraging in shoeing or barefooting is that many horseowners simply sabotage the principles of both through abject neglect! When those who desire to go barefoot don't maintain a schedule, won't use boots when required, then bad mouth barefooting as not working, or likewise, when those who think that the best shod hooves are the ones that hold shoes on the longest (i.e. one year and three weeks to the day it was previously shod!), then wonder why their horse feels miserable, are the ones that we as hoofcare providers truely struggle with. My personal solution has been to seek a balanced mind a seek to do that which is truely beneficial to THAT horse at THAT given time, use, or place. It wasn't until just this past November that I decided to learn how to forge shoes and APPLY them. Again the biggest payment manifested itself in seeing how the horse and it's hooves are progressing through modified shoes, and hearing the joy in the owner's voice for a once again usable horse. I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from people like you! Thank you! :)
—Darrell Eddington

I have had the oppurtunity to work with a trainer in the Mustang challenge. He got 3 colts from the wild never trimmed in their 3 years. They all came with a "normal" feral hoof. In the 100 days of training, I never trimmed them other than remove exfoliating frog and sole. They never saw a bedded stall yet they all had dramatic changes in toe-heel length. IN the 100 day they looked like a "normal" domestic horse. So my conclusion was that envirnoment had much more to do than our trims. I'm sure you western farriers can concur.

Hi Darrell. It is really refreshing to hear about your journey and self development. Thanks for sharing. I try to remember to wake up each day considering very wise advice given to me by my dear mentor many years ago, which you have so eloquently captured... "We miss more by not looking, than by not knowing" M.W. Myers D.V.M.  Thanks for taking the time to "look" and share with us. Good luck in your exciting discoveries and come back and share with us!
—Sylvia Kornherr, EPT

The question is not "can all horses be barefoot?", for indeed, the answer to that question is "yes". The question that is relevant is "SHOULD all horses be barefoot?", and the answer to that question is, demonstrably, 'NO'. Several others here have responded by using a phrase which has been a staple for me for most of my career. That phrase is "It Depends". A member of the BUA posted here that "With today's equine scientists proving that shoes actually damage horses' feet, we are no longer entitled to have opinions." The absurdity of that statement is breathtaking since there is not one scintilla of research or evidence that shows that a correct orthosis applied to a correctly trimmed hoof is detrimental to health and welfare of either the horse in toto or the hoof, specifically. In fact, quite the opposite has been and is routinely demonstrated. And to make matters worse, that individual states that we are not entitled to have opinions. Say what??? That alone sums up the perverse and small minded nature and ignorance of a BUA absolutist. And that attitude has no place along the hoof care continuum. Fortunately, said BUAtista showed she has a sense of humor when she stated 'Soon it will be illegal to shoe horses....' While amusing and entertaining to me, it is also sad and potentially worrisome that in this day and age, that mentality evidences a lack of ability to use the skills of critical analysis and critical thinking, and a failure in her education to acquire the skill set required to be able to read for content in context with comprehension. I think that perhaps Benjamin Franklin summed it up best when he said "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."
—Rick Burten

When my kids were little they ran around barefoot all the time. When we took them someplace, we put shoes on their feet. When they started school, they had to wear shoes to protect their feet. One child needed orthopoedic shoes for problem. When they started going to gym class they needed different shoes. They needed traction so they wouldn't slip on the gym floor. When they got into high school they went out for track or basketball or football or tennis. For each of these activites they needed special shoes to enhance their performance.  When they came home, they went barefoot again. So, what is the difference between my children and my horses? Not much in footcare. Some can go bare and some need shoes. The real problem for farriers is to know when they can do what and to treat their feet for each individual situation.
—Dave Kidd

My TB mare is barefoot and I maintain her myself. I ride dressage and she is comfortably adapted to her environment. I think it is two forces that create the hoof on a horse. The forces coming down from the horse (soundness, way of going and health) and the forces coming up to the hoof (environment and terrain). Because we put horses in situations that make it impossible for them to adapt quickly enough, I think shoes or boots are in order. If we could view it in this way, then there really isn't an argument.
—Nancy Speir

When I was working as a farrier full time, 90% of the horses in my practice were barefoot part or all of the year. I now teach a (bare) hoof trimming curriculum at the college level. I don't teach shoeing, but still do a little of both on the side. A key part of the curriculum is about shoeing: the benefits it holds, and the negative effects when it's done poorly. In my experience there is very little if any harm done when horses are shod and maintained WELL, and for many horses the benefits outweigh those costs by a mile. However, there are horses out there NOT being shod in a physiologically and biomechanically sound manner, and another group being shod pretty well but whose care and use are not supporting good hoof development. It's not the shoes that are the demon here...
—Abby Nemec Bloxsom

Here we go again! At the IHCS I discussed the WIDTH method of figuring out if a horse needs shoes or not: W is for what kind of WORK, I is for the INTENSITY needed to do the work, D is for the DURATION of the work, T is for the TERRAIN the horse is used on, and H is for the individual HORSE, breed, conformation, etc. Sorry Susanella, your statement is without proof or merit.
—Steve Kraus

I shoe and sell boots to any client that request it. No skin off my back. However, one example to argue against ultimatums is an endurance horse I shod without any issues until he went barefoot at owners request. Boots were used on all four. This is the rocky southwest and protection is needed. What followed was due to this horse's conformation and narrow stance. All four fetlocks became cut and bleeding. The extra width of the boots were to much for this poor fellow. Once shod again in steel the cuts went away. The client meant well but that good intention now includes steel shoes nailed on and not protruding into this horse's natural way of going.

While most of the comments I've read here speak of common sense, I have to say I'm dissapointed in Susanella's. I think I just write it off to someone thinking with their heart and not equipped with the knowledge. After 45 yrs. in the horse industry in some form or other, farrier, film wrangler, roper, trainer, etc., I realize there is no cut and dry answer. Please Susanella open your eyes, ears and absorb the knowledge that's there for you.

One major thing the barefoot movemont is lacking is affiliation with the A.F.A. The term "Barefoot Trimming" means many things and actually has a bad reputation, generally, among the highly respected figures in the equine industry. Although some of the barefooters are certified by their own organization, and are doing work varying from one end of the spectrum to the other, there are no set standards between the two organizations as of yet. There are no hard and fast rules in dealing with any one horse, other than good, sound principles, which are not rocket science, yet without a standard guideline, we have novice trimmers making a mess of hooves. Boots can work, with a proper trim and tight schedule, on a horse that is comfortable in his stall and pasture barefoot. It is also a matter of practicaliity for the owner. The boots must be cleaned regularly, and fit properly so they stay on during work, and don't twist, or rub. Furthermore, through the years, I havn't seen evidence that a "proper" trim and shoeing job actually causes any problems. It's the "Hack Job" farrier that gives shoeing a bad name.
—Josy Griffin

Glad the subject came up. Have two individual cases. Trims done by the same barefoot "specialist". One was on the so called year transition, other first trim. Be reminded the trim was done by someone who knows what they are doing. Was also very reputable in the area. The year long could not keep boots on. He always was unhappy, never wanted to run play even in cool weather. Got a call put shoes on him. Walked off better than walked up. Owner called; never had she seen this horse so happy in the last year. Still going sound, feet look better than ever. It's a year later I will add. Second case not so lucky. Got a call after she was talked into no shoes after an endurance ride. Barefooter came out 3 weeks later. Got a call. You know the call. Horse was rocked on back end; didn't want to move. Informed her she needed a vet. Two weeks later horse was put down. The coffin bone was coming through the sole. Let me remind you the horse was sound previous afternoon; nothing changed, but the trim. In quotes vet said, "This is the work of the person who trimmed his feet." The horse was a patient of his. He knew the horses history and what shape the the feet were in. If you figure the over head of a shoe and trim most farriers make more money with a trim. Unless it's very high end.

Where I live on the edge of the Rocky mountains, there aren't many full time trimmers. Horses need foot protection to go to the mountains and most of the people I know who boot, do their own trimming. In defense of everyone, farriers, trimmers and owners, I do not know of a case where a horse has been seriously affected by a single trim. Sore footed, certainly, but not crippled, foundered or euthanized. But let's consider a horse I did a couple weeks ago. Truly a delightful horse from the ground, but never really comfortable or happy under saddle. Not lame, just not comfortable. I suspected a negative palmar angle in back, said "Let's just wedge her up and see what she thinks". Four degees (53 to 57) and an immediate and remarkable difference. Makes one wonder how a barefooter accomplishes this. If they try to remove that much toe length (about 3/8"), it would likely be a disaster. Boots with wedges would help on rides, but what about the other 160 or so hours in the week? Perhaps a two year transition period trying to build the caudal structures, but why? If a horse can do his job comfortably, that's good. If he can do it comfortably barefoot, even better, but if not comfortable nor not getting the job done, let's get it fixed.
—Jack Evers

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