The WIDTH Protocol

An objective approach to determining appropriate hoof care for a horse

  • What is the best way to manage horses’ feet?
  • Are shoes a necessary evil?
  • Is barefoot “natural,” and thus better than shod?
  • Is “natural” trimming best for the horse?
  • Can horses work well without shoes?

And so it goes — to the point that some debates are hotter than those of last year’s presidential campaign.

The objective of this article is to attempt to quell the continuing debates and opinions and instead encourage horse-care teams to think about what is best for the individual horse.

When you do this, the facts or data will lead you to the best answer for how to best manage individual horses’ hooves.

The Question Of Shoes

Horseshoes can harm feet when applied improperly but they also are used regularly to help lame horses become sound and keep sound horses healthy, competitive and productive. If natural models work well for feral horses, can they work well on domestic horses in other environments? Certainly, many horses can work or compete without shoes. But can they perform their best when barefoot? Some can, and some cannot.

When shoeing horses, there are some absolute truths that must guide our thinking:

  1. How well a hoof is trimmed is the foundation of any shoeing (or barefoot care) and creates the blueprint to which the shoe is shaped.
  2. An incorrect blueprint yields an incorrect shoe.
  3. An…
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Steve Kraus

Steve Kraus, CJF, is Cornell University’s head of farrier services and senior lecturer for large animal surgery. He has been a farrier for more than 45 years.

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