Many horse owners have considered transitioning their horse to a barefoot lifestyle, but are held back due to their concern over the transition period and the potential for unsoundness.  This is a valid concern, when a metal horse shoe comes off, many times the hoof is so unhealthy that it can not stand up to riding and daily wear without causing the horse some discomfort.

Some horses area able to quickly transition and grow very healthy and strong hoof and others may take extended periods of time or may always need some sort of extra support when being heavily worked.  Although wild horses all the ability to have a sound barefoot life, there are some factors that may impact the domestic horse from growing the ideal hoof.

  • Wild horses are constantly moving, and have been since they were very young.  This constant movement allows for optimal blood flow, creating healthy and strong hooves. Domestic horses often spend large periods of the day in the stall, and when they are outside have minimal space to move.  Further, many domestic horses also have their food source in one location, in the paddock, such as a round bale, further minimizing the horse’s need to move around.
  • The diet of the wild horse is very low in sugar compared to the domestic horse.  Many domestic horses have access to lush green pastures in the summer months as well as concentrated food sources such as grains or sweet feeds.  The increased sugar, will try to exit the horses body through the hoof in the form of horn production; therefore producing weak horn.
  • If transitioning an older horse to barefoot, after a life in shoes, some of the damage may become permanent.  Although many horses can return to healthy feet, some cases of contracted heels or other hoof deformities can only be slightly altered in older horses.

None of these concerns should act as a barrier form transitioning! There are many things you can help your horse in their journey to a healthy hoof.  One very effective solution is the use of Hoof boots.

Pros and Cons

  • Many of the shoes are tight fitting and made of inflexible plastics or other synthetic materials.  This does not allow the hoof to work as natural as if they were totally barefoot.  It is important that you correctly and accurately measure your horse’s hoof to find the brand and size that will best accommodate your equine partner, in order to avoid any potential problems.
  • Some boots can cause problems with rubbing if they come up above the coronet band.  But there are many different styles of boots that can accommodate for your horse’s specific needs.
  • Hoof boots are removable and only stay on the horse’s foot during exercise or work.  This allows the horse to toughen up their sole and work naturally when they are barefoot out on pasture.  Because the boots are impermanent, they do not impact the hoof the same way that metal shoes do. The nail holes in a metal shoe, can cause significant damage to the structural integrity of the horse’s hoof wall.
  • Some people dislike the inconvenience of putting the boot on and taking it off when working their horse.  However, as you become accustomed to putting the boots on and off they simply become part of your tacking up routine. On the flip side, you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of waiting for a farrier to come if your horse throws a shoe!
  • Hoof boots, over the long term can end up being far cheaper than metal shoes.  Although the initial cost is often higher, they pay for themselves quickly.  Metal shoes, even if they appear to be in good shape should not be reset more than once.  This is due to the wearing of the shoe occurs not only from the ground, but also from the horse’s heals trying to expand and contract.