Extremely Poor Hoof Form, Can’t Hold Shoes

Not sound, tender on gravel. The horse could not hold shoes, polyurethane were tried without success. Five months later:


BEFORE - inverted topline, rigid under neck muscling

BEFORE – inverted topline, rigid under neck muscling

AFTER - Relaxed, rounded topline, soft under neck muscling

AFTER – Relaxed, rounded topline, soft under neck muscling


  1. I can’t believe how far Sir Galahad has come since you started working with him! The day you met him, he was so sore I couldn’t even clean out his hooves with a brush. (Of course the “traditional” minded people were saying he just had to get used to the shoes… I couldn’t stand to see him in so much pain! At least when he was sore barefoot, I could help him by putting his boots on!) After his last trim, he’s like a brand new horse. Even his bone-jarring trot is starting to improve! The most surprising thing, to me, is that his front right hoof no longer points in toward his left hoof. I believed what everyone had told me about it being just how he’s built. I am so glad that I was proven wrong! The last time he wore his boots was the day I moved him closer to home and that was only to protect his hooves for the ride! I just rode him on 6/4/14 on his first trail ride since moving. He was great even on the slightly rocky section we had to cross to get around a fallen tree. Thank you so much for everything including giving me a brand new horse after over 4 years of on/off lameness!

  2. Hello!

    I have an Appendix gelding (15 y/o) who has terrible feet. They can go from too dry and hard to soft and mushy just within a shoeing period. His walls are very thin, and I had a farrier once tell me it “was like nailing through kitty litter” If we are careful, he can keep his shoes on a full shoeing period, but he often looses a LOT of wall around the nails/holes. I have decided to pull his shoes for a few months and let him wear Cavallo boots to protect his foot while in turn out. Do you think that letting him go barefoot for longer than a few trims (before I move barns) will be beneficial. If he gets lame without shoes, we might have to put them back on. I also heard that there is a difference in concussion absorption in aluminum vs. steel shoes. is this true? We are currently actively training for the 2’9 – 3′ hunters.

    • Hi Kristen!
      So glad to hear you are going to give your horse a chance to improve his feet by removing his shoes, at least for a while. There are several reasons that horses have poor hoof horn quality like yours does, and ironically the main reason for this is the presence of shoes. The other main reasons are stalling and exposure to wet/dry cycles – but these are all mitigated by removing shoes!

      The reason shoeing causes poor hoof horn quality is that it reduces blood flow to the hoof (for a variety of reasons) which negatively affects the quality of the wall. As soon as you remove shoes you will see an improvement in the quality of the wall. There will be a ring that grows down the foot where it will be very apparent where the shod growth ends and the barefoot growth begins. It will look different and feel different and have more ‘life’ to it. It is ironic indeed that a horse has to be barefoot in order to grow wall thick enough to be able to hold shoes – LOL! In my own horse’s case (typical TB) his wall thickness went from about 1/16″ thick to more than 1/4″ thick!

      The most important part of doing barefoot trimming successfully is getting a competent trimmer. There are techiques specific to allowing a horse to go barefoot with which regular farriers just aren’t familiar. They trim a foot to fit a shoe onto it, they don’t do anything differnt to account for it being left barefoot. Sorry but it’s true. And then they have to put shoes back on, at 4 times the cost, oh well. So if your horse is ‘lame’ without shoes, get an informed opinion on the trim. (I do such consultations which you can find on the Services page). Often a horse that is ‘lame’ without shoes has too much horn left in the wrong places that hurts to step on. That is not to diminish the need for a transition period which your boots will help with, but after the transition period is over the horse should be capable of working in a groomed ring and jumping with no problem.

      The idea that any metal has concussion absorbing properties is nonsense. If you google this phrase, the only hits that come up are related to shoeing. So, it is a myth that is fabricated to justify the use of shoes. It’s true that aluminum weighs less so there may be less concussion, but it certainly does not absorb anything. Concussion is absorbed by the hoof expanding on landing and a shoe does not allow the hoof to expand. So, no concussion is absorbed, rather it travels all the way up the leg to the shoulder and even the lungs. Whereas in a barefoot hoof it is dissipated by the time it reaches the fetlock.

      Congratulations on your decision, good luck, and let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

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