These Are Not Reasons To Shoe A Horse, Young or Old

horse1Interesting article from The Horse, addressing the question whether older horses need to be shod. I find these to be the most frustrating sort of articles to read. The author comes to the conclusion that some horses ‘just need shoes’ (as so many so often “just” do). But, not only are her ‘reasons’ for shoeing flawed, nothing in them or the article addresses the specific issue of an older horse needing shoes. And think about it – what about an older horse would make his hoofcare needs any different from a younger one’s? (Answer: nothing) Only thing I can think of is that they’re assuming an older horse’s workload is reduced and thus the need for shoeing. But the article doesn’t go into that, discussing active horses.


Although he has pretty decent feet for a Thoroughbred, it was pretty clear he needed some extra support to successfully navigate the varied terrain on which eventing takes place, based on his short and choppy stride coupled with the fact that his front hooves started chipping like crazy once he started jumping. Our farrier tacked on a pair of front shoes and things have been going well. Continue reading

Winter Hoofcare and Shoes

discusses winter hoofcare and advises that there is little circulation in the lower leg in winter. Obviously they’re imaging shod legs. But why would less circulation result in greater concussion? They only say harder ground can lead to sole bruising. Would be nice for a technical article like this to support their assertions.

“Beware of foot concussion Turner advises owners to take caution when riding in the cold. “Using thermal imaging in winter, we frequently can’t find horses’ legs,” he says. “There’s not a lot of peripheral circulation there. So, if you’re going on a trail ride, use common sense about pounding your horse down the trail; foot concussion prevention may be compromised during winter.”

Fleming adds, “In areas where it gets really cold and the ground frozen, horses that are fine during summer may get sole bruising. Keep that in mind, whether you need to put them in soft-ride boots or, if you’re doing conventional shoeing, putting pads in.””

Remember these tips when planning and preparing your horse’s winter hoof care regimen.


I once removed the shoes from an Arabian horse, in the dead of winter. As I was handling his feet to remove the shoes I noticed his front legs were ice cold. Once the shoes were off, the legs warmed up noticeably in a matter of minutes. The owner was shocked. The hoof is a highly developed insulating mechanism. If it doesn’t have metal nails conducting cold directly into it and the ciruclatory elements (capillaries), the temperature will not be lowered, and will travel up the leg to keep the leg warm.

Will Removing My Horse’s Shoes For More Than a Few Cycles Help?

People often ask this question, so I thought I would copy a question/comment from one of the case studies which is typical of owners trying to decide whether to go barefoot – temporarily or longer:

shod hoofI 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.

Select comment christina
Submitted on 2014/09/29 at 9:04 pm | In reply to Kristen.
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! Continue reading

What is A Healthy Hoof?

Everyone talks about healthy hooves, but what truly makes a hoof healthy? There are some aspects of hoof form that can be considered healthy whereas others that can be considered hoof distortions, usually from growing too long/incorrectly combined with improper trimming (more so than improper shoeing, per se).

Let’s talk about a few examples.


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Do You Have a Metabolic Horse?

Low starch meals are forage based

Low starch meals are forage based

There are multiple avenues for approaching the ever-growing problem of metabolic horses. Most of the attention has focused on the diet and limiting intake of grass and in the case of obese horses, hay as well. This is a self-perpetuating cycle as it puts the horse in starvation mode which releases the hormones that contribute to obesity and metabolic syndrome.


Copra (coconut meal)

Low starch foods only work so far in helping to solve the problem (and one of the newer choices available to horse owners is copra (cococut meal) a low sugar foodstuff.

It is no secret (or shouldn’t be) that regular consistent exercise is one of the best ways to manage, reduce and even eliminate metabolic syndrome (and accompanying problems of laminitis). But recent research has shed a little more light on why. There is a white fat cell (which stores fat) and a brown fat cell (which generates heat and burns fat). Exercise will convert white fat cells to brown ones which in turn will result in weight loss.

Snow is no problem for barefoot horses

Snow is no problem for barefoot horses

In people, researchers have found that:

• Slender people have more brown fat than obese people do
• Younger people have more brown fat than elderly people, and
• People with normal blood sugar levels have more brown fat than those with high blood sugar

So it is not much of a stretch to think that this could also be the case in horses. So, saddle up and get working. If your horse’s feet are tender because of metabolic induced mild laminitis, start out with padded boots. Eventually you will be able to ride completely barefoot.

The Hoof Is The Mirror To Your Horse’s Health

I came across this post  on my new favorite blog, Good Horsekeeping and thought I would share it.  The focus is on the two extremes – from very unheatlhy to very healthy, but there is a lot of room in between the two. It is important to learn to recognize what hoof rings are telling you. It usually means there is some form of inflammation going on inside the hoof.

An  upset in the horse’s metabolic system eventually shows itself in the hoof wall texture and horizontal rings.  The hoof becomes a mirror of the internal imbalances.
MMP enzyme, (matrix metalloproteinase) controls the growth and direction of the laminae in the hooves.  This enzyme is well regulated in a healthy system providing flexibility in the connective tissues of the hoof wall.


The cecum, in the hind gut is part of the digestive process.  It is a fermentation sac containing microbials that assist in breaking down the forage.When the diet is high in grains and sugars this causes the bacterial population of the hind gut to rapidly increase damaging the lining of the colon and releasing toxins into the bloodstream.

Continue reading

Cross Section Through Shod Hoof

This is an image of a cross section through a hoof with the shoe still attached and showing how the nail goes through the foot into the white line.  It appeared originally in The Hoof Blog, in a post discussing the use of MRI’s for diagnostic purposes and the proper removal of shoes

This is a fascinating, rarely seen view of the shoe and nails penetrating the hoof.  It is remarkable how close the nail is to the edge of the coffin bone.  Click on the image for a larger view.

Hoof Cross Section With Shoe and Nails Attached

Hoof Cross Section With Shoe and Nails Attached

White Line Tightens Up After Shoes Are Removed

The transition from shod to barefoot almost always results in the white line growing in more tightly as a result of the absence of leverage of the wall away from the coffin bone due to the presence of the shoe. While the shod part of the wall is growing down, there is a ‘ridge’ visible where the white line has started to grow in more tightly.

The hoof is shod.


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Barefoot Care for Beginners

This is a guest post from Linda Carter who enjoys the World Wide Web, animals and blogs on horse trailers and equestrian life.

For many inexperienced horse riders or owners, the prospect of having a horse without shoes might seem like a very unusual prospect but once it is considered that wild horses are extremely unlikely to be shoed then the prospect of barefoot care suddenly doesn’t seem so unusual.

Step One to the Barefoot Transition

Step One to the Barefoot Transition

Barefoot is an extremely popular aspect of holistic animal care where the hoof itself is trimmed. The practice came about as a result of the perceived harm which can be caused to the horse and its legs as a result of shoeing and it is for this reason that it has remained popular. Continue reading

The Farrier and Natural Hoof Care

There are approximately 300 different horse breeds and an estimated 6.9 million horses in the United States alone. Horses are used for everything from racing to simple trail rides. Their environments range from the black asphalt and concrete of large cities to the rugged mountain trails of Montana. My point is that there are thousands upon thousands of different uses and environments for horses, but some people advocate that there is only one approach to hoof care. On one side, natural hoof care advocates state that there is absolutely no use for shoeing a horse. farrierA select few might go as far as saying that shoeing a horse is abuse. On the other side, others zealously argue that natural hoof care is nothing more than a scam. The passionate debate between natural hoof care advocates and traditional farriers often drives a wedge between the two sides and makes it difficult to accept the merits on both sides.

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