I am a barefoot trimmer by choice, but am not against horseshoes. I realise that there are a number of situations and reasons why horses may benefit from them and maybe circumstances where horses need shoes to effectively work. It is unfortunate that the reason some horses ’require’ shoes is because of the unnatural management and feeding of the domestic horse (or pony). There are undoubtedly benefits in not nailing on metal shoes to a horse’s feet, but only if the horse can cope with what is required of it.
Some of the difficulties of keeping a horse barefoot, or for the problems that are dealt with by shoes, can be overcome with the use of hoof-boots, the quality of which are improving all of the time; making them easier to fit, helping boot retention, improving traction and preventing rubbing.
Horses and ponies not in work are unlikely to require any form of protection e.g. foals, brood mares, “companion animals” and “pasture pets”. For working horses and ponies whether they need some form of foot protection or not will depend on how strong the hooves are, whether they are “conditioned” for the surface the horse is being worked on (See “Conditioning of the horses’ feet” article website link), and the intensity and frequency of the work they are doing.
Having been living in the generally very dry environment of Southern California, what surprised me was seeing horses with good strong feet with shoes on in circumstances where they would undoubtedly cope unshod for the amount and type of ‘work’ they do.
I am disturbed by seeing a horse’s feet that have developed problems because of the way it has been shod, so that if its shoes are removed then it cannot cope. I am equally disturbed by seeing a horse’s feet that have been trimmed excessively so that it too is not able to work and, in some cases, the owner even resorts to having shoes put on. It is my aim, on this website, in my book and in my work, to try to educate owners so that they can make the most informed decision on the best way to deal with the feet for the horse to achieve its full potential, whether this is barefoot or with some form of foot protection.