‘Horse shoes will be obsolete’ – says ex-farrier

by Linda Chamberlain

Meet Marc Ferrador. He was a much-respected farrier who had serious doubts about nailing shoes to horses’ hooves and decided to do something about it. Colleagues thought he was crazy when he announced he was turning his back on his trade but amazingly he convinced ninety per cent of his customers to try barefoot riding.

image

Now he says not only is the metal shoe harmful but so too is the horse’s lifestyle. In this interview, he calls on vets, farriers and riding teachers to bring themselves up to date for the sake of the animal which is suffering because of ‘this lack of evolution’.

Marc, who works in Catalonia, Spain, used to ride and compete. Twelve years after qualifying as a farrier he became a professor of farriery. In that time he worked on the creation of the curriculum and also a handbook for courses approved for the European Federation of Farriers Association. He describes the terrain in Catalonia as ‘special’ – it can be dry and unforgiving, so it’s a challenge to ensure horses are transitioned to barefoot without pain.

Please tell us about the moment you realised the harm shoeing causes.

The change in my professional career does not occur in a specific moment. I was a farrier and teacher for 14 years in the Official School of Farriers in Barcelona and some pupils and clients questioned me about the ‘barefoot movement’ so I started to search for information and people who were trimming nearby.

I wanted to see what happens when horses live barefoot. One of the biggest pillars of my change was to realise that young horses

lose health in their hooves with each shoeing. It makes them change the balance of the load on their hooves and even though every farrier of the world knows this, most of them are still shoeing horses.

It is stupid to be unaware of what a barefoot horse offers and decide to put a nailed-on shoe over his live structures to help him. We need to better understand those hooves (and horses) so that we can support most efficiently their health.

When a shod horse works hard, all his structures are stressed and he falls into a state of chronic disease – mechanical laminitis, infection in the water line, cracks across nails perforations, very stressed soles and stunting the back of the hoof. When a transitioned barefoot horse works hard, his structures are fine and healthy.

When I understood that you can’t help horses by systematically shoeing I looked for new hoof management systems to see how to protect them without a permanent shoe.

I had doubts and questioned my old teachers, as well as the master farriers and vets that I met. But none of them had any doubt about the iron nailed shoe and the horse’s welfare. This inability from the farrier/vet sector to be critical about their own work was the other reason to start my emancipation.

How did you feel knowing that your business had been shoeing?

Once I had information about barefoot horses and the new generation of hoof boots which can protect when needed I was ready to start my ‘transition’ with good arguments to explain my change to my clients. This was in 2009.

I told them that I can better help your horse’s welfare with these techniques because the nailed-on shoe, as well as the horse’s actual lifestyle, are obsolete and harmful.

I was able to transform ninety per cent of my customers to barefoot and have slowly found new clients – thanks to my internet site. Ten per cent left me. I was not angry about this, on the contrary, because they were good clients during the last 14 years and I searched a farrier for them. Some of them changed their mind in the last years and thanks to the good relations between us I started to work with them again. I can’t change everyone’s mind in one shout because I had also needed time to change.

imageI am proud to say that friend farriers and vets sent me customers who wanted their horses barefoot. I’ve been lucky in that aspect.

Nowadays, I’m very happy and feel fine with my option, because it is stupid to deceive yourself because you are afraid to lose some customers and money. I understand that nobody can change his mind in one day but you never can have a good excuse about not doing your job well.

All these business matters can change with good planning and good work with  people and horses. If you only work with the human part or with the horse part of your business, then sure you will get only a part of the achievement. Working with horses is also working with people. In front of each horse there is a person and if you want to help horses it is essential to treat people with respect.

What reaction did you get from fellow farriers?

There were different reactions. Some said I was crazy, others that I would lose a lot of money with this change. But now I have good customers and a very good reputation.

The other typical comment during that time was that not all horses have such good hooves to go barefoot.

They did not realize that the problem is not in the hooves but the life style of the horses.

Track systems provide a better lifestyle for horses

Track systems provide a better lifestyle for horses

Some other farriers also said they did not want to explain about how to improve the welfare of their clients’ horses.

I am very lucky to have here, in Catalonia, a group of farriers that trust me after sharing a lot of courses, farriers’ competitions and clinics. So the Catalan farriers usually share with me some doubts and ask me questions without problem and request me information about barefoot. I have always been happy to answer them.

Once I attended a National Congress of Veterinary and Farriers and realised that change is possible but needs to start inside the farriers’ community.

The horse world urgently needs a big change especially in everything related to horse welfare. For that reason we cannot waste time with silly arguments about morality. We need more science, more education and more results and all this can be done if we start transforming part of our existing professional sector.

In Europe, farriers learn in public schools and it is an accessible job, like veterinarians. We must be able to reach these young people to ensure a better future for our horses and not lose more time in a stupid war between different companies certified in barefoot, as the vast majority have no more than a business vocation to help horses.

This change comes by being generous. A young farrier who is well prepared can get in contact with many of the experienced farriers to learn from them without any expense. I’ve enjoyed this generosity and have learnt with the best people.

It is merely a matter of having access to good training, even after the studies. Barefoot professionals often remain closed to any other trimming methods and this is very dangerous as it impoverishes the quality of their work and its results. We are professionals. We are part of the horse’s health and this has a great responsibility, to use all the resources and techniques to help and heal our patients.

Why would you never shoe again?

In fact, I tried it on two occasions, both for rehabilitation issues. One with a horseshoe and the other with synthetic horseshoe extensions for a rescued horse who had severe deep flexor tendon retraction and after the operation, I put the orthopaedic horseshoes on for three months.

My commitment is with the health of my patients. I promise to use correctly all the resources that are on my hands. I understand that it would be irresponsible from my side not to do it.

In fact these are the only two cases in which the best option was the horseshoe, but over the last years I have been able to solve ninety nine per cent without using horseshoes in pathological cases, and in some cases inventing new orthopaedics that are not nailed or perpetual. We need a new orthopaedics catalogue.

In my experience, problems begin with a bad or lack of diagnosis which will lead to a bad solution. Never in history have there been so many well trained and equipped veterinarians as today. So, we can deduce that there is a problem with their attitude.

On a scale of 1-10, how serious a harm is shoeing to the horse?

Except in the one per cent of rehabilitation cases, I would say 10. We live in the 21th Century, with tactile screens, nanotechnology and drones. Is it logical to put an iron piece with nails to ‘protect’ the hoof? Of course, it is not.

The nailed shoe is seriously harmful. Just see how it deforms the soft tissues. But although we do not like to recognize it, the horseshoe has some advantages. It is minimalist compared to boots, it is highly integrated, leaving much open sole and is much cheaper.

Can you understand the reasons for hostility from some farriers towards barefoot?

Yes, of course. Farriers feel their job is at risk. They also feel hostility to those who “trim” horses barefoot rather than to barefoot itself. If you allow me to do the devil’s advocate, some farriers may be right when they say that a lot of people practising barefoot are not well prepared because they learnt in private schools or certifier organisations which demonize farriers and horseshoes instead of having a serious and scientific proposal about how to help the horse and its health, which unfortunately not too many farriers do.

More and more horses are barefoot. Are you surprised how many? Or did you hope more would convert by now?

I am not surprised right now but when I started with barefoot it surprised me that lots of people contacted me through my website in just a few months. Now, it is possible to find a lot of information about it on internet and not to be limited by the knowledge of the farrier or vet. This has allowed barefoot knowledge to spread very fast and to all the world.

But I was disappointed when I heard so much misunderstanding that most of the people had about barefoot horses. Most of them thought it was ideal because it was healthy, cheap and natural! As farriers, I had to fight with many owners who gave priority to their own interest against their horse´s ones. Unfortunately, this attitude is not exclusive to the barefoot world.

image (1)

In Catalonia, barefoot professionals have to be well prepared because the land is very special and not everybody knows how to convert a horse to barefoot without pain and discomfort. There is a lot to be done, not all is invented. A most scientific vision could be the key to develop much more technique.

And I am sure that the profile of a barefoot horse using a non-permanent protection when he really needs it and to improve the stabling and care systems, is going to be extended and normalized in a decade, and the iron horseshoe nailed as standard will be obsolete.

What do you feel when you see a horse in shoes?

At first, I feel pity. Then I assess how damaged is each structure. I cannot help it. It’s a shame that there are still people who shoe their horses for practical reasons, without thinking how it is affecting the health of their horses, with the support of owners of riding schools and coaches.

images5Z053VVF

The attitude of riding schools and teachers has not been updated and is slowing down the evolution of the horse sector and its well-being. Again, lots of work to do. It is understandable that people who want their horse to be healthier feel aversion towards farriers, vets and riding schools.

What are your 3 top tips for successful transition to barefoot?

The owner has to be aware of what transition means and what is the meaning of having a barefoot horse. It is about the horse, not just about hooves. The horse needs suitable feeding, the right environment and good handling. It is also important to understand that if we take off the horseshoes, the horse and its hoof structures will mark when and what to do.

In the UK there have been prosecutions against barefoot trimmers. Can you picture a day when the boot is on the other foot? That a farrier has to justify shoeing?

I do not know very well the situation in the UK, but I guess it is similar to what happens in France, where there has been a legislative change and only veterinarians and farriers can manage the hooves of horses. Certified training companies are excluded.

Based on my experience, I would say that a person who has made an intensive course of 10 or 15 days, is not ready to do podiatry. Farriers have a long experience in serious cases, technique and imagedifferent methods of handling difficult horses, physical exhaustion, etc.

We have to appeal to the responsibility if we want barefoot to be extended and make sure we have the best professionals. But we must request the same attitude to formal schools of farriers and veterinarians. Their training curriculum are obsolete and yet it is vital because the health of the horse is suffering from this lack of evolution. If everybody is up to date, there will be little difference between farriers and trimmers. From my point of view, this is the way.

The English vet Bracy Clark believed 200 years ago that shoeing deformed hooves and led to early death. Do you agree?

I totally agree that with horseshoes, the feet are deformed, and it is something known by all farriers in the world. But I could not say how much the lives of horses are reduced. It is risky to say without having a serious study to support it, because there are too many factors that can influence the life of a horse. I have known horses that have lived more than 35 years and some others who have been always barefoot and not reached 25 years.

On the other hand, it is unquestionable that damage is produced by the metal horseshoe in the foot health, in vascular return, in the joints and tendon, proprioceptive, lymphatic, etc …

Horseshoes produce numerous harmful effects, specially for immobility, producing degenerative habituation and damaging soft tissues. I say degenerative habituation because it is used in human health when prolonged immobilization harmfully affects the soft tissues and tendon tone.

What is your vision, your dream, of the future for the domestic horse?

Good locations and a healthy lifestyle. Updating and unification of the most important and basic health criteria and welfare of horses at all academic levels, leaving aside the dogmas and enhancing the scientific view.

Rule out the metal horseshoe nailed as usual and leave it as a possible aid in cases of clinical surgery and in extreme cases of rehabilitation. Exponentially improve protections for hooves with a better design, being more minimalist and having a better cost. Use only trimming systems that are radiologically corroborated.

Change the degree of farrier by podiatry, without the systematic use of horseshoes.  Have serious studies of feral horse populations in the world to give us more accurate information than we have today.  Create greater synergy between society and what is a healthy horse with pedagogy, collaboration and disclosure because we have to reset the old stereotype of horse that is deeply rooted and is doing so much damage.

I also desire that there many more places like this blog, where you can freely express different experiences to help improve the situation of the horse world. Thanks for your interest and your work, Linda. And also, I would like to thank Ainhoa Gomez and Roberto Reyes for the translation of this interview.

Thanks to Marc for answering my questions and coping with an interview in a second language. Interesting that he uses the word patient for the horse – an apt description for an animal coming out of shoes. You can contact Marc on his website

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberAs always – get in touch with your thoughts and comments. I love to hear from you. And don’t forget to press the follow button to keep in touch. My novel The First Vet inspired by Bracy Clark is available on Amazon UK (£6.99 paperback and £2.24 for the ebook on Kindle) and Amazon US. It will shock you that this brilliant man exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was ridiculed by a corrupt veterinary establishment. The book is a historical romance, full of horses and adventure, as well as real history. It has 35 five-star reviews on Amazon UK and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society. It was a sell out this summer at the international showjumping at Hickstead. 

And my non-fiction book A Barefoot Journey is coming soon. Here’s a sneak preview of the cover!

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)

STOP PRESSNOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON – £2.84 FOR THE PAPERBACK. 99P FOR THE KINDLE EDITION  In this light-hearted account I tell how I battled with my farrier, coped with derision from other riders and saved a horse from slaughter. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Advertisements

110 thoughts on “‘Horse shoes will be obsolete’ – says ex-farrier

  1. I never like having horses shod. I never put shoes on any of my horses and they were never lame.I rode them everywhere on pavement and rocky ground, they have better footing then I shod horse.
    I dont believe in shoes on horses that is why many have leg problems or break their legs.

    Like

      • obviously you do not ride outside the box. when you ride the concrete pavement roads this tends to ware off the hoof and when you have to ride down a gravel logging road or drive way or along the edge of the pavement those rocks cause stone bruising which will lay your horse up for a good 6 weeks or more soaking with hot Epsom salts helps but don’t cure it. there are also tiny rocks that will work up inside the the soft hoof walls and cause terrible abscesses and later blow out the whole side wall of the hoof Linda Chamberlain. I cannot imagine the purpose for your crusade in attempting to teach people the shoeing causes hazards to your horse and its health. you do realize your talking to people who know that horses have been shod for hundreds of years like we were not just born yesterday mmmkay? you take off my horses shoes that would be like taking someone teeth out of their head. make them venerable to stone bruises and abscesses. quit preaching about things you know nothing of. when my horses dont have shoes i cant ride ok? and if i took them off for five years he still would be lame the first rock he crammed into his foot.the only hazards with horse shoes are they are slick on concrete. i dont know who your really going to convince of this blasphemy but if you do they never owned a horse that they rode outside the box. (arena)=box

        Like

      • Thanks for commenting, Hannah. Well, I do ride outside an arena, mainly because I don’t own an arena and find going round in circles rather boring. I have a lovely memory of my elderly cob (the first horse I took barefoot) called Barnaby cantering with my neighbour’s shod horse on a really stony track. He kept up beautifully and suffered no bruising as a result. Once you’ve taken the time to transition and toughen up your horse’s hooves they don’t bruise or pick up stones. They have feet like rocks. But I am not a competitor and won’t impress anyone with my own riding skills. So perhaps for my next blog I will feature some barefoot folk who are doing brilliant things.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Monica, am I allowed to say I like nearly all of them. Anyone who helps a horse out of his shoes is worth reading and listening to. Anyone who helps increase our understanding of barefoot gets my thumbs up. My horses do quite well on the ‘Linda’ trim.

      Like

  2. I totally agree with this my horse is barefoot, who walks quite slow, and had a farrier mention he won’t walk slow if you put shoes on him, what a load of crap lol but don’t worry I will not be putting shoes on him x

    Like

  3. I have a 4 yr old Welsh mare just breaking her in I’m dertemind she we always go barefoot thankfully I have a farrier who agrees my 23 year old has had to go barefoot last 3 yrs because of the mess is feet were in

    Like

    • It’s wonderful that there are more and more young horses who have never suffered the injustice of wearing shoes. My novel is based on the work of Bracy Clark who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was ignored by the veterinary establishment. He had great trouble finding a barefoot horse to buy!

      Like

  4. Hi my horses are usually unshod, however, I find that in bigger competitions I need studs to stop my horse slipping in the wet, and I can’ thane studs without shoes. Any suggestions?

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting, Mary. Yes – your horse will slip less once his feet are working really well. So lots of riding on lots of different surfaces. If you can turn out 24/7, preferably on a track, he will do even better. Can you get some hard standing in his field so he gets used to some rough stuff without you riding him? Getting tough, flexible feet is the key. Have you joined the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook? Brilliant for ideas and support and very welcoming for people who are struggling.

      Like

    • Hi Mary, you can try a some hooves boots with option to put specific hoof boo tstuds without problem, like people than ride over ice in winter. Other option can be glue-ons shoes with the thread ready for use stud than prefer, but will need a specialist with this variations.

      Like

    • Trimmed specifically to go barefoot, the equine hoof’s
      inbuilt concavity is utilised. This is combined with hooves
      that are left to grow a bit longer with a prominent heel
      corner that can act as a ‘pseudo’ stud.
      The trimmer can use the rim of functional sole plane as a
      guide (it is actually the external skin on the bottom of the
      hoof that directly reflects the shape of the underlying pedal
      bone) and then trimming the hoof wall a consistent height
      above it, especially following the shape of the solar curve
      in the quarters. In addition, the outer wall (that component
      of hoof wall that grows down from the coronet band)
      should be rasped off at 45 degrees, thus leaving a sharp rim
      of inner wall to grab the ground.
      From this web site: http://www.barehoofcare.com/AB%20articles/Get%20a%20Grip.pdf

      Like

  5. This is so interesting, and I admire how honest he was able to be, and so open minded, when he saw the evidence. So many choose not to se the evidence.

    Sadly, I cannot see how shoes will becom obsolete, simply becuase of competing and the perceived need for studs. In England, you not allowed to enter ridden showing classes barefoot for safety reasons!!!!

    Like

  6. As a layman, it seems plausible to me that the question of shoeing would depend on what life a horse has been given. If we compare e.g. a horse dragging a heavy cart along cobble-stones the whole day with one that spends an hour a day being ridden along a forest path and spends the rest of the day playing in the fields, their needs are likely to be very different. (And shoes to feature comparatively low on the list of things the former would change, were it put in charge…)

    Could it be that the issue is simply one of chosing the appropriate solution for a given situation? (As opposed to shoes, or lack of shoes, being “evil”.)

    One-size-fits-all tends to be a harmful approach.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting point. In the interview Marc says something very interesting though. The horse that is doing a lot of work in shoes is damaged by the work. Don’t forget he’s landing on metal with every step. The horse that works very hard barefoot suffers no damage to his sensitive structures. He is strengthened by the work.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michael. I agree with we need to make better the diferents solutions to diferent situation but today there are a good materials and different boots and models and size to can help at 90% of horses. Is necessary to search and follow the blogs of hoof boots companys to can known the news and the possibles modifications. There are a lot of sizes and the last 5 years there was a big change in boots designs. But need a hoof boots more minimalist and with different options like studs or open sole for example. And with my opinion the vantages of nail shoe never cancompensate for the damage they do to the soft tissues. Maybe is betterthan we adapt to inconvenience of hoof boots than use the nail shoe.no question of believing or not, nor is a matter of faith, so much concerned that there is a clear evidence of an evil iron nailed permanently. Michael excuse me my poor English and thanks for your sincerity.

      Like

  7. I live in Germany and thank god my horses can go barefoot. I would still like to have the hoofes trimmed in a different way – but I can’t find a Ferrier who ist trained well enough to do so. One of my horses has a navicular bone issue and suffers of arthritis. I know I could help her a lot with correct feet. Can’t find anybody…

    I bet there are quite a lot horseowners having the same problems here in the north of Germany.

    Like

  8. I completely agree and I have been a bare hoof trimmer for nine years now. This is the way of the horse, not the way of the human. Though some horses who live in species inappropriate conditions and lifestyles may have more difficulty being bare hoof. A horses lifestyle has a lot to do with the strength and health of their hooves. Good article!

    Like

  9. Nice to see how many people feel about shoeing being so unnecessary and detrimental,we have competed for years and have been breeding for a little over 25years and in that time have not shod one of them,we have bought some horses in some which were shod,they are not now.the longest job has been the transition from all the years of the nail holes going through the stages of their feet looking really bad but 12-18 months down the line beautiful hard healthy hoofs.

    Like

  10. Wonderful commentary and I’m passing along to all my rider friends. This fellow has his work cut out for him and wish him much luck and success getting through to the 2 footed animals who wear blinders

    Like

    • I don’t drive with a horse myself but through a lovely Facebook group that I belong to I know a lot of people who do this barefoot with great success. Why don’t you check out the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook and get in touch with these amazing people? Lots of tips and a warm welcome. The correct living conditions, a good trim and correct diet help the horse to be very successful in all disciplines without metal on his feet.

      Like

      • My cob drove for about 2 years barefoot, no problem for him. He’s been barefoot all his life and genetically has stone crushing feet but if transitioning is done correctly and the nutrition looked at properly shouldn’t be an issue

        Like

  11. this article is totally ridiculous. I’ve had many horses I’ve tried to go barefoot,but couldn’t. Every horses hoof is different. My horse has a condition that means shoes- and I e tried barefoot, but without shoes he’s lame on grass paddocks. With shoes, he’s fine and also on trails,everything.
    Wished I’d never read the article. Waste of time.

    Like

    • Yes, Tami, every horse is different but they have one thing in common. They were all born without metal shoes nailed onto them. Sorry to hear you had difficulties trying barefoot. Don’t forget that we are very much at the beginning of this journey to get the domestic horse out of nailed-on shoes. We are learning all the time about the impact diet and lifestyle has on the horse. I also had a mare who struggled with the transition but she could no longer keep shoes on so I had no choice but to keep looking for answers. We found them in the end – movement, movement and a bit more movement. Plus low sugar diet and a good trim. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I rode when i was a young girl galloping along on the dirt roads of Iowa. I love horses. I always thought when I saw a horseshoe on a horse it was un-natural and didn’t look right, but was told it was good for the horse and it doesn’t hurt. I thought how can that not hurt. Well, I don’t have much to do with horses as an adult. I still love them, but our paths didn’t cross that way. I’m happy to read there is a movement to get those metal shoes off the horses. It does seem to be an archaic practice.

    Like

    • I probably need more information, Lori, to be able to give you useful feedback. However, if your horse is newly barefoot you can use hoof boots during the transition until his hooves harden up. To help them harden up make sure he’s moving as much as possible ideally 24/7 on a track or field without too much grass. If possible get some hard standing in the field so that he walks on hard ground every day. If he lives on some hard, rocky ground – he will be able to ride on it! Watch out for thrush, though. It can make feet much more tender that you would think and is the cause of a lot of footiness.

      Like

  13. I live in FL. My horses are barefoot. We’re planning a day ride in Blowing Rock NC. I thought I needed to have my horses shod because of the terrain. Now I don’t know after reading this. One of the horses sits kinda flat on his hooves…..I am worried about rocks…..pebbles bother him in FL.. Don’t want to do boots. Thanks
    I live in FL. My horses are barefoot. We’re planning a day ride in Blowing Rock NC. I thought I needed to have my horses shod because of the terrain. Now I don’t know after reading this. One of the horses sits kinda flat on his hooves…..I am worried about rocks…..pebbles bother him in FL.. Don’t want to do boots. Thanks

    Like

    • Hi Lena, I have the same reluctance as you for boots. I have never used them but I have two thoroughbreds who manage stony, rough ground. This is achieved by putting stony, rough ground in their field. They walk across their stony yard every day for hay and water and they stand there for shade and shelter. This means they cope with whatever ground we ask them to ride across. If, however, you haven’t got time before your wonderful ride to condition your horses’ hooves, I would use hoof boots. If you don’t there is a good chance that you will bruise the horse’s sole causing lameness and possibly an abscess. The joy of hoof boots is that they don’t cause the same harm as metal shoes AND you can take them off as soon as you get home.

      Like

  14. Try doing a three week pack trip I the Rocky Mountains sure you would change your mind when your horses feet were worn off to his knees

    Like

    • Thank you for raising this issue. Whatever discipline or riding you do, you have to prepare both you and your horse for it. If you aren’t able to do that, I can see you might have problems. Any number of problems with legs, bottoms, feet??? So, I guess you are telling me that the horse can’t do this sort of riding without metal nailed to his feet. Without the right lifestyle and preparation for it, of course he can’t. Other people will have to answer whether it is possible with good hoof boots, plus spares! Those riders who are interested in the health and welfare of their horse who also want to do hard riding with that horse must prepare by exposing those hooves every day to hard, rocky surfaces. In the same way, they have to increase the horse’s stamina and fitness. The barefoot horse does better without being confined to a stable and with the right diet and trim. The ancients Greeks (or their slaves!) used to toughen their horses daily by leading them into stony riverbeds etc. We as humans have forgotten how to care for equines so that the equine’s life is not so badly compromised that he can’t even walk all day on his own hooves. Without human interference, Devin, the horse can do it – all day long. How else did Alexander the Great conquer large parts of the world on a barefoot horse? I think the problem you’ve raised is a human one not a horse one. We don’t keep them the right way, they don’t move enough on the right surfaces because we have them in small fields and stables.
      Sometimes, we simply have to accept the facilities available at livery yards. I understand the problem many owners face with this but why should the horse be the one to damage his health, legs, tendons etc so that we can take such a compromised animal on long trail rides? So, again thank you for raising what a lot of people probably think. But no, I wouldn’t change my mind about the barefoot issue; I would change my horse’s lifestyle if he wasn’t able to cope with my demands.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Devon- have you not seen the videos of the Mustangs living in the rocky desert? Their hooves aren’t worn to the knees!
      As Linda says, it is about conditioning. You wouldn’t take your horse on a 3 week pack trip straight off with no fittening work. So if you do your fittening work barefoot, with a suitable diet and care, then they will cope with the trip, because they are conditioned to it.

      Like

      • That’s it, Rebecca! A trimmer once gave me three tips for successful barefoot – movement, movement and movement. If you are doing a massive journey on a horse you must prepare, prepare and prepare. This applies to the foot as much as the rest of the horse’s body.

        Like

  15. Actually my horses are not in a stable or a barn at all they are out doing real work moving cows branding roping cows they are barefoot for the most part and are allways sound, so I’m pretty sure there feet are in the best condition possible. They go down gravel roads cross highways through creeks all barefoot but this does not make me a believer. There are certain times when shoes are needed and if you wod take your horse out in those mountains with no shoes I feel sorry for your horse. And for every one that thinks mules can go out there barefoot think again.

    Like

  16. I am on the other end of the spectrum. I am a Standardbred horse trainer, that has put up with disbelief in my discipline that I can actually race my horse on a stonedust racetrack barefoot, I like to work on my own horses feet which I rarely have to do because he self trims himself because of all his jogging and training mileage. He does occasionally need some protection, but because of his unique needs, I have had a very hard time finding what suits him and having someone that understands that it does not have to be permanently affixed to his feet to work. He is much happier and much more secure when he is barefoot, but because I can not find the right combination of a non permanent horseshoe for him, I have been forced within the last week to put shoes on him and I am very unhappy about that. I have tried everything from different boots to casting, I am not fond of glueing, I want something that can stay on for a few days and then be removed without damaging anything and be reapplied as necessary. It is just so frustrating. I want what’s best for my horse and for him nailed on shoes are not it. I do have some ideas that I feel may work and my horse is a perfect candidate for testing them, but I’d love to talk to Marc and see if maybe he has some ideas that might work for me. Thank you

    Like

  17. Very interesting cuz I’m having issues with my horses walking and his feet . His feet were neglected before I got him so they were a mess. He was also not ridden for 3 years. So I’m willing to learn whatever I can. Thank you

    Like

  18. Our horses are not shoed. One was when we got him n had them removed. He battled weight prior n after the shoes came off he did great. A friends horse was splitting down the center of the hooves he no longer has shoes n all the horses are doing super.

    Like

  19. A very balanced overview of the current situation. I think Marc is pretty much spot on with everything he has stated here. I will be following him.

    Like

  20. My 17 year old mare has never had horseshoes. My kids used her for gymkhana, jumping, trailriding, and she was also my lesson horse.
    When we bought our 30 YO appaloosa, one of the first things we did was pull the shoes. My daughter rode him into his late 20’s.
    We rehabbed a gelding that supposedly had one leg shorter than the other. He had TWO pads on one foot to make up the difference. He was just low in one heel and club footed on the other. We sold him a few years later and you couldn’t tell the difference in his feet.
    We are currently switching another horse over to barefoot. His feet already are retaining better shape and look healthier.
    I highly recommend the barefoot method…it might take a few months to get the hooves back to where they should be, but it will be time well spent in the long run.

    Like

  21. This is fair enough and I support this in every way. But as an example my horse has to have shoe on. As she had bad treatment from her previous owners, being very overweight and having laminitis a lot. She is very flat footed. She get bruising and can become lame very quick. Since having shoe on it have stopped the problem as it had taken the pressure off. I know this man said about the boots but I’m only young at college 5 days a week therefore can afford them. Iv also heard from many people they can rub very badly. Shoe are a good choice but I fine it is more how they are put on. My farrier has to put them on differently to other horses cus of the problems and it’s much kinder to my horse.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment, Chelsea, and sorry to hear about the difficulties you are having with your horse. Keep reading and researching, though. Laminitic horses do very well barefoot (after some work) and the flat footedness and tenderness you describe can only be properly overcome by her gradually, very gradually toughening up her own bare feet. My own horse recently suffered a laminitic attack due to the rich grass we’ve been having – see my article ‘Life after Laminitis’.

      Like

  22. Thank you for this brilliant article. . I am so priveleged and grateful to the people who trim my horses’ barefoot hooves, – I have learned so much, and continue to do so. It has been a long journey of discovery for me , and one of recovery for my horses. I look forward to reading these books.

    Like

  23. I have a barefoot trimmer who was a farrier in Spain ( a trend here perhaps?) my 17hh mare has been barefoot for 7 years and no longer gets the abscesses she suffered when shod on the front. She is also the ONLY horse allowed out in icy conditions by the yard owner – all the others are shod and slip on the sloping icy yard – she has no problem and loves racing around in the snow.

    Sadly there is a lot of aggression by owners of shod horses here in the UK – many think it is cruel not to shoe or can’t be bothered to go through transition. I have long since given up on trying to convince them – I think only the farriers can do that.

    The rule about shod horses and competition is nuts – my horse never slips on wet grass , you should see how her hooves slice into the ground and give her much more grip than a shod horse with tiny studs …

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting, Chris, and great to hear about your successful and brilliant barefooter! You mention studs and someone else has just asked me how you put studs onto a horse if it doesn’t have shoes. Of course, you can’t, even if you wanted to. But for anyone in doubt about the ability of a barefoot horse to succeed in dangerous equine sports please have a read of my interview with rider, Richard Greer, on the post called No Shoes, No Studs…and No Fear posted 18th Oct.

      Like

  24. My horses have never been shod I didn’t have proof that shoeing caused damage but I just never liked the idea of hammering nails into their hooves. I’m Native American and we aren’t proned to believe we can do better than nature and nurture it was a personal preference to let them be natural. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Like

  25. My hunter has great feet. I pull her shoes every fall after show season and let her go barefoot….However, although she is conpletly sound and her feet are in excellent condition, her stride shortens up and she doesn’t move nearly as well. Can’t justify leaving them off for show season, regardless of what this article says.

    Like

  26. I have a horse I raised. She is almost 15 years old. She started showing signs of lameness about 1 1/2 years ago and I ended up taking her to UT. The veterinarians said she was navicular and would require special shoes the rest of her life. I ended up taking her to Rood and Riddle. When I presented the original radiographs to Dr. Agne, his immediate response was “There’s your problem, bad trim and bad shoes”. The farrier had put and left rocker shoes on her for quite some time. The farrier I was using was suppose to be the best for this area. I trusted him to do what was best for my horse. Her coffin bones had rotated upwards and she was navicular due to her weight being on her heels most of the time. I have just started having my horse trimmed and left bare foot with my vets blessings. She has just had two trims and so far she seems to be doing well. With the damage that was done by the initial farrier she and I are playing the wait and see game. I do wish that someone would have shared the pitfalls of shoeing long ago.

    Like

  27. People do not ‘need’ shoes either, but if we wear them from a young age we do not develop the right muscles to go barefoot. Also we need protection from the cold and from man made surfaces and hazards. Just as we have moved on from iron shod clogs to more technical shoes made of composites and with more give in, can we not look again at introducing a more technical option for horses, which could be removed when not needed, that do not cause so much impact stress when used?

    Like

    • Hi Sally, YES! They are called hoof boots. Lots of people use them, particularly useful for the transition to barefoot and, as you say, they can be taken off at the end of a ride and hung up next to your saddle. There is really no need to hammer a metal shoe onto the flexible, moving hoof of the horse any more. Possibly ever…! Hoof boots are being updated and improved all the time and are used in competition, out hunting etc, etc. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  28. Ive had my 5yr old horse barefoot for about 2 yrs now. No trouble at all! Ive taken him on the local horse rides around 30kms barefoot and he was perfectly fine afterward in fact my father took his gelding the same age on one of those rides (which was rocky) and he was lame for a couple weeks. The horses are brothers. He was sore all the way round. Ive just called a farrier to come trim his hooves and said I wanted a light trim so I can take him on the local ride again and he said I would have to have shoes otherwise I wont make it even halfway through the ride. I said my horse was fine on the last 4 rides I went on.
    I didnt argue with him because hes the one with the experience here so I was going to go ahead with it but he got cut off with bad mobile service but now im thinking im glad the call didnt go through to the end. Such a pain having to convince the farriers I dont want shoes.

    Like

    • I hope you keep him barefoot – don’t forget the farrier has more experience but you know your horse better than anyone. You obviously do your best for him and the lovely thing about going without shoes is that you know instantly if you are asking too much. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  29. I regularly ride a cob mare that I broke in for the owner about 4 years ago. I would love her to go barefoot and the owner wouldn’t be against this. However, there doesn’t appear to be a qualification or indeed any regulations governing barefoot trimmers in the UK. There certainly doesn’t seem to be anyone in my locality and even if there were, how would I know to trust them without a qualification?

    Like

    • This is a very valid question, Sophie. Get recommendations from barefoot friends if poss. Join some barefoot Facebook groups and ask there for someone in your area. If you are worried, have a look at the trimmer’s work yourself. If you are still not happy then find a barefoot friendly farrier. So many more are now offering a really good barefoot service. Good luck…

      Like

  30. As an endurance rider whose main team have competed barefoot over Rocky terrain since 2007 and 2008 – barefoot is my #1 choice.

    This said, I’ve run across cases where horses have xray diagnosed thin soles, who go through agony of deep sole abscesses caused by their wetland pasture going through daily freeze-thaw cycles; who cannot go barefoot even in the pasture. Who cannot be glued or have soles covered – due to the constant dampness of the wetland pasture. One of my current endurance horses fits this situation. Her hooves have actually never looked as good barefoot (constant sole abscesses and sole sloughing) as they do now that she is shod in old fashioned flat kegs. Her frog has spread nicely and chronic sole abscesses are a thing of the past. She is happy and pain Free.

    So never say never when it comes to shoes. They have their place – just as barefoot does.

    Like

    • That’s interesting, Laura. Thank you for commenting. Have a look at my post called Sweet Road to Comfort if you get a minute. I wonder if getting a horse like that off rich, soft pasture would be helpful. Not always possible I know. It’s making a huge impact on my laminitic horse, Sophie. Lame all winter on and off but off grass for the Spring and looking good and sound and hopefully rideable once more.

      Like

  31. I agree with you. We have raised Arabian horses and have never shod them. They run in the rocks on a hillside and do just fine. They naturally wear their feet down and dont require much trimming either. We had a farrier from Australia who told us years ago that we just needed to put our horses up on the hillside and leave their feet alone. He was right!

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting, Penny. I’m thinking more and more that we make a huge mistake by keeping our horses on farming land! Soft, rich grass means they get too much sugar and virtually no abrasive surfaces to naturally wear their feet. Check out my post called Sweet Road to Comfort about getting my horses, and others, off farm land.

      Like

  32. Totally agree, my oldest horse is 22 and never seen a shoe in his life, 17 years of those he has been with me. My youngest is 5, and born at home, and there are 5 others between, not one have ever seen a shoe. They have all competed in various spheres, bar the 5 year old, from jumping, to xc, to driving, mounted games (quick sharp turns and no slipping), and never been unsound. We have only ever had one get an infection, that was due to a nail on a hack which would have gone in even if the horse was shod, but it was treated and the horse sound again in a few weeks. We run, and jump on gravel tracks, no issues at all, and the old man has the joints of a horse half his age and weight, due to the lack of concussive injury from me allowing his hooves to contract and expand when riding, something a shoe doesn’t allow. Moo has competed at GB TREC championships a few times before I retired from competing due to injury, and his bare hooves served us well, as we never had to pull out due to lost shoes etc, he even blunted a farriers rasp when I asked if he could tidy up a tiny chip, this was 10 years ago and the farrier couldn’t believe we had ridden over a mountain and his hooves were so good. Times have changed, people need to wake up and change too. Feet are no longer bound as it is barbaric, but 100 years ago this was commonplace in Asia, so we need to stop binding our horses hooves and look at how we care for and feed them to improve their hooves, not patch them up quickly to fit our lives.

    Like

  33. I find this article very refreshing as it hits home for me these days. I have been a Farrier for 40 years and have always thought that it was not the best way to handle the horses feet and have been looking for other ways to help the hoofs. For years I have looked at hot shoeing and saw that the burning of the foot helped the structure improve. So I tried to do a light trim and hot fit the shoe but leave the shoes off, to get a more solid hoof to go barefoot. This has worked in the transition to barefoot. I’m very pleased with this method and will try it on more horses that will benefit from going barefoot.

    Like

  34. I found this interview really good and I’m confident I’m doing the right thing for my mare ive had her since October 15 and touch wood have had no problems with her feet she is barefoot and I intend keeping her that way as its not natural for horses to wear shoes and putting holes in there feet to hold them in place I for one will definatly be staying barefoot xx

    Like

  35. I have never put shoes on my horse, years ago people thought I was neglecting my horses, for not shoeing but todays day and age everyone is going barefoot… I love it !! it’s so much better for the horse physical well being ..So glad professionals riders and vets farriers are actually seeing horses well being above their own goals !!

    Like

    • There have been a handful of prosecutions against trimmers in the UK, Jenny. These have been brought by our welfare charity, the RSPCA, sometimes at the request of the Farriers Registration Council. At least one was a charge of cruelty but impossible for me to judge whether the trimmer added to the plight of the horses in question. I do know that they were attempting to alleviate lameness. I guess trimmers have now learnt to document, photograph and video any seriously lame horse they take on so that they can show that they haven’t caused harm. The most recent prosecution was a couple of years ago and was particularly ‘interesting’ because the prosecution argued that the trimmer had been guilty of practicing farriery, which is a protected trade by law, and this was found to be true. His crime was to apply a wrap or glue-on temporary shoe/boot not a metal or permanent shoe. This was on a lame horse to ease it during turnout and was left on for a few days. There was a campaign at the time. It’s all gone quiet now but more and more farriers are offering a barefoot service so in time perhaps they won’t be so hostile as a group towards barefoot.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s