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Readers Respond: Shod or Barefoot - Is One Better Than The Other?

Responses: 149


Should horses be shod or go barefoot? Why leave a horse barefoot? What is the deciding factor for putting shoes on your horse? Which is healthier or, which is harmful? What is your opinion? Share Your Opinions

To Shoe or Not to Shoe--That is the Ques

My farrier jumps in shows & does not shoe his horses. The longer unshod, according to him, the stronger the hoof gets. He said the main reason to shoe is if you are on rough ground (like rocky trails). Some trails around here are simply worn grass and dirt, so the farrier said to leave our horse unshod for those. But there are other trails in the area that are rockier. If we plan on taking those, we are to shoe. If you are mostly jumping in sand or dirt arenas, no need to shoe. The shoe lifts the delicate frog off the ground if the ground is stony, thereby protecting it from stones. Wild mustangs are never shod and seem to do fine on rocky and grassy areas. Our horse has been unshod in back for quite a while, and his back hooves are very strong--no cracks, they look really healthy. We just started leaving unshod his front hooves, which chipped a bit. My riding instructor said that when his front hooves toughen up after awhile, like the back ones, they won't chip & crack as much.
—Guest mmkrzus

Depends on the horse

We have two horses that are ok barefoot. We have one that has strong hooves but grows out a long toe fast and very little heel. The hoof itself is very flat with almost no concavity. We tried having her trimmed regularly by the same farrier who does the other two but she was often sole bruised and knocking her heel bulbs on hard surfaces and getting swelling. Even when we had a dry spell and the pasture ground was hard she would get sole bruises. Boots when it was wet led to thrush and getting a fit that stayed on in all terrain/conditions and didn't rub her anywhere was a costly hunt that never ended entirely successfully. It was our vet that finally asking if there was any reason she couldn't have shoes because obviously barefoot wasn't working well for her. We went back to traditional horseshoes for her a year ago, just regular nothing corrective, and she's been comfortable ever since.
—Guest Eliza

Depends on the Horse

There is no one answer to this. Some horses need shoes, some don't. My Tennessee Walking Horse gelding was born and raised on very hard, rocky pastures (Colorado Rocky Mountain area). He has never needed shoes. I specifically sought out breeders that bred sturdy, hardy hoofed TWH's. We do long distance trail events, never anything in an arena, so he doesn't need shoes for that. If something happens and he starts getting ouchy, I'll reconsider. It varies by individual horse and what the owner is using said horse for. I myself am a "horse-hippie" (I like my horse barefoot, bitless, and living on a pasture with a herd 24/7), but I don't judge people who shoe their horses. Some do it because that's what they've always done and some do it for specific reasons.
—Guest nikki

good debate shod or barefoot

Its nice to read things when they are all so sensible. It seems to me that the co consensus here is that it depends on each individual horse/pony what work they do and over what kind of I. I had a little mare that would not go out of the field unless she had shoes on, and when barefoot in the field walked like she had glass underfoot. Well done everyone for no nasty comments.
—Guest lynn

To Shoe Or Not To Shoe?!

I have no judgements on people whether they shoe or go bare hoofed. What I do is shoe the front two as I do road work I keep the back two off so they have balance on the road and I keep on the front two on for when I am doing work in my arena. I have a 16hh Irish Sport Horse so he's quite large and wares his shoes to the ground every 3 weeks so if I kept four shoes on him I would be broke. This is what a lot of my friends do aswell with their hunters and this is what I was taught to do and I live by it but personally if I had to change I wouldn't but I respect the opinion of people who keep their horses/ponies hooves bare- Tilly 3/5/14 13:28
—Guest Tilly

info about barefoot

With all this large amount of info to process it makes me dizzy. Does everyone's information come from an expert? Or just hear say, or personal experience. If so what makes it right. I've asked five vets whiych specializes in just horses. Has no skin in the game for money. All horses are individualized. they were never told me that you was cut off the circulation. was told that statement was made fopr someone the benefit Moneywise. also they said that no horses in the wild are lame because they are dead they can't keep up with the herd. these statements are all based on research. most horses can go barefoot it without heavy use or lameness issues. if you are having a problem with shoes on a horse you need to find a new Farrier. they are more bad than good shores that is why we having this discussion. I was told that a horseshoer can do a barefoot trim, but a barefoot trimmer can't do what a Farrier does. Barefoot movement is about money with out going through the years of education.p
—Guest jumper


well, this is a discussion that can and should go both ways, in my opinion, a good management of the type of work and ground avoids extra costs and preserves the horse well being. That goes for feed, shoes, stables, crops for feed etc etc etc... I own 5 horses, all of them are not shoed for last 2 years, no lameness, perfect hoofs which I attend to myself with a riders rasp and a hoof knife every time I believe its necessary. Also to get a smooth break-over its necessary to keep it trimmed. Natural does not mean "let it grown" it means natural management. If my horses worked everyday on hard surfaces, with sand or gravels, with heavy riders or always on the trot/gallop I seriously doubt they could go barefoot.
—Guest on the hack

Shod or Barefoot

Although I respect why barefoot horse owners elect that for their mounts, I must also agree with those of us who shod because it's not possible to develop the calous needed to prevent injury which, to me, is unkind and injurious to my mount. We are pastured in soft footing, no "rocky" pasture. As an older rider, the thought of taking my gelding out on a trail ride to possibly get stone bruise or absess, keeping us from one another to ride another day, well, the thought of sitting out for six months, twice-a-day empson salt soaks, is unkind. If barefoot owners want to barefoot, go for it. Please respect those of us who elect to shod our shoes.


My youngsters are broken and hacked out without shoes at first. They struggle and some often get very foot sore and occasional go lame. This is not enjoyable for the horse. I keep my horses fit and in condition and i would not be able to do this if they were barefoot and unable to go on succifient rides. Most people are unable to avoid rodes And unnatural ground, so the most hummane thing to do is to shoe them.
—Guest Horse1234


My old mare is 20 and she hasn't had shoes her whole life and I take her on trails etc and she's fine
—Guest Lily

Shoe options

A good, experienced ferrier should be able to determine whether the horse should be shod or go barefoot
—Guest Vic

Go Barefoot-for the health of your horse

Here are some web sites I thought were interesting about barefoot Jumpers. My TB is barefoot and sound- he has been barefoot ever since I bought him as a 3 year old and now he is 8 and 1/2. I am thinking of getting the Hoof Boots for him because some of the trails that we travel are rocky and I don't want to cause bruising. To get the stong hooves that keep him sound I like feeding him suppiments that have Biotin in it to help keep the hoof growth strong and healthy. I noticed a difference when he is on it. I am learning to barefoot trim my horse myself and it is going well! If ever I need help or miss my 6 week trim because of travel/ vacations, I have a natural hoof trimmer I can contact to help me out!

either or

my opinion is, if your horse is soft footed or tendered footed, he/ she should ware shoes. it should not be about the prices! if your needs shoes he/she needs shoes! if they live in sloppy or muddy environments its probable not going to be a good idea to have them shoed, because there feet get soft when there in water or muck a lot and they tend to lose there shoes and crack there hooves! now if you ride a lot and your horse is used to being rode a lot and rides on the pavement a lot im sure that there feet are used to it and don't need shoes by now! I have 5 horses that get rode every summer all summer long and they do not need to be shoed! never have been and never will be! so it all depends on the horses and how often they are ridden!
—Guest daphney

Barefoot vs horse shoes

I would go barefoot and if you ride on rocky surfaces you should think about getting hoof boots etc. shoes can cut circulation off and most of the horses where i go riding do not have shoes, some have them on the front or back hooves though.
—Guest Bek


It depends if you are riding in grass or sand. If its grass, or a hard surface, don't waste the money. Sand? Different story. Shoe if its sand. Hope this helps!
—Guest Anna

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Shod or Barefoot - Is One Better Than The Other?

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