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

Responses: 143


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


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

Barefoot is for every horse

though not for every owner as it takes knowledge and patience to take a horse barefoot who has been damaged by shoes. Shoes do absolutely nothing for a horse....except mask pain by acting as an anesthetic. How do to they do that? Glad you asked. A horse has a tiny heart compared to all other mammals. That is, his heart is small relative to his size. He depends on the proper deformation of his four hoof capsules to push blood out of his hooves...uphill. You'll notice that there are no muscles below the knee to aid in circulation. A shoe fixates a hoof in its narrowest or smallest form. And to add insult to injury, it prevents the hoof capsule from deforming properly, that is, opening up as much as it needs to, to allow for sufficient blood flow. The decrease in blood flow decreases nerve transmission and has the same affect as an anesthetic. Have you ever sat on your hand and had it go to sleep. This is due to ischemia, or a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a
—Guest Jack Sprat

It depends on the horse :)

Horses are like humans in that every one is individual and has different needs for any number of reasons. Saying all horses need shoes can be just as damaging as saying all horses should be barefoot as there will always be an exception. My personal journey has been with my 17 year old arabian. I got him when he was 7 and he'd just had his shoes taken off as his feet had started crumbling under the pressure and nails. For 4 years my farrier and I battled white line disease, seedy toe and soft crumbly feet until we were happy that they were strong enough. Now in our 10th year together I am riding alot more and he has changed paddocks which has brought about new challenges. He will soon have a full set of shoes to make him more confident and comfortable in a hilly and occassionally rocky paddock and to assist in the redevelopment of his feet which have become quite flat over time. I am not particularly attached either way. I'll do whatever keeps him comfy and safe to suit his needs.
—Guest Nikki


i was raised around shoes. boarders at my place had shoes. my horse came with shoe. no one said a bad thing about them except that they were barefoot. it never dawned on me that shoes were terrible for horses till i got older. shoes are steel! there is no shock absorption there. the nails can cause infection, or abscess! and you know the way the hoof wall looks after they put a shoe on? yeah no pretty is NOT always better. when they take that hook wall off by wrasping it down that weakens it! ever try and make your horse go barefoot and come across him limping? its the same for you to walk around barefoot after having shoes for so long. it would take 6 MONTHS for a new healthy thick hoof capsule to grow back. so to have shoes off for like 6 weeks is nothing. let him adjust and i promise youll never go back. shoeing also promotes unhealthy hoof wall pressure and that caused the wall to grow up the coronary band. think thats not bad its ok. no its not that pushed the coffin bone up!
—Guest thehjf

Shod or Barefoot

We worked a one million acre cattle station in Central Australia with a 70 horse working plant. Only one of them was shod and this despite a lot of their work being in sand dune country. We did however have a designated horse paddock that was largely rocky and so kept their feet naturally trimmed as they were spelled.
—Guest Jim


I've just realized that horses have to be shod to survive the pleasures of people who state they love them but want then to do things that are not natural for them. That require them to need supports to help their hooves from deteriorating. Why have we always forced animals to do things they were not meant to do :( :( and not have a horse just to enjoy its friendship. I imagine making money is the main reason. How tragic.
—Guest D

Depends on horse

I think it depends on the horse. I have an old-fashioned TWH that has never worn shoes. Her trimmer comes in every 6 weeks and maintains her "mustang roll". I live in Colorado and we trail ride 4-5x a week. Her pasture is very rocky and dry, so her feet are tough. Maybe if she was stalled and then only had to do arena work, I'd have to shoe her. Anyway, my paint gelding has to have shoes on his front feet. His last owner left him barefoot, but never trimmed him and that caused all kinds of problems (big split in his hoof, for one). I would prefer him to be barefoot, but he's just not comfortable like that, so he gets his front shoes. Since other people are discussing bits, I will add that both my horses are ridden in rope halters. My TWH has never had a bit in her mouth. At any rate, let's remember that there are extremists in every group when there's a debate about anything.
—Guest nikki

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Shod or Barefoot - Is One Better Than The Other?

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