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

Responses: 100


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?

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

It just depends

I have three horses, one is a 16 year old mustang off the desert in utah. She has never worn shoes in her life and is just fine on most surfaces. On the other hand, I also have an Arabian who due to starvation and neglect from her previous owner will always have to wear shoes the rest of her life. The third horse a saddlebred/ quarter cross has had been both barefoot and shod, he has had no proble either way. remember that people are unique just like horses, what might work for you won't work for someone else. Same goes for your horse. I suggest that you talk to your vet and ferrier to devise a plan that works best for your horse and the style of riding that you do.
—Guest Mustang gal

Best Time

Ran my horse in aluminum rim shoes and barefoot. His barrel time is about .5 faster with the shoes. Same horse, same arena, same run on the video. He held in the turns barefoot, but he wasn't able to cover as much ground.
—Guest brdlyrck

nature didnt do it!

When socalled natural hoof is brought up it brings out the Ford Chevy response in most. I have done a natural style trim longer than these (I followed a mustang so now I know) practitioners have profited from the phrase! I don't know how they can honestly say they know for certain what YOUR horse needs through a monitor. Many man made horses would die in the wild from hoof problems if turned out. Many wild horses die from poor hoof health. While the natural hoof is fine for most horses (most don't leave their stall) it is not for ALL! Using words like biomechanics doesnt change a horses NEEDS. A properly applied shoe should not change a horses proper gait (biomechanical way of travel) A scooped out sole (NHers call it "concave" still loads the hoof wall with most of the force. At least a properly applied shoe protects the white line and distributes more evenly. My horses are barefoot but not naturaly! I take care of them so they don't become a "NATURAL" selection statistic.
—Guest I trim myown


You can have both if your horse or pony does lots of road work I would wear shoes because it can damage the horses hoof. I had a loaned pony and she didn't have shoes and her hoofs were awful! But if you are just schooling ext... (not to serious and not going to shows) don't wear them but if you don't have them always put hoof oil on them it doesn't just make there hoofs look pretty it's helthy for horses hoofs. I have a horse now that is doind meduim work e.g xc jumping dressage pony club hacks and schooling and he has got shoes on but is only ridden 3 timed a week and on saturday and Sunday . It's your choose if you think you can handle putting oil on every time you ride then don't put them on. Again my horse has to have his shoes changed every 6 months. Hope this helps
—Guest ???


I have not studied this subject by any means but would like to say what a professional trainer and friend said. When barefoot a hoof grows out to support the horse, with a shoe we are shaping the hoof for them, and not always in the healthiest of ways. My horse is barefoot and has no problem on rocks or concrete, she doesn't prefer to walk on a mass amount but she doesn't seam to be in pain over them. If rocks are a big concern there are always boots that allow a horse to go barefoot and offer protection outside the arena.
—Guest Mary

Go Barefoot!

People say weve bred the hoof right out of the horse,phooey.Actual science tells us it would take at least 5,000 years to breed change into the base genetics of any species,including horses.A few generations of focused breeding simply cannot change or erase what they've been since the Creation.A study showed that every 'domestic horse today retains the ability to return to feral state successfully & be completely heathly.All horses on this earth are genetically the same. Some say that without shoes concrete,rocks,& asphalt are bad for a horses hooves.Well I watched several videos coparing,side by side,slow mo shod&barefoot hooves on concrete.the shod 1's vibrated hard without absorbtion.The barefoot 1's flexed & absorbed it.& The entire Houston Mounted Patrol are barefoot with the Wild Horse Trim& are thriving,working on concrete, marble, &asphalt every day.All horses can become barefoot & healthy!Subscribe to The Horses Hoof mag.or lookup Pete Ramey if U doubt going barefoot
—Guest rae

Go Barefoot!

Once I thought horses needed shoes, then I reasearched. Every step horses hooves are supposed to flex,that flexing is 1of the most important things they can do for a long,healthy life.It provides shock absorbtion for joints,tendons,ect, acts as a circulatory pump for blood vessels in hoofs,and helpsthe heart get blood back up legs.Without flexing,hooves wont have good circulation and the heart has to work harder to get blood flowing back up the legs.No flexing, no shock absorbtion.With a shoe,no flexing happens! I saw a thermagraph of a horse with 1shoe & 3 barefeet.The barefeet had alot of circulation & the shod hoof had almost none 'till above the knee.amazing the difference! Try this out.Feel a shod & a barefoot horses leg.The barefoot 1will be warm because its circulating well.The shod 1will be cool because its not. If you really care about your horses well-being you'll go barefoot.(I'll try to continue with more reasons to go barefoot with a different but similar name!)GO BAREFOOT
—Guest ray

Lesser of two evils

The question is not what is better (to shoe or go bare foot). Clearly they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Yes the overall hoof works better and more natural when left alone in its natural state. However if you need to ride over stone covered tracks or tarmac roads then the discomfort in doing so out weighs the benefits of being left barefoot. Each Horse and rider in my opinion should try and go barefoot and be prepared to return to shoeing if the environment dictates. If you are lucky enough to ride out on grass tracks and sandy beaches, then for sure you wont need to worry about shoeing. imho.
—Guest Anton

FACT: SHOES ARE BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i have read alot of the commets and they almost all say the samething "you need shoes to keep the hoof together" "the rocks and road hurt the hoof" horses need to be barefoot it is so good for them to be barefoot. horse shoes were made for one reason. back when there was castles and queens and kings they would keep the horse in lilke the basement of the castle down there the horses would pee and poop and create this big mess which would make the horses hoofs soft and BAD. then when they had wars or short battles the enemy could throw out metal spikes and sharp things so when the horse steped on it it would become criple and would have to be put down. its sad but its the truth. then someone was smart and realised that if you put metal to protect the hoof the horses could go over most of the hard stuff. so thats why the shoes were created. it makes me sick when i see people today have shoes on there horse. unless your going to ride your horse into battle you dont need to shoe your horse!
—Guest smartrider


So yes, the wild horse didn't need shoes. But is your horse wild? Is the horse you ride wild? Wild horses adapted to their terrain and therefore do not need shoes. The ones who did died leaving only horses with good feet. Believe it or not, but it's common sense. We domesticated horses. And doing so, we've saved the horses with bad feet.. They don't die anymore and we don't exactly breed for good hooves. So yes, you see wild horses with great feet, but come over and take a look at my thoroughbreds! Should I make him suffer on rocks just to not put a few nails in his hoof? Yes shoeing is not 'all-natural" but neither is putting a horse in a stall, fencing them in, riding them, feeding them. It is our fault that some horses must be shod, but it's true, some need it. I'm not going to let my friend, an animal i love, be in pain because of my beliefs or someone else's. In my opinion shoes help him more than being barefoot does. And our other two horses are barefoot. It all depends.
—Guest Rachel


I agree that it depends on what you're doing,but they should probably go barefoot most of the time,because that's the way they were built.The safest way to decide is to see an experienced equine vet.
—Guest Robin

Depends on Activity

My daughters first pony had never worn shoes, but since she was training for eventing her feet would get worn down very quickly. I think it depends on the horse and the activities the horse does. We have another horse that is barefoot unless we are going to trail ride in a very rocky area, then the shoes go on to protect them. My daughters eventing horse has shoes during the show season because her activity requires the use of studs. Its silly to decide for others what works or doesnt work for them. We have had great experience with our farrier, so find a very knowledgable farrier you feel you can trust.


Horses actually began to be shod in the dark ages due to conditions of stalls. Before that horses went shoeless. If you take care of your horses feet, keep them trimmed and all that stuff then they won't need to be shod. It does n't depend on the horse. Every time you pull nails from horses' hooves it damages them. It takes about a year for horses' soreness to ware off from riding them barefoot. You need to be willing to take care of the hoerse's foot then barefoot is the way to go. Horses didn't need shoes is the first place so why would they need them now??
—Guest Maggie


THE ANSWER IS: It depends on the horse. Most owners like their horses barefoot because it's cheaper and the horse can feel the ground under it's feet. Others say shoe's are good for the horse. Have your local farrier come around and suggest a shoeing or trimming scheduale best for you and your horse. Happy riding!
—Guest WSF101

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