Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Southern California
• Horses: 0
I, too, am a Beginner Novice eventer (schooling Novice and some Training) and I LOVE the idea of going barefoot. I've done extensive research on the subject and it seems to have a lot of pros.
However, I talked with my vet at length about the subject recently, and he had some interesting things to say. First, he explained that horses have been bred over hundreds of years to be shod (he told me a whole history of hoof evolution starting from Roman war horses needing to be shod to travel over rocky terrain). He said that people love the idea of barefoot trimming, but that the reality is that most of our domestic horses today do not have the same conformation that wild horses had hundreds of years ago. This especially makes sense when you think about the heavier crossbreeds, like warmbloods, that have developed as a direct result of man-made performance oriented breeding.
I also suggest that you get radiographs done of each hoof before going barefoot, because even one degree of inequality (as my horse has in his left front hoof) can cause an incorrect angle. This is particularly relevant to those of us in jumping disciplines, which are highly concussive. Shoeing can, to some extent, correct angles that are off, while this is much more difficult with a simple barefoot trim.
If your horse has clean legs and you've checked with your vet and farrier and gotten the green light, it can't hurt to try (would also save $...yay!). Pay close attention to your horse's way of going before and after the shoes are pulled so watch for small improvements or declines. It will take time for your horse to normalize without shoes, so don't rush it, but after several months if he/she isn't moving the way they used to or seems uncomfortable in any way, then I'd suggest returning to shoes.
As someone with this same dilemma, I also worry about trail riding and x-country schooling barefoot, as the likelihood of a hoof bruise just seems so high. These can take weeks to heal and who wants to be horseless and ground-bound for weeks???