To shoe or not to shoe, that is de question - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 03-29-2013, 08:04 PM Thread Starter
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Question To shoe or not to shoe, that is de question

Maybe this is a dumb question, I don't know. I am still a naive first time horse owner so please bear with me.

When I got Dancer his feet were awful. He was pretty ouchy so I shod him. Fast forward almost 2 years and he is still shod. I think the health of his hooves have greatly improved. He still has shelly feet but the cracks are very superficial. His feed is a ton better and I have him on Smarthoof from SmartPak as well as flax seed.

I have been toying with the idea of taking his shoes off to see how he does. I was thinking about getting hoofboots for trail riding, if he even needs them. I asked my vet what he thought and he was very vague. He just said that the cracks were superficial and the only concern he had was Dancer stomping at flies.

Do I just leave them on or do I try him without? I'm guessing it won't hurt to take them off for a bit and if need be put them back on?

I love cats, too! We should exchange recipes!!!
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post #2 of 20 Old 03-29-2013, 09:31 PM
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It is quite possible for him to do well barefoot as long as you mind a few things. Find a trimmer or farrier who is skilled at performing barefoot trims (which are different from pasture trims or getting-ready-for-a-shoe trims ). Also when a horse goes from shod to barefoot there is usually a transition period in which the horse can be sensitive to rocks/gravel/etc, but boots while riding will help. Give the process time before deciding to retreat back to shoes, don't expect barefoot rock crushing perfection in 4 weeks. My last advise would be to research barefoot to become knowledgable in the subject, even if you're not trimming him yourself. Good luck!

....I'm confused about the fly stomping lol my barefoot boys do all the time I'm sure with no ill effects. He may have been thinking of chipping on the edges of the hoof walls but that's just superficial.

Last edited by Lunavi; 03-29-2013 at 09:37 PM.
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post #3 of 20 Old 03-29-2013, 10:05 PM
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What does your farrier recommend? Vets aren't the ones who are hoof experts.
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post #4 of 20 Old 03-29-2013, 10:34 PM
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Whats causing the cracks? Dry feet? That can be corrected easily.
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post #5 of 20 Old 03-29-2013, 10:42 PM
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What type of ground does this horse live on?
How thick does your vet estimate his soles are?
Does your farrier think your horse is a barefoot candidate?
Do you have hoof boots on hand for when (not if) he gets sore?

As you will hear a lot, the answer is, it depends. The problem with barefoot is, you can only expect your horse to be okay on what surface he's acclimated to. If he stands on grass or soft dirt all day, and you try to take him out on trails with rocks, tree roots and harder stuff and you'd better have him booted.

Some horses have problems when the ground gets wetter, their soles shed, the ground gets dry and hard, etc. It really is a crap shoot.

If you do decide to try barefoot, just pay attention. At no time should your horse be so sore he stops moving around. Keep him comfortable so he keeps moving. This alone will help his feet toughen up. Walking him on hard surfaces such as pavement or concrete will also help.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #6 of 20 Old 03-30-2013, 12:57 AM
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Well, what are cracks to some are in fact just hairline superficial "cracks" caused by going from wet to dry...then there are "real" cracks. The former are nothing to get terribly excited about.

Its hard to say what is right for any given horse. But, many moons ago I kept my horses shod. I had their shoes pulled in the winter. They ran on hundreds of acres of the exact same type of terrain they were ridden over. One spring I decided to try it barefoot. This was before I had ever heard of boots, which I now use. I didn't ride them over malpies barefoot, that was the only "change" I made to accomidate. They never had any hoof, leg or joint issues - so, I never went back to shoes. My point here is, if he is sound and you go barefoot it is highly likely you would have the same experience. It then comes down to personal choice/thinking.

There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.
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post #7 of 20 Old 03-30-2013, 06:54 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Speed Racer View Post
What does your farrier recommend? Vets aren't the ones who are hoof experts.

He says to try it. I was just trying to get opinions from all around before I did anything.

I love cats, too! We should exchange recipes!!!
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post #8 of 20 Old 03-30-2013, 07:17 AM
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I think there are good uses for conventional rims, but there are also 'cons', as with everything, to understand & consider. I wouldn't generally(there are exceptions) put shoes on unhealthy feet, but keep them *unshod* - as opposed to necessarily bare, at least until their feet are healthy & only shoe if/when necessary.

Horses don't generally need protection for what they're living on(like yourself on carpet), unless their feet are extremely bad, but if they're not used to gravel roads or such, they won't have the calluses, regardless of how healthy or otherwise their feet. They will be uncomfortable, or in pain, so won't move & use their feet properly(like yourself if not used to going bare on gravel).

So 'transitioning' a horse to go bare is entirely possible & may well be just a matter of gradual habituation, but I don't think a 'try it & see' approach is good. My problems with this are a) if the horse has compromised, painful feet, forcing him to go bare may be cruel & may just make matters worse. b) if a healthy footed horse is not/not yet used to rough footing, he is going to be uncomfortable too, not use himself properly and risk injury. So my approach is to boot or otherwise protect the horse wherever necessary to encourage good movement *& therefore development*, but leave it bare wherever possible so long as it's comfortable.

Depending on your situation, your horse's environment & what you want of him, etc, 'rock crunching' bare feet on any terrain are indeed possible. But for most, that may 'work' on different surfaces, undeveloped hooves, for eg, they will likely always need protection/support on some surfaces & situations. Hoof boots are IME a great solution for most.
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post #9 of 20 Old 03-30-2013, 09:30 AM
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Lots of good info here. I agree with the other posters. You won't know until you try. It all depends on the horse. If Dancer's feet are going to crack, they are going to crack whether it's from stomping their feet or rough terrain. If they crack from being unbalanced, that is something entirely different.

So, try it and see what happens. Dancer will tell you.
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post #10 of 20 Old 03-30-2013, 03:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. So I think I will take the shoes off and get some boots. I'll definitely watch him and let him tell me if they need to be back on.

I love cats, too! We should exchange recipes!!!
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