shoes vs barefoot for the horse with weak hoof wall

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shoes vs barefoot for the horse with weak hoof wall

This is a discussion on shoes vs barefoot for the horse with weak hoof wall within the Hoof Care forums, part of the Horse Health category

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    01-08-2013, 11:07 AM
shoes vs barefoot for the horse with weak hoof wall

(copied and pasted from another forum I posted this on)

Little bit of background on the horse in question.

He is a 17 year old Anglo Arab, and has excellent hard soles. Sound as a bell on hard surfaces. A little ouchy on gravel but we're talking big stones here, I don't blame him! But the walls, oh god the walls. It is physically impossible to keep them from chipping and cracking, no matter how short I keep them [I am my own farrier and have a very basic understanding of "barefoot" trimming so that's how he's kept]. He can't go even 4 weeks between trims because of how short his feet have to be kept. He has gone lame a couple of times from the cracks, but is functionally fine if I keep his feet really short - they are just ugly.

Monty lives on sand with some rocks, and full access to tarmac [the driveway] if he wants it. We do work on roads at walk and some trot, but not much trot because he has a thickened pastern that I don't want turning into a problem.

He was neglected in the past, rescued late 2009 by the lady I bought him off. I bought him early 2011. He has been barefoot most of his life, bar a short period when he was shod by a lessee "for competitions" [there is a lot surrounding that lessee I'd rather not go into, she had him before I bought him so it's not first-hand anyway but when S took him back he was a bit skinny and it took her 2 weeks to get him back to ideal weight again; this horse will visibly lose weight in the space of 3 hours but stack it back on just as quickly; have photographic proof of this].

When S had him, his feet went from awful with long toes and underrun heels [at rescue] to acceptable by the time he went on lease. When I bought him, a few months after S took him back from the lessee, he had underrun heels and long toes again, and a big horizontal ridge/crack on his offside fore hoof which lamed him when it eventually grew out.

Barefoot trimming has not brought his heels and toes back again. I know he CAN have good feet, but for some reason he just isn't growing them. I blame my lack of knowledge.

The soles are VERY hard, to the point where it is physically impossible to pare back his bars with a hoof knife [bearing in mind we have ours sharpened regularly and they are so sharp you don't dare touch them without good leather gloves on], but the heels and walls are weak. Frog is closer to sole consistency than "rubbery" and also very difficult to pare back when necessary.

Unfortunately he HAS gone lame a couple of times from cracks. I therefore need to find some way to prevent these. Hoof dressings don't work at all. I have tried rubbing lamb fat on his feet daily, didn't work. The lamb fat ended up being used up as leather conditioner instead. I add enough things to his feed as it is, so he does not need a biotin suppliment - he is on two separate suppliments high in omega 3s and 6s [that's not even including the vit/min supp and the magnesium supp, or the salt/electrolytes] so has plenty of good building blocks to make his own.

He is presently barefoot and sound, but I'm not really happy with how his feet LOOK and something has to change. I can't find a farrier who will come every 2 weeks, which is how often he needs his feet done if I want to keep him barefoot [plus good farriers here charge an arm and a leg - even the dodgy one charges $50 for a trim!]. Better to spend the money on a 6-weekly basis for shoes, even though shoes are more expensive, because on the basis that fronts cost between $120 and $150 depending on what is needed, that's cheaper to the same cost as having him barefoot and trimmed fortnightly.

IF I shoe him he will be shod by a farrier who I am very impressed with - the farrier my boss uses - and most certainly not myself. I would lame him in 2 seconds flat if I tried to put shoes on him myself!

Let's hear it. Go ahead and debate the merits of barefoot vs shoes for this horse. I don't know enough about shoeing to have an opinion! [by the way, hoof boots aren't legal for what I compete in, so aren't an option]
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    01-08-2013, 05:42 PM
Sounds like he shoue from balance/mechanics being a prob, there may also be infection present which is perpetuating the prob. This may need resecting, which I wouldnt really consider even a knowledgeable backyard trimmer should do, at least without good supervision.ldnt be having shoes considered yet at least, until you can get him healthy. If still long toed and underun, while soles may be hard, not likely thick enough, so barefoot imay not be best either. Have you looked into hoof boots?

If a good farrier/trimmer/hands on lessons with such yourself is not an option, I recommend pete ramey's 'under the horse' dvd set. Also the elpo site will help you better understand hoof balance and where you can/should back toes to and the likes.

Also consider that nutrition and environment play huge parts - its not just about trimming by far. If the horse has serious cracks,, asid
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    01-08-2013, 05:44 PM
Oh stupid tablet computer again, making bits of my post come up in middle of previous sentences n stuff! Hope you can make sense of it!
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flytobecat and Captain Evil like this.
    01-08-2013, 11:28 PM
What is his diet? Diet plays a HUGE role in hoof health.

Genetics also play a huge role in hoof health. I have a mare who simply cannot be worked barefoot even though I have done everything in my power to change this.

These are the steps I take:

1. Make sure the horse is getting a correct, balanced trim and you keep up on them with regular trimmings. (I can go 8-10 wks between trimmings in the winter, but I have to have them done ever 6 weeks in summer.)

2. Get the horse on a good, low NSC diet. This is extremely important as high NSC feeds have proven to create all kids of issues including poor hoof health, ulcers, IR, founder, laminitis, etc.
--My feed recommendations are: If horse is sn easy - med keeper, a RB such as Buckeye Gro N win (I use) or Triple Crown 30%. If you find you need some added calories to keep him at a good weight, then add extra calories in the form of alfalfa pellets, rice bran pellets, beet pulp, etc). If he is a med-hard keeper, then it may be more cost efficient to go with a different feed such as Triple Crown Lite, Buckeye Safe N Easy or Triple Crown Sr (listed in order from least calories to most calories).

3. Put the horse on Simmerdown. This is a product that I have just recently been made aware of by a friend of mine. I have seen the improved hoof growth and health since the horse has been on it. I am in the process of ordering some to try on my mare with thin soles and walls who cannot go barefoot when in work. You can order it from

If none of the above works, then I would entertain the idea that genetics simply wont allow this horse to go barefoot and I would request the help of a GOOD, COMPETANT farrier.
    01-09-2013, 01:46 AM
Theres a lot more to it than diet and nutritionand good trimming - ime 6 weekly is also too long for most btw. And I don't believe genetics is a big factor at all. Of course the odd line of a breed may have too small feet or such, but horses have evolved for tough, adaptable feet over millions of years and the time they've been domesticated is but a drop in the ocean on the evolutionary scale. There are many horses that can't do everything we require of them barefoot of course,but lifestyle and environment are as big an issue - and potential problem/restriction - as is diet and nutrition.
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    01-09-2013, 02:51 AM
Living Conditions do play a part too.

It can take years to condition a horse to go barefoot.
HeatherGavitt likes this.
    01-09-2013, 04:30 AM
I have looked into hoof boots but unfortunately they aren't an option, as I mentioned in OP, because of the rules for what we compete in. If I'm going to bother spending the money I'd rather get competition readiness out of it - he is fine to compete as it is, but I'm really not happy with how his feet look.

I've attached some photos, please bear in mind he was due for a trim [which I proceeded to do after taking the photos, but forgot to get 'after' photos]. You can see on his black hoof a scar on and above the coronet, he did that to himself over-reaching while being an idiot in the pasture.

OFH the feeds you're suggesting aren't available in Australia. I need to run his feed through FeedXL actually... but I'm pretty sure it's reasonably well balanced. It most likely does have high NSC content but he doesn't hold his weight well unless he's on very high energy, very high protein feed... so it's been a tossup, really, between low NSC and keeping my horse in good condition! My young horse is on much the same feed [more legumes, less grain-based pellets, because she has a very sensitive gut, but very similar] and has no problems at all... and she's a TB with a triple cross back to Northern Dancer who I have heard is notorious for throwing bad feet. Either she won the genetic lottery or Monty lost it.

He's been barefoot his whole life [I know quite a bit of his history] except a very short period with a lessee [before I bought him] when he was shod. In the time I've had him he's been very sound, only gone lame a few times and except twice when he injured himself higher up, it's all been hoof-related. He's had more than two years to readjust to being bare and hasn't.

I do wonder if maybe his sole is a little on the thin side, but I have enough vet fees to worry about as it is. Finding out exactly what's going on inside feet that are sound except for cracking [which, yes, does occasionally lame him, IF I don't keep his feet short enough] and wonky structure isn't a priority at the moment. Finding out exactly what's going on inside my filly's stifles IS... and mouth surgery on my dog to remove two rotten teeth... and arthritis treatment for my other dog to try to get on top of a sore hip.

Again, the photos attached are of feet well and truly in need of a trim. I try not to let them even get that long, but I don't pick them out very often in summer, because they don't need it [sand doesn't ball up, manure just falls out], so occasionally they do get a little longer than I really like. The photos of the white hoof may not all be of the one hoof - I didn't label them - and the photos of the black hoof are for comparison purposes and also to illustrate that the cracking doesn't necessarily have anything to do with length. His black hoof has worse structure but better wall than his 3 white hooves. [better wall in that it doesn't crack as badly and is stronger]

Edit; ALSO, the cracking on the white hoof looks a lot worse than it is - that's only surface. Please excuse the ridges, I've been playing with his diet so it's diet change related not actually problem related.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg monty hoof 1.jpg (90.8 KB, 167 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 2.jpg (91.5 KB, 163 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 3.jpg (90.2 KB, 162 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 4.jpg (69.0 KB, 164 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 5.jpg (89.9 KB, 162 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 6.jpg (74.2 KB, 161 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 7.jpg (74.1 KB, 163 views)
File Type: jpg monty hoof 8.jpg (92.6 KB, 164 views)
    01-09-2013, 05:01 AM
I'll look at pix on my other computer later. Pardon me forgetting boots werent an option. I would still be reluctant to use rim shoes until the cracks have healed at leastt. You may like to consider 'laser tips' tho as a dressage rules friendly compromise. Can't remember if youve told me which neck of the woods you are but if you pm me I could probably give you a good name or 2 in your area & I highly recommend getting to one of andrew bowe's workshops if conceivably possible - & where you'll also find info on laser tips - & his advanced workshop will teach you how to treat cracks & seedy.
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    01-09-2013, 05:23 AM
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Unfortunately he HAS gone lame a couple of times from cracks
I would not expect those cracks to create any lamness, are you sure it is the cracks? The hooves look like they need a lot more work (roadwork) or a really good trim. The quality does look as if the diet isn't quite right you have some rippling going on which suggests something might be off. Have you had forage analysed, then you can supplement anything missing.

If those hooves belonged to my horse I would feed linseed, brewers yeast and magnesium oxide and if sound increase her workload over varied terain. I cannot see how shoes are going to help if the hooves are hard, shoes do not fix cracks and they prevent a stonger healtier hoof growing (which will fix the cracks).

Thin soles can be related to diet and high sugars (or sometimes just grass).
HeatherGavitt and IIIBarsV like this.
    01-09-2013, 05:24 AM
Quick notes... I know you said enough in his feed inc Mg supp but google pauline moore magnesium for horses. May also be the answer for his hard-keeper-ism! surface cracks ime are likely to have dietary or nutritional cause, or from wet footing or hoof goops. Re your mare's good feet, I think genetics play only a tiny part, & good or bad feet are made not bred, so maybe you sshould give yourself the credit! thin soles can b roughly gauged without xrays too.
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