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]