I took Farrier Science in college, and learned to trim and shoe that way on cadaver feet (like a farrier, only not as experienced
). So I maintained my owned horses shod for a number of years.
Then my health took a turn for the worse, right around the time I got a new horse that wouldn't let me shoe his back feet. I could trim him, but he must of been quicked a lot, because any kind of hammering back there and he would jerk his foot away. I just couldn't get him done.
So I researched barefoot horses on the internet, thinking if I could just shoe the fronts and not the backs, I would be so happy! What I found was a whole new world than I new existed. Not only was it "okay" for my horse to be barefoot (on all four feet!), many people thought it was much healthier!
So I dove into barefoot hoof care and have never looked back. I bought both Pete Ramey's and Jaime Jackson's books and learned to maintain my horses barefoot. I ride almost everywhere barefoot, but I do use Easyboot Epics if I trailer out and I don't know how much rock we will encounter.
But I am perfectly happy this way and I do think it is much healthier than keeping them shod. Even if I booted them everytime I rode, they would still be barefoot 20 hours out of the day, which I think is great.
The only downside is that it does take some effort to do your own horse's hooves and to boot and unboot them. It IS much easier to just pay a farrier to shoe them and viola, they are ready to ride. But I never have to worry about loosing shoes, my horses are always ready to ride, and I never have to hire a farrier, I can trim them myself whenever they need doing. I usually don't do major trim jobs, I just tweak and rasp as they need it.
So I am happy with the Pete Ramey/Jaime Jackson method. I would love to get his DVDs, but they are so expensive that I figure I can live without them.
My main advice would be to NEVER take off any sole unless it is flaking off already. You would be surprised at how just taking off a tad can affect the horse's soundness. Soles are usually pretty thin. I don't go taking off much frog or bar either, unless they are trying to come off on their own. Basically, remove excess hoof wall but not much of anything else if you want to be able to ride them barefoot. And round the edges good with a rasp (mustang roll). So really, it's pretty simple.