shoes vs barefoot - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 06-28-2011, 07:11 AM Thread Starter
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shoes vs barefoot

I have owned an 11 year old quarter horse for almost 1 year now. When we rescued her, she had horrible feet and was wearing shoes. At the time we got her, our barn was using a barefoot farrier and we took her shoes off. About 3 months ago, our barn manager switched farriers because her horse was not responding to the barefoot farrier and needed shoes. This new farrier said my horse has soft feet and would most likely need shoes. I started using hoof hardener for about 2 weeks when she suddenly came up lame. The farrier came out and saw that she had a pretty severe stone bruise and immediately put shoes on her to the tune of $85 every 6 weeks. So my frustration is that I had only just begun attempting to harden her feet. She is doing fine with her new shoes and someone pointed out that she has prettier movement with them on. Maybe, I'm not sold yet. Our last pony was barefoot, so this is all new to me. Do you have to get new shoes every 6 weeks? Are there different types of shoes, maybe less expensive ones? Can you make a horses hoof harder? There are some rocks in her pasture, so I definitely want to protect he feet but am hoping to do so on a shoe string budget. Any advice?
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post #2 of 17 Old 06-28-2011, 07:57 AM
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I would not personally bother about hoof hardener, certainly not long term. The ingredients can be bad for the hoof, and soles don't need to be harder, rather *grow* thicker. Good diet & balanced nutrition will go a long way, as will lots of movement. Hard soles, as you've found, don't protect the horse from stone bruises & the likes, so they'll need protection anyway, at least when working. Don't know what your stony paddock's like, but *generally* horses are OK without protection in the environment they live in. Why not consider boots instead of shoes? They're more expensive to buy, but last WAY longer generally.

Metal rims won't protect thin soles either, except in raising them which helps avoid pressure from the smaller rocks on hard level ground. Conventional shoes without pads also provide no support for the bottom of the foot, which IMO leads to trouble. They change/reduce the feeling in a horse's feet, so they may not feel it as much tho. This may be the reason she's moving better, because she's feeling better in them.

Yes, if you do choose to shoe, you do need to get them reset/replaced at least 6-weekly, because balance can quickly get out of kilter when the hooves are locked in & unable to wear. Because of nail holes, it's generally not appropriate to do them as regularly as you'd trim a bare foot tho.
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post #3 of 17 Old 06-28-2011, 09:18 AM
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Keeping a sensitive hoof sound can be a complex formula.

Diet plays a crucial role.

The rocky ground the OP's horse is on plays a crucial role.

Whether the horse is flat-footed or has a nice concave sole plays a role.

Keeping the horse structurally sound using a chiropractor plays a role.

Injuries to the skeleton or tendons can also affect the hooves because they affect how the hooves might need to be trimmed to keep the horse comfortable and ridable.

How good the shoer or trimmer is plays a role - not all shoers and not all trimmers are created equal, in spite of what they think of themselves

Some have a lot better gut instinct than others and, oftentimes, going strictly by the book or school they learned from isn't going to work.

I can give testimony to flat soles and diet. My 23-1/2 yr old was diagnosed as insulin resistant 4 years ago and underwent a severe/strict diet change.

He is flat-footed and always has been so I kept shoes on him, seasonally, back when we were hard trail riding (hard as in sliding down hills and digging up the other side).

Imagine my surprise and joy when, two years ago, he went hot-footin' 40' down the middle of our gravel drive and never missed a lick (he's a Tennessee Walker).

I wouldn't call his hooves rock crusher but, with diet and good trimming they have evolved to where he can now go barefoot over gravel and he never could before.

One would think that being insulin resistant, his hooves would be in worse condition but that isn't the case.

I have one horse who has a prescription for heel height and toe length from the chiropractor. Do anything different (shorter or longer) and I promise he's sore. It's a good thing I know how to trim or I would have a bloody fortune tied up in that horse's hooves.

He didn't used to be that way, but he fractured his sacrum four years ago and I am sure the change in what his hooves now need is due to that. He is only 12 but already has a Hunter's Bump over that area that makes me ill.

I said all that so say -- the OP's horse hoof condition can improve without shoes but it takes patience (at least a year), diet and a trimmer who actually knows what they're doing.

Don't give up on the barefoot route - try and find someone else thru recommendations in your area
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post #4 of 17 Old 06-28-2011, 09:38 AM
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Wow 85$! That's pricey to me. When my gelding was barefoot it was $65..but the farrier only did him every 10 weeks..yea..a factor in why we he's barefoot its $40 a trim and he needs done every 5 weeks..riddle me that. So for me it ended up being more expensive to be barefoot but I'm pretty 100% sure I'd rather pay more to have a good healthy set of feet.
If I were you, I would find my own Farrier. I used the "barn farrier" and he did nothing to help my geldings contracted heels and left him notoriously long he was always tripping. I switched to my own choice and actually 6 other horses went with I would look into a barefooted trimmer.. I believe barefoot is best, shoes only when you NEED them.
It sounds like your girl just needed more transitioning time? My gelding had his shoes pulled a month ago and he's tender on gravel somedays to the point he limps(gravel driveway:/) but its only after some sloppy weather. I've been putting iodine on his soles to help strengthen them. But yes, like the others said, get on a good feed and you'll see miracles. My gelding has done a 180 since we switched from strategy to a ration balanced gro'n win.
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post #5 of 17 Old 06-29-2011, 12:11 PM
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I'm a believer in shoes. When in doubt, put the shoes on. I pay $95 to get shoes on my horse (used to pay $120 - ugh). I keep shoes on him from April to September then leave him barefoot for the winter. If you're riding him anywhere where there could be rocks, just put them on.

Hoof hardener isn't going to change your horses feet. Some horses have hard feet, some have soft feet. No product will change that. If you're having issues with stone bruising, you're going to have to put them on. You don't necessarily need anything fancy. Just a basic steel shoe should do the trick. I put aluminums on my horse.
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post #6 of 17 Old 06-29-2011, 12:29 PM
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I've never put shoes on my horses unless i'm taking them up to the moutains where it will be really rocky, even the ones with "tender hooves". I've had a few like that & after a few months of being barefoot, out in the pasture & riding the roads they hardened to it. Unless of course the ferrier accidentally cut them too short.
Horses are not meant to have shoes on & can do just fine without them if in the proper situation. In other words, a proper diet, good ferrier, lots of room to walk over different surfaces and NOT stalled all the time. Shoes restrict circulation to a horse's foot because they do not allow the hoof to flex & so it's very common to have a horse's shoes taken off & have him be tender.
A person's typical response to this is of course to put the shoes back on.
If the barefoot trim worked for you horse before, perhaps you can explain it to the new ferrier, or have him trim her in a different way. If he's any good he should be able to do this.
Shoes do not help protect the sole, but as someone else mention they have been proven to restrict some sensation to the hoof so a horse might not necessarily feel the ache as much.
If you do want extra protection, i would go with boots. They can be expensive to buy, but in the long run they are cheaper because you dont have to buy new every few weeks.
I'm not bashing shoes, i just think that there are times when the horse does not need them but people choose to nail them on because they feel it would be best for the horse.
Then again i also think it's ridiculous when some people rush out the moment the temperature drops five degrees below freezing to put a blanket on their horse. If they weren't built to handle temperature changes & the cold they would have died out thousands of years ago.
Just my po though ;)

"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly."
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post #7 of 17 Old 06-29-2011, 01:09 PM
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$85 is a pretty reasonable price for front shoes.

I am guessing that is the price, or close to it, for a trim and reset too. In other words, not getting new shoes will not save you tons. The money is not in the piece of metal but shaping the metal and putting it on correctly.

You obviously have the type of boarding arrangement where the BO is allowed to make decisions about your horses care?
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post #8 of 17 Old 06-30-2011, 01:18 AM
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Hoof boots. Use them when you need protection and dont use them when you dont. They last a couple years under normal wear and tear and two shoeings will pay for a pair of them typically. If your horse has a decent foot, Easyboot gloves are awesome and simple. I also like my renegades. Cavellos are easy too but can rub some horses fetlocks. There are alot of options out there now.
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post #9 of 17 Old 06-30-2011, 01:36 AM
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It's not the actual price of the horseshoes that costs, it the person's labor that is bent beneath your horse for almost an hour busting his back. I never, ever, complain what my farrier charges me, he earns every darn penny & then some. If your horse bruised her sole while barefoot more than likely she'll do it again. There isn't nothing I have heard of that you can paint on your horse's foot that will prevent that. Other than the rock bruise, was her hooves chipping at all while barefoot? Do you ride her in a sand arena or out over gravel & rocky trails? Sometimes it depends on how much and where you ride your horse, if they REALLY require shoes, in normal cases.
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post #10 of 17 Old 06-30-2011, 01:58 AM
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my horse is a bit the same..... he went lame in sand arenas when he was at a trainers . so they got the farrier out and he said that he had thin soles/soft soles. the farrier recomended to keep his shoes on.
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