Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Orange County, NC
Of our three Paint mares, only our lead mare, Angel, has ever been shod. Here is a short summary of her history going barefoot.
Originally Angel was raised as a cattle working horse, did team penning, and was always shod.
Her next owner kept her shod, but she wound up being lame in her left front. They couldn't figure out what was wrong, and kept her on bute almost everyday. They finally gave up and sold her to our Paint breeder friends to use as a brood mare.
The first thing they did was pull the shoes and take her off the bute to find out why she was lame. Turns out she had a terrible abcess that took about 3 months to clear up. As is typical with brood mares, they kept her on simple pasture trims, and after the abcess was taken care of, she was fine barefoot in the pasture, but still a little ouchy on gravel.
After we bought her, our old English farrier convinced me to trim her myself (with his guidance to start) and to start riding her on harder surfaces (asphalt) to help keep the hooves worn and toughen up her soles (she had thin soles, too). By doing this often (every 3 weeks), we were able to keep her from getting long with only a rasp (and save a bunch of $$s), and we kept riding her on a mixture of surfaces from grass to hard packed earth to asphalt roads (we never put boots on her, either).
To make a long story short, we saw progress every month, and after 2 years her feet are as tough as our other two mares that had never been shod, and we can ride her anywhere without getting sore.
I know that the barefoot v. shod debate can get very emotional, but this is the summary of our experience, all IMHO...
- Our 2 younger Paint mares have never been shod and can be ridden over anything.
- We (including our breeder friends) were successful in getting Angel from being constantly lame and on bute with shoes to having tough feet. It does take frequent trims, patience, and TIME. We keep our horse care simple, never used boots or any supplements.
- Although I'm sure that some horses do better with shoes, barefoot just seems more natural and certainly saves a lot of $$s and you don't have to worry about getting a farrier out for thrown shoes, etc.
- Most of my riding buddies keep their horses barefoot, but the ones that do shoe always seem to have more foot problems (e.g. abcesses, lameness, etc). This is just an observation and I don't know if it is just the horse(s), the farriers or just coincidence.
In spite of being partial to barefoot, I don't believe there is one 'right' decision, so good luck with your choice. If you go barefoot, you can always go back to shoes later if needed.
On the sixth day, God created the Quarter Horse.
On the seventh day, he Painted the good ones.