To Shoe or Not to Shoe?
I am new to horse ownership. I have had my boy Cooper for about a month now. He previously worked in a therapeutic riding barn. The barn manager and farrier at his previous home kept him shod in the front because he has soft feet (he is a flea-bitten grey with white hooves). I was advised to keep him shod in the front.
At his new home, we do not have an indoor arena. When there is snow on the ground I have not been able to ride him because he gets ice balls. In the pasture this has not been a problem as his feet get sand/mud in them before they get snow in them. But when I clean his feet to ride, he gets ice balls.
My barn owner suggested I try taking them off, since she is a proponent for bare feet. Yesterday she called the farrier while I was there to set up an appointment for her two horses. She then told the farrier about Cooper's situation and how I was told to keep him shod.
Her farrier responded by saying what he likes to do in this situation is take the shoes off, see how the horse does and go from there. You can always put them back on. And he said it is healthier, even to have them off for a short period of time.
But I am concerned. I read that horse's feet can be very sore after having their shoes removed. And his previous caretaker seemed to think it would be a bad idea to take them off.
Should I have the farrier remove his shoes? Should I have winter shoes put on him? How sore will he be and for how long if his shoes are removed?
I would greatly appreciate any advice I can gather before the farrier comes next Wednesday.
The farrier is right, take them off and see how he does. If he needs shoes they can be put back on at any time. Most horses can go without shoes unless there is a medical reason for needing them like having been foundered or going navicular.
For those that are fine in the pasture/arena barefoot but ouchy on gravel, invest in a set of boots instead of shoes.
always add shoes to deal with a problem. Default is no shoes. Someone telling you that white hoof stuff is feeding you old wives tales and I would pretty much disregard anything else they had to say. Your current barn farrier seems like a smart guy. Take em off a couple cycles see what happens.
Shoes are generally used when hoof wear exceeds hoof growth or the terrain you ride on is likely to damage hooves. If your arena riding and not out on alot of gravel and pavement I would go barefoot awhile.
Oh I might add you want to look into horse nutrition and make sure your horse is getting the nutrients required for healthy hooves
They had him on Smart Hoof. I am keeping him on Smart Hoof and have added Smart Flex to his supplements. I was hoping between the supplements and maybe by adding a topical treatment, he will do fine without shoes. I would so much prefer him barefoot.
You can always put snow pads on your horse if barefoot doesn't work out!
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Another thing that can contribute to the idea of "soft hooves" is incorrect farrier-work.
If the walls of the hoof are overly long/stretched/etc, the walls ARE going to chip and break. It's a common misconception that that means the hooves are soft - not true, it just means they're trying to self trim!
Anyway, with the help of a good trimmer, I bet you'll be pleased with the result. And if need be, shoes can always go back on! :)
I agree, try barefoot. If that doesn't work you can always reshoe with snow pads.
If the dirt in the foot stops the snow balls don't clean the feet before you ride.
With snow on the ground, you might be okay removing the shoes. It does provide a nice cushion. However, do not just take off the shoes and hope for the best. Have hoof boots on hand before you pull the shoes. If you suddenly find you horse in pain, and then have to wait 5 days for boots to ship, you will feel like crap.
As for white feet, yes supposedly it is an old wives tale. My farrier has shown me study after study that white hooves have all the same properties and tensile strength as dark hooves. Nothing suggests there is any difference. However, talk to any farrier who has been around awhile and they will tell you that they crack, chip, and bruise far more than darker hooves. It's just one of those things nobody can explain. My horse's only white hoof is by far the worst of the 4.
I love the idea of barefoot and tried it with my horse last year. For some, it just does not work. Just be cautious and recognize when it's time to either boot or put shoes back on. That all being said, I really hope it works for you. Good luck.
I think Mayfield Barehoof Care Centre Home Page Equine Lameness Prevention Organization & www.angelfire.com/al4/anyashoofcare are 3 good sites for more info, to get you started.
That said, agree with others, & to a certain degree your farrier, that IMO it would be a good move to get the shoes off, to start with at least, & at least for regular periods throughout the year, because being shod long term without respite is not great, even if shoes are 'needed'. I also believe conventional shoes are *generally* contraindicative of unhealthy feet, so if your horse has hoof issues, I'd tend to want him unshod until his feet can become healthy & strong.
BUT if he has 'soft' feet, if this means thin, soft soles/frogs, he may well need protection/support, for work at least(unless horses have very serious issues they don't need protection in the paddock). So while I'm all for *shoeless*, that's not to say I think *bare* is necessarily always best. IMO boots, pads, casting, etc is generally a better option than conventional steel rims, which can indeed make the horse more comfortable & reduce feeling, but can do further damage by peripherally loading the hooves & providing no protection/support under the foot where it's needed.
Severely compromised feet can indeed be sore immediately after the shoes are removed, because suddenly there is more feeling in them. Also if a horse has thin flat soles from having them suspended off the ground, removing that 1/4" of 'buffer' puts their feet(eg. pedal bone with little 'armour plating' under it) directly on the ground. IMO this is far from a good reason to just whack shoes back on, but they may well need protection under those soles, or to be kept on yielding footing for a time, while their feet become healthier.
If you would like some specific opinions/advice on your horse's feet, there are a fair few hoof-knowledgeable people on this site & posting pics(see link in my signature below) & more info on diet, management, etc would be helpful.
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