I don’t think that anyone is helped by approaching an issue with either a black-and-white, or an eye-rolling attitude.
It’s funny how certain issues surrounding horses cause such reactions in people (natural horsemanship, barefoot vs. shod, etc.). We get all up-in-arms and defensive and critical or derisive. None of it helps us interact with people, and none of it helps our horses. Can we agree on that much?
There are some extremely talented farriers, and extremely talented barefoot hoofcare practitioners. Likewise there are some rather bad folks from both groups out there butchering horse hooves. The issue should never be “my barefoot trimmer is better than your farrier” but rather educating ourselves to recognize GOOD workmanship.
Also, I firmly believe that we shouldn’t be focused on statements that generalize either barefoot OR shoeing. Obviously, not every single horse is going to be able to stand up to the stresses of extreme competition with no protection. But many ARE capable when given the chance. There is a woman in Ontario who is racing Quarter Horses barefoot, and winning those races. There are people in the highest levels of dressage competing barefoot and noticing improvements. Nearly every discipline now has a handful of people who are demonstrating the potential that our horses have to be in a more healthy, natural state even in extreme sport!
Another reason why not a lot of mustangs are seen with crappy hooves is because they haven't had the feet bred out from underneath them like our home kept horses have. Just look at some of the horses being bred out there these days. TBs with paper thin hoof walls and soles. QHs with size 000 feet and 1300 pounds of muscle. 'Stangs have been running barefoot over tough *** country for generations, it is ridiculous to compare their feet to those of our domestic horses. Not only is their entire environment different, but their genetics are very different as well.
While it’s true that our domestic horses have some natural tendencies towards problems (ie, small QH feet and flat TB feet), Mustangs that are domesticated are subject to the same environmentally-caused hoof maladies. Mustangs can get contracted heels, thrush, navicular, and laminitis if their environment allows (poor shoeing, poor horse husbandry, bad feeding).
It’s pretty easy to counter the “barefoot hoopla” with a VERY generalized statement of “Some horses need shoes. Some don’t.” Some horses need protection, and it is up to the owner to decide whether that protection is hoof boots, metal shoes, glue on shoes, plastic shoes, etc.
It bugs me when people make decisions out of ignorance, by following “tradition” or without being well-informed...on either the shoeing side or the barefoot side of the argument. “My horse should be barefoot so I will let him suffer through rehab with no protection, and I will trot him down the gravel road and let him gimp along because it's natural.” OR, “My horse is tender, so he must have metal shoes nailed to his feet, because he NEEDS them.”
Based on decades of research by many veterinarians and horse professionals I think it would be safe to say that barefoot is an ideal healthy state for the horse, and that metal horse shoes have been proven to cause long-term damage to hooves over time.