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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have recently begun helping a family friend out with her horses (mainly grooming/feeding/etc with her watching since I don't really know what I'm doing.) I'm just going to apologize in advance if I don't know the proper terms involved. :oops: I'm still learning!

The woman I am helping boards horses in two different barns. When I went last time there was a farrier that was taking the shoes off a horse with arthritis- and not putting them back on. It seems to be the center of some debate and I'm really looking for more information on the subject.

It seems that the horse's owner had tried the farrier (who apparently specializes in trimming hooves without putting any shoes on- not sure what that would be called but the horse is maintained and ridden with no shoes.)

The vet came out because the horse was uncomfortable in his feet due to arthritis and the woman put shoes on the horse that were prescribed in order to try and help the arthritis. The vet said that the shoeless-situation was making him worse. Another 2nd farrier came and put shoes on the horse- and a few weeks later the FIRST farrier somehow talked the owner into taking the shoes off again. (To me she seems to be waffling in terms of treatment which IMO would just make the situation worse...)

I'm not second guessing another person's actions regarding their horse-I don't know enough- but I've never heard of horses going "shoeless" before and wanted to know more. In what situations would a horse be able to go shoeless and do alright? Can you use them for any sort of activity- or would it be more limited? Is it more or less painful at all for the horse?

The farrier that was "pro-shoeless" was a bit of an extremist on ALL horse care (to put it lightly) and I'm looking for more of a neutral view on the subject? Does anyone know any sources that would be good to look up info on this- or have any personal experience with it?

I didn't want to ask my friend her opinions on it when the farrier was standing there and I'm going to stalk her later on the subject.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The question was less about whether it was right for this particular horse and more looking for information on it in general. The owner is obviously (to me anyway) unsure of what is working for the horse and seems to be waffling back and forth.
 

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The shod vs unshod has been an ongoing issue for a VERY long time. After riding for a few years I was given my first horse (a 6 month old QH filly in 1971 or 72). I refused to have her shod and thankfully was supported in this by my grandfather, who'd kept unshod horses before.
I was told for at least 3 years by almost everyone, including my vet, that I was going to ruin my horses feet. After about 6 years at least my vet stopped and admitted that my horses (there was more than one then) had the best feet of the horses he looked at.
Now having said that, my horses had always been procured young (two years old was the oldest) and none had ever been shod (the term I hear used a lot today is "barefoot"). I do know that horses that have been shod can have issues when issues they first start going barefoot. I have since purchased horses that were shod and in some cases it's taken months to get their feet corrected. My filly has a split that formed from where a nail from her last shoe was put and I'm having to work on a hole that has formed there going up into the hoof. It could take some time for that to heal and grow out (nothing like having to pick out a hole every few days and repack it with cotton soaked with tea tree oil)

My experience, based on my horses and some other unshod horses (since it's becoming more popular in recent years) vs friends and neighbors have shoes on their horses, has been that horses feet will do better if unshod. You'll hear no shortage of people who will say otherwise, but 40 years of never owning a shod horse has shown me otherwise.
Of course you do have to either have them trimmed regularly and by someone who knows how to do barefoot trimming (it's not the same trim that you get from a farrier who puts on shoes), but there are trained barefoot trimmers out there. Or ride them a LOT to keep the hoof worn from use. I use to ride my on the hwy some. Back in the 70's and part of the 80's my horses seldom needed much of a trim, because they were ridden almost every day and for extended periods of time. I was either working with the cattle or taking a long ride for a day or two (30 miles a day was a pleasant days ride).
At didn't realize it at the time, but in the early 70's a man (Gordon Nesbitt?...not sure about spelling the last name) rode from southern Africa to to central Europe on unshod horses. If you can find his comments on that trip they are pretty interesting. He wasn't a barefoot rider before that and took a load of heat from much of the "shoe the horse crowd" over going ahead with the trip on barefoot horses. Sometimes wonder what excuses they gave for his success after his barefoot horses completed that thousands of miles trip.

But I digress. With regards to your question. I will say go barefoot, but if the horse has spent years wearing shoes, then there may be some things that might be needed help the horse make the transition and can take time. I'm still dealing with one issue from my filling being shod, but I know in time she'll have feet as good as my mare's (three almost are now). It's a bit like the old Chinese tradition of binding a girls feet. After years of that if you suddenly you stopped binding them they wouldn't be able to walk for awhile. It would be terribly painful, (fresh blood flow and feet allowed to expand normally when stood on....yes an unshod hoof too expands as the horse walks) but with time and work their feet should return to normal and would be healthier than they were when bound. There should be loads of information about it out there.

Grabbed a couple of sites off google about going from shod to barefoot. Haven't read them, so I can't say if there of any help, but you can keep looking. I just grabbed the first two.

Untitled Document

Making the Transition from Shod to Barefoot

There is a German lady here in SC who was part of the old "Shoe the horse" school, but today is a wealth of knowledge about horses going barefoot. Her first name is Claudia, but I don't remember her last name. She use to do (and probably still does) a free online series of classes that you can sign up for. Extremely informative if you want to learn about the equine foot (stucture, growth, problems, treatment, etc.....)
 

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I know a lot of horses & most are barefoot. Shoes should be used if needed. Each horse & situation is different. The owner of the lame horse should use what works best for that horse.
Ditto that and just because something is the vet's recommendation, doesn't always mean "it's so".

I agree that the Owner seems to be waffling on what's the right thing to do; that's most likely because she doesn't know herself, what's right.

Keeping arthritic horses barefoot is better for starters: they don't have to go thru the pain of having nails pounded in their hooves. That pounding hurts them.

However, not all barefoot trimmers are created equal and they can sore a horse up as bad as someone who improperly puts shoes on.

Hopefully the owner is not trying to work this horse hard and is only doing light riding, if any. The horse could b kept barefoot and the owner could have already bought a good fitting pair of hoof boots (to protect the hooves during riding), for the money that's been spent taking shoes on/off a few times.

You're questioning is on target; I hope the owner can get this figured out before the horse suffers more. Even if that means finding a different person to keep the horse barefoot.
 

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I would speak with both Farriers and ask them your question.
Leave the Vet out of the Farrier work, they know very little about horses feet, at least the vets around here where I live.
Every horse is different, and every horse is used different...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Unfortunately it isn't my barn and I only had access to the one farrier whose opinion was basically "only I am right and everyone else is an idiot." Quite literally. I really have no idea who the other farrier is and I haven't even met the owner. (I'm just a visitor to the barn as the barn manager is a friend- I was helping her with her Warmblood, who, by the way, is absolutely gorgeous.)

I really just feel bad for the horse...even more so since he only was barefoot for a few weeks before being re-shod with different shoes than he had previously and then put barefoot AGAIN only a few weeks after that. I have to imagine that would be uncomfortable for any horse- much less that they are doing this to control painful feet from arthritis.

I'm not questioning keeping a horse barefoot in general as I'm sure it works or it wouldn't be popular- however- this guy seemed full of BS and arrogance and I just don't trust him. (I should know- I've seen it in quite a few vets as I'm a licensed veterinary nurse!):wink:

I should be seeing my friend at her barn tomorrow- I am going to ask her then how he's doing.
 

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And of course there's the common sense issue of putting nails in a hoof is not going to make it stronger or do it any good :)

I'm amazed that a farrier is recommending barefoot (unless it's temporary for some reason). Farriers bread and butter is shoeing horses. Barefoot trimmers can't even join the farriers association (unless they've changed their rules).
 

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I too am just learning as an adult. When I was young I had a gelding that was shod and I was told that he HAD to be if I planned to ride him on any type of hard surface. So he was shod. At the same time, I had a friend who's horses were never shod and they rode them all the time. Back then, I used to think they were horrid people because they were being mean by not shoeing. Now that I am an adult and have access to more opinions, I too have wondered what is the best. I am an old advocate of being barefoot myself. I always say that if God had wanted us to wear shoes we would have been born wearing them. lol.
I know that a lot of the Amish around us do not shoe and if they do it is only the front feet. I hope that a lot more people will comment here as I love to learn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
This guy had some kind of fancy name for what he was doing that I can't remember- that he is a farrier but some kind of "pathologist" and that there are only 5 people in the country to be certified for what he does? (To be honest- I've worked with veterinary specialists of all kinds, not just veterinarians, but in one of the better dog and cat hospitals on the east coast and he sounded like he was full of hot air so I wasn't paying attention to his fancy "title" that he worked 120 hrs to get...) He "only" does barefoot trimming and doesn't ever do any type of shoe- he says that shoes don't do anything for any horse- that you are just ruining their feet no matter what with shoes with any horse, and so on.

He was quite adamant that most people "ruin" their horses by doing too much- too much protection, why bother with a stable, keeping them in a stall for any length of time is wrong and treats it like it is a human, they shouldn't ever get anything but grass, horses in the wild do just fine without all the "extra" stuff we do to them so why bother...

My barn manager friend, once he was out of earshot, replied to his comment on "wild horses do just fine" with a point that horses in the wild generally don't live as long as domesticated horses either. I think HER biggest gripe with this guy is that this horse is in pain and he isn't helping the situation one bit.

I might be using the wrong term for the guy but he made it clear that while he WAS certified (or whatever- went to some school?) to be a farrier he chose not to shoe horses and only does barefoot.
 

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also the natural barefoot vs farrier topic can get heated I have noticed in other places.. as everyone has their pros and cons for both
 

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I've had both barefoot and shod horses and I prefer them barefoot unless we're going somewhere intensely rocky, then they wear boots. I will shoe for the show ring when necessary but pull the shoes after the show.

My old QH was shod most of his life because, well, because. Everyone told me that QH's feet were awful and needed shoes and his were so tiny they just needed to be shod was the popular opinion. I had an excellent farrier who put the welfare of the horses first. He'd do shoes no problem, but he recommended going bare whenever possible. We pulled the old man's shoes and it took him 6 weeks of being barefoot before he quit being ouchy even on sand. But! Once he was comfortable, he was fine and never wore another shoe. I'd say he was probably barefoot for the last 12 years of his life. He was arthritic but I can't say that shoes would have helped any of that, I'd think just the opposite. Shoes don't let the foot expand and they don't 'feel' their feet as well, so I'd think they'd be less attentive to where they put their feet and how hard they stomped around. Currently, out of 16 horses, not one is shod.
 

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This guy had some kind of fancy name for what he was doing that I can't remember- that he is a farrier but some kind of "pathologist" and that there are only 5 people in the country to be certified for what he does? (To be honest- I've worked with veterinary specialists of all kinds, not just veterinarians, but in one of the better dog and cat hospitals on the east coast and he sounded like he was full of hot air so I wasn't paying attention to his fancy "title" that he worked 120 hrs to get...) He "only" does barefoot trimming and doesn't ever do any type of shoe- he says that shoes don't do anything for any horse- that you are just ruining their feet no matter what with shoes with any horse, and so on.

He was quite adamant that most people "ruin" their horses by doing too much- too much protection, why bother with a stable, keeping them in a stall for any length of time is wrong and treats it like it is a human, they shouldn't ever get anything but grass, horses in the wild do just fine without all the "extra" stuff we do to them so why bother...

My barn manager friend, once he was out of earshot, replied to his comment on "wild horses do just fine" with a point that horses in the wild generally don't live as long as domesticated horses either. I think HER biggest gripe with this guy is that this horse is in pain and he isn't helping the situation one bit.

I might be using the wrong term for the guy but he made it clear that while he WAS certified (or whatever- went to some school?) to be a farrier he chose not to shoe horses and only does barefoot.

:lol: Most wild and feral horses ("wild" horses are very rare) don't live as long as most domestic horses for reasons that have nothing to do with their feet. Food and predators being their biggest problem and some get sick. Horses living in the wild do tend to have healthy and very hard feet.

From what you've discribed the guy's not a farrier (they shoe), he's a trimmer (with some extra schooling I guess). And while his people skills may need a lot of work :lol:, basically he's right. My horses hate being put into a stall. They can come and go as they please, but unless I put food in there or call them in, they virtually never go in (once in the past 4 months, one went in....they will stand under a shed some, but that's where they have their hay :lol:). And that's the way all my horses have been for as long as I've had horses. One had to be lead into a stall even if I put food in :lol:. People get stuck in seeing things done for certain reasons and think that it's the way things are suppose to be done. Stables were used for populated areas where there wasn't room to let the horses just room around and they wanted them on hand for immediate use. The military wanted to be able to walk in and have all the horses right at had, not going out in the pasture to collect them and bring them in to saddle. And other reasons that had practical functions for human purposes. But unless you are in that sort of situation there's really no good reason for keeping a horse in a stable. Horses do best when you let them walk, run and graze at will. Stabling is something for human convenience, not the horses health (a healthy horse with all things being equal).

But back to the feet :D
If you look at what shoeing an equine actually does to a healthy foot (from the effects of putting in nails to constricting the hoof growth, etc...) you'd never allow a shoe on your horse. Imagine wearing shoes with the soles and sides made of iron and we'll say that it was custom made to fit your resting foot perfectly. We'll tack it (carefully) into place along your toe nails and fit snug around your heel to insure that it doesn't shift or move any and help keep your foot and shoe properly aligned. Now you start walking....you foot cannot expand or move at all within this shoe. Now do some running in it :lol:. (once had some wooden shoes that I could get on if I sat, but hurt when I tried to walk in them....it's sort of like that) You can imagine what the effect on your foot is going to be. The constriction is going to impact your blood flow and your hoofs growth willk be restricted. Now add to this that these shoes are removed every 6 weeks and new ones put on. After while your feet will change. Even their growth will be altered.

Now I've heard people tell me for years that if it hurt the horse then why doesn't the horse show signs of it. Well, if binding a woman's feet hurt so much, how could they still walk with them. It's what you get use to and you live with it. And in the case of horses, they will endure a LOT. A horse will run itself to death for you if you push it, so there's nothing amazing about it being able to endure wearing nailed on shoes that it has no choice about?

For me the choice as always simple. At 15 I didn't see how it made sense to put shoes on my horse. After several years the health of my horses feet proved me right. After 40 years my horses feet (not those same first horses now :lol:) have never shown me a reason to change. I am glad that there are more barefoot trimmers though (although I can trim my own).
 

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Okay...here is my question then. Is it okay to ride an unshod horse on pavement? And if I do decide to go the unshod route, what type of Farrier would I look for? I read that a barefoot trim is a lot different than a shod trim.
 

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Okay...here is my question then. Is it okay to ride an unshod horse on pavement? And if I do decide to go the unshod route, what type of Farrier would I look for? I read that a barefoot trim is a lot different than a shod trim.
Unshod is much safer on pavement as shoes have more of a tendency to to slip.
The main difference I have seen with any farrier's work is the unshod foot has the edges rounded while the shod one doesn't, so it sits flat on the shoe.
 

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Just thought I'd add to this thread.

My horse is also barefoot, but I don't have her in hard work. Her feet, when I first acquired her, just needed some attention & regular trims (she had some cracks). Her feet are in pretty great shape now. My farrier comments how good her feet are (especially for a Belgian, he says!).

Whenever I've had a question or concern, my vet has been very amenable to coming out to the barn when my farrier was there & they both could examine & make a recommendation together.
 

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To shoe or not to shoe depends on the horse and how it is used.
Most horses with white hoofs have soft feet and need shoes, there are exceptions....
All race horses have shoes (plates )
Most gaited horses & harness horses have shoes.
Special made Shoes can also correct lameness.( corrective shoeing
Shoes cause NO PAIN for the horse if done correctly.
Shoes do not prevent the hoof from growing, and when the shoes are reset the old nail holes are trimmed away before the new shoes are applied.
The Frog is what pumps the blood and also works as a shock absorber.
There are several different kinds of shoes, and also hot & cold shoeing.
Angle and Balance of the hoof are very inportant, and if not done correctly can cause lameness.
I have used several Farriers over the years for my personnel horses and also for my boarders, they were all hot & cold farriers, one of the farriers at my barn had done the Olympic horses and President Ragan's horses.
I also had a stallion that cut his fetlock to the bone along with all the tendons and had a Orthopedic Farrier ( he was also a vet) make a special shoe for him, after placing the shoe on his foot that gave him the support needed for his leg, there was no need to cast the leg, the shoe was reset every 2 weeks for 6 months and then removed.
Some breeds of horses have better feet than others.
It also has to do with soil and climate where the horse is kept, and the surface of where the horse is used, ( gravel & dirt roads, asphalt roads, clay tracks, arena, etc.
As for wild horses they wear their hoofs natually and probably have better feet than most of our domesticated horses.
 

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I like having horses barefoot. However, I rarely have a barefoot horse. The first one I had to shoe had an abcsess that came out the cornet band and the hoof ended up so infected, 1/3 or more of the hoof was resected and because of the lack of support the coffin bone rotated, aggravating the horse's ringbone. So he was trimmed and shod (fronts only) from radiographs for the first few shoeings after the trauma was over, and the shoes remained on for years as the hoof angles had to be maintained exactly. He has since been retired and unshod and is now sound without shoes (as sound as a horse in his mid twenties with ringbone and rotated coffins can be lol) mostly because of the careful farrier work done earlier...
The next horse was shod with fronts on and off, depending on our competition schedule... I've gotten nails in my car tires from show grounds in this area so I'm wary about what else is lurking around...
My horse now is competing at such a level that he needs the added support from his shoes. If he is unshod his feet literally fall apart and he is not able to perform to the highest level. His shoes are rebalance and shaped every 4-5 weeks and are formed such that they extend beyond the heels to add support to the foot, and keep his hocks laterally aligned in the short work. I consider farriery to be one of the tools in my toolbox to make my horses job easier and less stressful. This along with carefully aligning the feet based on radiographs keeps him tip top.

Has anyone even bothered to x ray the horse to determine how he should be trimmed and shod? Or is the owner just listening to the loudest person regardless of what is best for the horse?
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