How long has barefoot been around? Well if you are a horse, for well over a million years :-)
Thought you might like this extract from a work originally published around 1880.
That eight months after — in August, 1879 — this gentleman should send a copy of this same article to a provincial paper, is proof that he had never had any difficulties after the first month, the time needed for the ‘thick,’ ‘hard’ horn to reach the ground. There is one thing that he does not tell us, but which would have been interesting to know; and it is, whether any of his neighbours found heart and brains enough to profit by his example. His silence leaves room for the conjecture that ‘they had eyes, but saw not.’ It is even possible they still look upon his proceeding as an eccentricity. Such is life; the world might stand still for all that some people care to the contrary.
At the same time that this was passing, a well-known farmer and breeder of shorthorns in Cumberland wrote: — ‘I had a brood mare which had been running barefooted for several years, when, ceasing to breed, I took her up and used her as a shepherd’s hack, where she had constant work for two years; and, in travelling from farm to farm, she had a considerable distance of hard road to traverse daily, yet she never required shoeing. In the summer of 1877 I purchased a farm horse which had had the misfortune to get a nail into its foot, and he had been under the farrier’s treatment for several months; but had made so little progress towards recovery, that I determined to try what Nature would do for him. I had his shoes taken off and turned him to pasture. In the spring of 1878, being still rather lame, I put him to work on the land; and he is now doing all sorts of farm work, including drawing manure from the town, and drags his load as well over hard pavement as any shod horse that I have. Whether he could stand constant work on hard roads I am unable to say; but he does all that I require of him, and the experiment is so satisfactory that I intend to put another horse through the same training.’ The ‘Lancet’ says: — ‘As a matter of physiological fitness, nothing more indefensible than the use of shoes can be imagined. Not only is the mode of attaching them by nails injurious to the hoof; it is the probable, if not evident, cause of many affections of the foot and leg, which impair the usefulness, and must affect the comfort, of the animal.’ There is no dearth of complaints about horseshoes; but people still ‘cling so tenaciously to the favourite superstition’ of regarding them as ‘necessary evils,’ that the idea of fully examining the other side of the question never seems to occur to them; although, when it is brought to their notice, some are found willing to listen to argument and profit by it.