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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Does it matter what breed my horse is if I want to take them barefoot?

From an anatomical point of view - not really.

Sure you will notice a difference in the shape and size of hoof according to breed.

However all normal hooves have the same internal and external anatomy.  And I have seen some with congenital issues that still worked perfectly barefoot.

What may be different is the health of those structures when they are first taken barefoot.  And that is a human made problem.

Horses Bred for Competition

If your horse was bred for competition, chances are that they will have started having problems early on. 

Diets intended to 'grow a horse on'.  ie make them appear more mature than they really are, for futurities or the sale ring, tend to have a negative impact on foot health.

These horses also tend to get shod very early on, long before the hoof has reached maturity, which compounds the problem.

That happened to Kevin and the end result was that he was going to be PTS before he was even 5 years old because of 'incurable' navicular.  He is still with us, still sound and around age 13.  And he had a competitive career before he landed at my door.


Thoroughbreds intended for racing suffer even more.  But they can still be rehabilitated and have a successful competitive career post racing.  Tends to take a bit longer, but not always.

Competitor at Barefoot Show

Can highly bred horses be rehabilitated?

Yes but it tends to take a bit more time, patience and skill than those horses who have not had these early management challenges.

Often these broken down sports horses come to barefoot as a last chance. Everything else having been tried, many thousands spent.  And yet they still come right.  Extraordinary really.  But it happens time and again.  Success is hugely dependent on the care givers and the advice they receive and are able to implement.

Is size an issue?

How are you measuring size?  The height of the horse is pretty much irrelevant.  Kevin is 17.2 (177cm), a lot of barefoot horses are this tall, some are bigger.  It isn't an issue.

However if you horse is obese this won't help.  But no horse should be kept fat regardless of how we want to manage their hooves.

Can your horse's hooves be too small?  This is an old myth that still pops up from time. My old, old horse, before we took her barefoot, had her hooves deliberately flared in the mistaken belief that this would give a greater surface area on which to spread the load.  It didn't work, and was one of the reasons we took the great leap and removed her shoes.  Her competitive career continued.

Of course my sample is skewed because I mostly see this type of horse when they have been broken beyond the redemption of tradition.

In summary, the breed isn't that relevant, but the nature of the 'injury' suffered will impact on how long it takes to get the hoof back to optimum health.

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