Shoeing vs Barefoot

08/23/2017

With so many types of horseshoes & styles of trimming available today, making an informed choice to best suit the needs of your horse can be a challenge. With the array of conflicting views & opposing opinions, how do we gain clarity about what really works, so that we can do the best for our horse's hooves?

The Healthy Hoof

Lessons From Nature

Whether we keep our horse barefoot or shod, we can look to the healthy hooves of wild horses to ensure that we're meeting the same essential needs of the hoof:

Photo: Wild Mustang Enjoying a Roll

  • Level Base - The underside of the hoof is level, where the hoof wall, sole, bars & frog all share in weight bearing for equal weight distribution across the base. 
  • Hoof Wall - Thick & strong to provide optimum protection. Same level as the sole to eliminate excess pressure. Rounded at the edge for a smooth rolling action.
  • Wider Base - Enables the hoof to expand & contract correctly for optimum circulation within the hoof. 
  • Weight-Bearing Sole - Becomes thick & strong to protect the internal pedal bone, & slightly concaved for flexion.
  • Functioning Frog - To absorb shock & increase circulation.
  • Wide Heels - Optimum elasticity for hoof flexibility.
  • Compact Hoof - Designed to be short & compact for light, balanced movement.

The Right Choice For Your Horse

Whether Shod or Barefoot...

To ensure we optimise the health of our horse's hooves, it makes sense to replicate the healthy wild hoof shape & functions. These hooves are strong & sturdy, able to cover large areas of varried terrain, & enable the horse to move efficiently with minimal energy expenditure.

Today's equine often experience hoof related complications. These can include abscesses, stress fractures, laminitis, seedy toe, white line disease, navicular syndrome, ringbone, thin soles, collapsed heels, contracted frog, distorted / flared / cracked hoof walls, an imbalanced hoof & thrush.

Are the commonly seen differences to the wild hoof related to the above ailments? Could they also impair the horse's movement & gait, linked to being heavy on the forehand, frequent stumbling, brushing & overreaching?

Let's have a look at the commonly shod & barefoot hoof & explore the potential benefits & disadvantages of the modern horse:

Shoeing - The Pros & Cons

Advantages:

  • Provides protection & comfort for footie horses
  • Enables horses to cover more ground & cope with hard / stoney terrain.
  • Can prevent bruising of the sole

Disadvantages:

  • Can put excess weight on the hoof wall
  • Reduces the weight bearing capacity of the sole which can lead to thin soles, prone to bruising & reduced protection of the pedal bone.
  • Contracted Heels - narrowing of the heels reduces the flexibility & balance of the hoof.
  • Impaired Frog - narrowed frog with reduced ability to asborb shock & circulate blood. The increased concussion can impair the inner hoof, joints, tendons & ligaments.
  • Altered take-off point - The breakover point is moved further forward at the tip of the toe which affects the horse's stride & balance.

Barefoot - The Pros & Cons

Advantages:

  • Enables the hoof to expand & contract more freely for improved circulation within the hoof
  • Frog & sole can function more readily (if the hoof wall is trimmed level with the sole)
  • Lighter without the weight of shoes.
  • Less risk of contracted frog & narrow heels.

Disadvantages:

  • Horses with thin soles can be prone to bruising & discomfort
  • Hoof wall prone to flaring & cracking if left too long (which can tear & damage the laminae)
  • If the hoof is not strong enough, the horse can be uncomfortable on hard / uneven ground
  • Regular trimming is required to keep the hoof wall level with the sole so that it is not the primary weight-bearing part of the hoof. This also enables the hoof to land flat for even weight distribution,

Replicating the Wild Hoof

For a Stronger, Healthier & More Balanced Hoof

 Shoes For The Shod Horse

  • Restores the compact, balanced hoof shape.
  • Eliminates excess pressure from the hoof wall to promote stronger growth.
  • Bevelled at the toe for easy rolling of the hoof enabling a lighter stride.
  • Enables the hoof to land flat, eliminating concussion at the heels.
  • The wide shape enables the base of the hoof to widen for improved circulation within the hoof.
  • Thicker sole regenerates due to fine soil compaction under the shoe
  • Functioning frog absorbs shock & aids circulation.
  • Widening of the heels encouraged.
  • Optimum hoof protection by generating a thicker sole, stronger hoof wall & functioning frog.
  • A lighter, more balanced stride as the compact hoof shape & bevelled toe enable the correct take-off point at the toe (breakover point).
  • Reduced concussion as the hoof lands flat for even weight distribution.

Our Facet Trim For The Barefoot Horse

  • Precision angling at the edge of the hoof wall for a smooth rolling action in all directions, reducing strain on the hoof wall.
  • Hoof wall aligned with the sole for a thicker, stronger hoof wall.
  • Level base of the hoof for even weight distribution.
  • Thicker sole regeneration for better protection of the pedal bone & comfort.
  • Functioning frog for shock absorption & circulation.
  • A more circular hoof shape for improved flexibility & circulation.
  • Wider frog for improved shock absorption.
  • Wider heels for greater flexion & balance.

How Our Shoes Have Helped