Going Barefoot
I remember the day after my ‘new’ pony arrived. I went to the field and I noticed he had cast three of his shoes. I panicked and began to worry. I really thought his feet would suffer detrimental damage if he wasn’t wearing shoes. You can laugh, but the concept that your horse will somehow deteriorate if he isn’t wearing shoes was a hangover from my early exposure to horse management.

Horses have been around on this earth for over 6000 years and they evolved with hooves. These hooves are very well designed, they help the horse to flee from a predator, can absorb the shock and stress of the varied terrain the horse travels over as a result of it’s nomadic lifestyle.

Horses were bred and ridden without shoes until medieval times. When people started confining horses to stables and byres, the natural lifestyle of the horse was put into jeopardy the hooves began to suffer the consequences of an unnatural environment, so horseshoes were invented for hoof protection.

Jack Coggins wrote in the “Horseman’s Bible”;
“The horses’ hoof is equipped by nature with a hard horny box or hoof. It is possible that in the wild state a process of natural selection weeded out those animals with weak feet, it is also true that wild horses could in most cases pick the ground on which they grazed or traveled. Whatever the reason, for domestic uses it has been found necessary in the majority of cases to further protect this hoof with iron shoes. This is unfortunate as even the best designed and best fitted shoes damage the structure of the foot to some extent. Each nail driven into the hoof wall destroys the tubular horn fibres and weakens the very part which has to bear the greatest weight.”
Ben K. Green, D.V.M. in his book “Horse Conformation as to Soundness and Performance” stated;
“Many lameness have been cured by old horsemen simply by removing the shoes and turning the horse out to pasture on soft ground. In severe cases, even sand is better since at every step the horse puts pressure on the frog and the bars and forces the heels of the foot outward, all of this restores the natural circulation and general conformation of the hoof.”

A well-known farrier Don Baskins stated in his book, “Well Shod”;
“Most horses are better off if they can be left barefooted, rather than shod, especially if they are shod with ill fitting shoes that stress their feet needlessly.” He also stated “A horse who has foundered is better off going barefooted if possible a year without shoes but with regular trimming will allow the horse to wear his feet more naturally.”

It’s just common sense, if you have to stand about as part of your work for hours on end and you don’t take enough walking exercise. I am fairly sure, over time; you’ll begin to develop circulatory problems.
Allowing your horse to be shoe free is an opportunity and as long as you discuss the process with your farrier and veterinary surgeon, the transition process will be straightforward.

My farrier has been excellent and is very objective about going shoeless. He is always keen to answer my many questions about the foot and it’s structure. When he comes to trim my ponies’ hooves I get the added bonus of a little lecture on the foot, the latest innovation in design and materials or the history of shoes. I hope to feature him too – watch this space.

I have been fortunate to have received an email from Debbie Gibson based in Ras Tamra in Saudi Arabia. She is an avid barefoot devotee; do read the story of her lovely mare FETRA, a source of encouragement and inspiration. Debbie is also a dressage fanatic and is beginning to train her horses using a bitless bridle, I hope to feature her progress in due course.

Shoe Free Links


The Horse’s Hoof was born in September, 2000; the company of James and Yvonne Welz. The Horse’s Hoof supports the new interest in barefoot horse care. A full line of products are offered to support the horse owner in their quest for a healthier and more natural life for their horses. If you want to find out more about the barefoot horse, this site is packed with information, links and features horses competing without shoes. Settle yourself down with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the chance to enhance your knowledge.


Read about the racehorse Saucy Night trained by Simon Earl, this horse has had great success racing shoe free.