A Barefoot Horse – A Lifestyle Part 4


Jamie and Chance on the trail

A Barefoot Horse On The Trail

As mentioned in the previous 3 posts, “The barefoot horse” is not just a description of a horse without shoes nor is it just a description of the hoof condition of a horse. Rather, it is a description of a lifestyle of a horse. The lifestyle of a barefoot horse includes:

  • A free choice, forage based diet which is low in sugar, low in starch, and balanced to have the correct amount and ratios of vitamins and minerals for the type of hay being fed.
  • Living conditions and environment which allow for and encourage movement over several different types of terrain including grass, gravel and rock.
  • Daily exercise that includes walking, trotting and galloping. Horses in open range situations will travel 15 or more miles a day.
  • A proper barefoot trim every 4 to 6 weeks. Some horses can go longer if the environment promotes some self-trimming.

This post covers the trim and  is the last post in this series that will define ideal conditions listed above that are important for the development and maintenance of a healthy barefoot horse and give you some reasonable and practical options.

working on a front hoof

A proper barefoot trim every 4 to 6 weeks….some horses can go longer if the environment promotes some self-trimming (is very rocky or has a lot of gravel). It is important to know that a pasture trim and a barefoot trim are not the same. A pasture trim is often used during off season (when you cannot ride) to allow the hoof to rest from being shod. A barefoot trim uses the natural hoof as a model and is designed to help the hoof grow into and function as a healthy natural foot. A general description is a balanced trim with “low heel, short toe, slight arch at the quarters, and a mustang roll that eliminates peripheral loading (weight on the outer wall of the hoof)” The natural hoof bears the majority of the weight on the inner wall, frog, bars, and peripheral area of the sole (and related inner structures). The natural hoof model is the goal and the trim sets the hoof up to allow for proper growth resulting from pressure and release (stimulus caused by impact, flexion, distortion). You cannot carve a good foot, you have to grow one and that takes a combination of proper diet, environment, exercise, trim and time (about a year). I try to offer reasonable and practical options but the only option here might be that you can extend the number of weeks between trims if the horse gets a proper barefoot trim and enough movement and exercise over terrain that promotes some self-trimming. Note that proper self-trimming can only be accomplished if the horse’s environment includes some gravel and rock. Extending the time between trims without the proper environment can be detrimental and inhibit hoof growth or promote incorrect growth.

Written by Susan Boyd    Edited by Zachary Franklin, DVM

Thank you to my friend Jamie McNeil for photos of her barefoot horses

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