We have been keeping our horses barefoot (no shoes!) for over 8 years. We are passionate about going barefoot and hold workshops for horse lovers interested in transitioning and learning to trim between farrier visits.
There is a misconception that has creeped into tradition that horses need to wear metal bands nailed into their foot to help them be domesticated. This is not true and in our scientific opinion causing major damage to not just feet, but tendons, bone and physiology.
In in our herd we have several horses that came to us with major lameness, which we believe were caused by shoeing long term. Back in the old days blacksmiths knew that this was the case and the horses were allowed to go unshod 'out of season' when they were not in work. This continues in some high end competition horses but th majority of leisure horses remain shod year round.
The following are pictures of horse feet, commented on so you can see and learn what to look for.
Ralph has been with us over a year and had typical warmblood (and previously shod) flat feet. His toes were long and his soles were flat and frog, not being used, had shrivelled up into a sliver.
He grows his feet incredibly slowly so it's been little and often rehabilitating his capsules back to an upright stance. His feet are 90% there, we still have outward flare on the quarters and heel but as you can see from his most recent trim, when you compare the left and right side, the angluation and heel are in now much healthier.
This an image of a cob gelding at only 2 years of age. He is likely to never have had a trim, you can see by the left and right quarters where the hoof wall has broken away naturally. The heel is low and the walls are quite overgrown.
Why is this a problem?
Because even minor adjustments in height and balance make them walk differently, effecting not just the feet but the legs and the back too. Horses can compensate for this short term but over the longer term they can develop chronic pain from carrying themselves a certain way for so long...
You can see how rebalancing the hoof and making the hoof wall the same width the whole way round will alleviate pressure at each step the horse takes.
The hoof wall is designed to take the horses weight and the horse should step with the ball of his foot (the frog) first. This soft tissue takes the impact and spreads the load.
Heather 6 months in
Trimming is a long process and it's important to think about allowing the hoof to grow itself into a healthy shape.
We are almost sculpting the hoof and being aware of how it will grow in so that it can be retrained to grow downwards rather than out. In this photo you can see the hoof has a better shape now and is not as long in the toe, the heel height is good and the pressure has been relieved from the tendons above the hood capsule. However it still needs to be kept in check as it will tend to still grow outwards at this stage.