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Barefoot v. Shod, Take Two

Barefoot v. Shod, Take Two

Farrier cleaning hoofI’m no expert, but personally, I think it’s better for a horse to be barefoot, if at all possible. It just seems more natural, and it’s still a little creepy to watch the farrier nail a hunk of metal onto my horse’s hoof. However, there are many good reasons to shoe a horse, and for several of those reasons, our horses stay shod (or at least, they’re supposed to). Here are our reasons:

  • Tender feet. Moonshine couldn’t care less what’s on or not on her feet. She was barefoot when we got her and was perfectly happy to stay that way. Valentine, on the other hand, practically limps when he loses a shoe. If he’s missing a shoe, he invariably favors that foot.
  • Soft hooves. Some horses just have softer hooves than others. Moonshine, tough as she is, gets really dinged-up hooves when she doesn’t have shoes; the big baby Valentine, ironically enough, wears his hooves down, but they don’t get any chips or cracks.
  • Unfavorable terrain. Our pasture is rocky and rough in a lot of places, and the horses like to walk through there. I think if it were all nice, soft grass and more forgiving soil, they would both be fine. (Of course, the trails around here are pretty rocky too, so we’d most likely shoe them both anyway.)

Here’s a new reason we discovered the day before yesterday, too. At this point, I have to fess up to something: before Wednesday, I hadn’t cleaned out my horses’ hooves for quite a while. Weeks, in fact. Shame, shame on me! In addition to that, with our ongoing farrier problems, they haven’t been shod in about 10 weeks, and are missing one (Valentine) and three (Moonshine) shoes. But here’s what we discovered:

  • Shoes keep hooves clean. Our soil, in addition to being rocky, is heavy on the clay side. When it’s muddy, that stuff gets all packed up in the hooves. Then it dries out, and the mud stuck up in there dries out too; and it turns to CEMENT. I’m not kidding. I picked up Moonshine’s right front hoof and found a hard, smooth, un-pickable piece of marble.  They were all that way…except on the hoof with her one remaining shoe. On that foot, I was able to pick it out with no problem at all. Same story on Valentine: on the three feet that have shoes, the stuff inside was soft and brushed right out with very little picking at all. On the foot that’s missing a shoe, I’d need a mini-sledgehammer to knock it loose.

So, needless to say, I’m very glad that my horses have all four feet covered again. That’s right…we had a farrier come out yesterday! Hopefully our shoeing woes have finally come to an end. We’ll tell you all about the new farrier tomorrow!

Shoes or Barefoot?

Shoes or Barefoot?

Horse shoe

There is a huge debate these days about whether to go traditional and put shoes on your horse or leave them au naturel, barefoot and free. After all, horses in the wild don’t have shoes and they do just fine, right? So why do we even shoe them at all?

Domesticated horses do a lot of things that wild horses do not. They bear extra weight; they travel over rougher surfaces, such as asphalt. They work for us, whether in a field, on a trail or in a rodeo arena. It makes sense to give them some extra protection. However, more and more people are coming to believe that horses can do all those things barefoot, and many experts agree. If you practice proper hoof care, have the hooves trimmed regularly, and provide any dietary supplements you, your farrier and your vet decide may be necessary, most horses can go barefoot with no problem.

When we got Valentine, he was shod, except for his right rear where he had lost one (or “thrown a shoe” as they say). That hoof was so nicked up, and he was so sensitive on that foot, that we didn’t think it was a good idea for him to go bare. When we got Moonshine, she was barefoot all around and had been for some time. Her feet were pretty nicked up too, but the previous owner said she hadn’t had a trim for a while. The farrier said her feet looked really good, so we left her barefoot and just had her trimmed.

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